It would be useful to have spacefaring powers agree upon and comply with a common set of principles.

 Artemis Accords, NASA, Space Security
Getty

NASA, the U.S. civil space agency, announced the Artemis Accords in October 2020. It is an agreement for lunar exploration and beyond, with participation of both international partners and commercial players. The program envisages the landing of the first woman on the Moon by 2024. The Artemis Accords are guided by key principles of peaceful exploration, transparency, interoperability, emergency assistance, registration of objects, release of scientific data, preserving outer space heritage, preventing harmful interference, and safe disposal of space debris. These are also principles enshrined in the existing international space law including the foundational legal instrument, the Outer Space Treaty (OST) of 1967, and the accords thus can reinforce the existing international space regime.

On May 31, New Zealand became the 11th country to sign the Artemis Accords. A few days earlier, on May 24, Republic of Korea signed the accords. These two countries join Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, and the United States. The U.S. lead on this issue is important, but many important space powers, including Russia, China, and India, are yet to sign on to the accords. With more countries and industries pursuing lunar missions, there is a need for basic rules governing these activities that will minimize damage and evolve a set of good practices that would contribute to responsible behavior during lunar operations. Nevertheless, developing new governance measures to guide such activities is not going to be an easy matter.

With more countries and industries pursuing lunar missions, there is a need for basic rules governing these activities that will minimize damage and evolve a set of good practices that would contribute to responsible behavior during lunar operations. Nevertheless, developing new governance measures to guide such activities is not going to be an easy matter

Welcoming New Zealand to the accords, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson claimed that the accords are “simple, universal principles [that] will enable the next generation of international partnerships for the exploration of the Moon and beyond.” Announcing New Zealand’s signing of the accords, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta also pointed to principles such as “transparency, interoperability, release of scientific data, sustainable use of resources, safe disposal of debris, and prevention of harmful interference in other’s activities.” She also acknowledged another important aspect: Although international laws exist in these areas, there was a need for “additional rules or standards to ensure the conservation and long-term sustainability” of space.

While the Artemis Accords have been developed primarily by the U.S. for pushing lunar exploration, its utility in the broader area of global governance is also important. It would be useful to have spacefaring powers agree upon and comply with a common set of principles, guidelines, and best practices, which could be greatly beneficial for safe and sustainable use of space and maintain space as common heritage for all humankind. This is only a political commitment for ensuring better compliance with the commitments that state parties have already made by being parties to the OST and its four subsidiary agreements.

It would be useful to have spacefaring powers agree upon and comply with a common set of principles, guidelines, and best practices, which could be greatly beneficial for safe and sustainable use of space and maintain space as common heritage for all humankind

One of the serious problems facing outer space activities is the absence of full compliance by states to their commitments under the existing legal framework. A fuller compliance to treaty commitments by state parties can immediately change the dynamics in terms of openness and transparency, which will help reduce suspicion between different space powers. The need for more confidence building measures that would reassure states of their policies and activities in outer space cannot be emphasized enough. Given that global politics has grown much more competitive, the major spacefaring powers (many of whom are also the major global powers) need to make significant investments in measures that would enhance trust and confidence in each other. Therefore, space powers need to contemplate the global governance challenges they face and how they might address these. The Artemis Accords might provide one option, though not the only one. Moreover, this is not to suggest that legal measures, including formal treaties, should not be pursued.  Unfortunately, additional legally binding treaties may not be possible in the immediate future, though they may be an option for the longer term.

The reason is that breaking the current deadlock in multilateral negotiations and developing appropriate multilateral mechanisms for outer space is not going to be easy. As noted, the Artemis Accords are not the only initiative that has been proposed. There are also some proposals made by China and Russia to build an International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), and the two countries are currently seeking countries and international organizations to join their endeavor. This was reportedly announced on the sidelines of the 58th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations’ Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) in April. China National Space Administration (CNSA) and Russia’s Roscosmos have invited partners to join them at all stages of this proposal including planning, design, research, development, implementation, and operations. China and Russia entered into this partnership in March this year. It remains to be seen what kind of support Russia and China will get, but it is quite evident that even with regard to lunar activities and governance proposals, the global community is going to be divided. Unfortunately, it is reasonable to expect that countries will support the Artemis Accords or the ILRS based on their political leanings far more than the merits of each proposal.

With the ILRS proposal by China and Russia, the choice for countries like India could become somewhat complicated. Russia might want India to join, but on the other hand, growing animosity between India and China is not only likely to prevent any meaningful collaboration between the two countries in outer space but also make India wary of the Chinese and Russian proposal.

With the ILRS proposal by China and Russia, the choice for countries like India could become somewhat complicated. Russia might want India to join, but on the other hand, growing animosity between India and China is not only likely to prevent any meaningful collaboration between the two countries in outer space but also make India wary of the Chinese and Russian proposal.


This commentary originally appeared in The Diplomat.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s).

ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.

  • Comments are closed.

    People

    Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

    Publication

    Covid-19: What US, China data tell us about children’s risk profile

    Covid-19: Impact on Africa

    Covid-19 pandemic-pandemonium: Need for a more holistic idea of disaster management

    Nigeria must not forget its poor in the Covid-19 world

    No, China isn’t winning the virus propaganda battle

    Mauritius: Old and new challenges in a post-pandemic world

    A global comparison of COVID-19 deaths: How is India doing in counting its sick and dead?

