Artemis Accords: Changing the narrative from space race to space cooperation


Senjuti Mallick is a space law expert who promotes space sustainability and responsible space exploration. That COMSPOC Corp. Leads the legal and compliance functions at.


Space exploration has always been an endeavor that transcends boundaries, uniting the world in the shared pursuit of knowledge and discovery. In this era of renewed interest in lunar and interplanetary exploration, the Artemis Agreements represent an important milestone in space governance and international cooperation. Far from being mere diplomatic agreements, these agreements represent a visionary development that aims to reshape the narrative of space exploration from competition to cooperation.

The agreement, announced in 2020, is an international collaborative effort co-led by NASA and the US State Department. They foster a spirit of partnership that unites not only the United States but also countries around the world. Currently, there are 29 signatories
nation and the eight founding nations (Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, UAE, UK and United States). Recently, Germany became the 29th country to sign it.

The agreement aims to reinforce the commitment of the United States and signatory countries to:

  1. To ensure that missions serve peaceful purposes in accordance with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.
  2. The need for transparency in plans and policies for space exploration.
  3. To strive for interoperability of space systems.
  4. To reaffirm the obligations at the Rescue Convention to provide emergency assistance in space.
  5. Emphasizing the need to register space objects and fulfill the obligations of the Registration Convention.
  6. There is a need to release scientific data.
  7. Protecting heritage sites and artefacts on celestial bodies.
  8. To ensure sustainable use of space resources.
  9. Conflict-free activities to avoid harmful interference.
  10. To commit parties to reducing space debris and planning for safe spacecraft disposal.

As agreements take hold, key principles play an important role in establishing a renewed space exploration framework and its significance.

Uniting nations for cosmic exploration. The agreement establishes a set of guidelines for space exploration, involving not only the US but other countries around the world. The main mission of the Artemis program is to return humans to the Moon and, ultimately, send astronauts to Mars, but it goes beyond these objectives. By promoting open collaboration, the agreement aims to enhance scientific discovery, promote technological innovation and ensure the sustainable exploration of outer space.

Framework for peaceful and responsible exploration. The focus of the Agreement is its alignment with established principles of space law, particularly the Outer Space Treaty. By strengthening commitments to peaceful exploration and non-appropriation of celestial bodies, the agreements ensure that space exploration remains a field of peaceful scientific inquiry, free from militarization or territorial disputes. This reaffirmation of international law provides a stable environment for future space activities. It sets a precedent for nations to work harmoniously, transcend geopolitical barriers, and strive to expand humanity’s knowledge and understanding of the universe.

Promotes continued exploration of space. In the quest to extend humanity’s reach into the universe, responsible use of space resources is paramount. The signatories to the Agreement reaffirm space exploration in keeping with the United Nations Guidelines for the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities, adopted by UNCOPUOS in 2019. It emphasizes the need for sustainable practices in space resource use, discouraging actions that may harm the environment or violate the rights of other nations. By promoting accountability, the agreements set a standard for the safety of space exploration for the benefit of future generations.

Supports the idea of ​​transparency and information sharing. The agreements recognize the importance of open dialogue and exchange of information among its signatories, enabling each country to take advantage of collective knowledge and experiences to advance space exploration. This spirit of cooperation fosters trust between participating countries and contributes to overcoming challenges for successful future missions.

Enhances interoperability between partner countries. The agreement calls for signatories to use common standards and procedures. This will make it easier for spacecraft from different countries to work together and ensure the safety of space operations.

Verifies responsible space resource use. As space exploration progresses, the potential for resource utilization becomes increasingly apparent. The agreement addresses this important issue by advocating responsible extraction of resources from celestial bodies. This stance ensures that the inherent value of these resources is preserved for the benefit of all mankind, while avoiding any spirit of resource exploitation that could lead to tensions between nations.

Promotes private sector participation. The agreements recognize the importance of private industry in space exploration. By encouraging collaboration with commercial entities, the agreement aims to leverage the ingenuity and efficiency of private enterprises to increase technological innovation and accelerate space missions. This public-private synergy serves as a catalyst for economic growth and rapid advancement of space capabilities. Such partnerships between governments and industry can foster economic growth, job creation, and a more robust space ecosystem.

Advancing inclusivity and global engagement. Importantly, the agreements invite more countries to join the initiative while actively pursuing inclusivity. By encouraging countries that do not have space programs to participate, the agreements facilitate knowledge exchange, capacity-building, and democratization of space capabilities, which will take space exploration to new heights of global cooperation .

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Artemis agreements are not just a document; They are a testament to the unity and foresight of the international community in charting a path for humanity’s future in space. By embracing cooperation, transparency and responsibility, the agreements lay the foundation for a new era of space exploration, where nations work together as partners rather than rivals. Although this is a work in progress, it has already greatly advanced the cause of international cooperation in space. As more nations join the agreement, it will become a powerful force, ensuring that the benefits of space exploration are shared by all. This is an important step toward changing the narrative from the space race to space collaboration, realizing our collective dream of exploring the universe, and highlighting the limitless possibilities space offers to all.


This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of SpaceNews magazine.


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