    How China overcame the Covid-19 pandemic

    Amid Covid-19 crisis, its politics as usual in Slovenia

    Redefining the development narrative during Covid-19: The private sector perspective

    A global pandemic and globalisation

    Technology and business order post COVID-19

    France facing Covid-19: growing pressure on the public health system

    COVID19: What we’ve learnt from New York’s deadliest week

    The circuit breaker: Singapore’s next move in its fight against COVID-19

    American bioweapon or the ‘China Virus’? The war of words over COVID-19

    Coexisting with #Covid19: Saving lives and the economy

    The wrong diagnosis

    Covid-19: China’s donation diplomacy towards Africa turns into a public relations disaster

    COVID19: The Chinese military is busy exploiting the pandemic

    Mitigating risks and adjusting to isolation: How Argentina is dealing With Covid19

    Covid-19: The perfect storm for deep reform

    #Covid19: For now, lives over livelihoods

    How a changing global order will emerge in the post-Covid world

    The Caribbean region must come together to fight Covid19

    Politics of pandemic: Public health can no longer wait

    Georgia goes all out in fight against Covid19

    COVID19: A boost for Indian labour in the global market

    Armed Forces and the Covid19 pandemic

    Bhutan’s preparedness and response to COVID19

    Economic recovery and recurring lockdown in China after Covid19 crisis

    Public transit in post COVID19 India: where do we go from here

    Critiquing Amartya Sen’s contention of post-lockdown society

    Post pandemic city planning

    Could third world countries seek a new world order in Covid19 aftermath?

    Economic vulnerabilities and power shifts in a post-Covid19 world

    Opportunity in Crisis: Will a pandemic lead to peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan? 

    Health Policy belongs to the national security domain and different stakeholders must engage

    Can the global economy survive COVID19 shocks?

    The COVID19 reality of Afghanistan

    Changing the script

    Leadership in the time of Corona

    PM’s India shutdown is an unprecedented gamble

    COVID19: Tamil Nadu’s demand for fiscal grant can put centre in a fix

    COVID19 brings Australia to the crossroads

    The battle to set oil prices

    Luxembourg faces the same dilemma as the EU: become a bridge or a fortress

    Peace during a pandemic: The US fumbles on in Afghanistan

    Crisis communication and the Coronavirus contagion

    COVID-19 and maritime operations

    How PM Modi scored with COVIDiplomacy

    Covid-19: The crisis will strengthen anti-globalisation voices

    An old scourge in a new, uncertain age

    To what extent will coronavirus outbreak rewire global trade dynamics?

    The Chinese model is under stress

    A sneeze, a global cold and testing times for China

    Corona: The case for taking China to ICJ

    Covid-19, India and crisis communication

    How Is COVID-19 reshaping China-India relations?

    France must confront the grim realities of its war against COVID 19

    Covid19: G20 leaders reclaim power from bureaucrats – and China

    The United Nations Security Council and securitization of COVID-19

    Mexico can teach us COVID 19 management

    Covid-19 and European solidarity: The fight for who we are

    Dr WHO and Mr Hyde

    Certified Corona-Immunity as a resource and a way back to normality

    Coronavirus derails Glasgow

    Food security and the Corona Virus

    The Polish example: Defending the castle in the European East

    COVID19: Americans brace for brutal week against grim backdrop of chaotic policymaking

    SOS for the road transport sector at the time of CoVid19 pandemic

    Despite Coronavirus outbreak, India-Israel friendship continue to shine

    COVID-19 and international collaboration in a leaderless world

    Covid-19: A report from Nigeria

    As Dubai EXPO 2020 is postponed, a tough time for NRIs

    The virtual space uptick during Covid-19

    OECD, BRICS Countries must mitigate Covid-19 fallout through targeted measures

    A new human being will emerge in the post-Covid-19 world

    Ravaged by war, Cameroon’s Southwests region turns attention to Covid-19 fight

    What India needs on 14 April

    Covid-19 crisis and a probable role for the Indian Military

    COVID-19 and the gameplay of West Asia’s geopolitics

    Covid19 has sharpened great power politics

    Liechtenstein’s national and international response to COVID19

    Why China and Pakistan need each other in the Covid19 crisis

    Diplomacy is another victim of the virus

    Gated globalisation and fragmented supply chains

    West Asia is staring at an economic crisis. India has to be prepared

    Fishing in troubled waters during a pandemic

    Xi’s moves seem to be backfiring

    Iran’s grim fight against coronavirus

    Why is the Covid 19 situation so grim in MP?

    Hacking the pandemic : Lessons from the Silicon valley of India

    Between firmness and hesitation: How Russia is responding to the COVID19 challenge

    World after Covid19 pandemic

    Israel must bring its diverse communities together in Covid19 fight

    China tightens grip over the South China Sea – should India worry?

    Nod, Nudge, (K)nock out: Ways for RBI to prompt banks to lend

    Will Covid19 crisis hasten the end of PM Abe’s regime?

    Covid19: China-Russia make strategic geopolitical moves in Italy

    Leadership accountability for Covid19 and the reasons for WHO’s apathy

    Maldives: Amidst worsening Covid19 crisis, ISIS ‘claims maiden attack’

    The impact COVID19 pandemic is exerting on e-commerce

    COVID19 and competition for influence in South Asia

    Examining India’s employment landscape amidst the COVID19 disruptions

    Will COVID19 crisis rejuvenate the coalition of SAARC nations

    The future of international cooperation in times of existentialist crises

    Rebooting Ramadan for COVID19 times: With tech but without Iftar parties

    COVID19’s impact on India’s solar industry

    Reset in EU-China relations tougher in a post Covid19 world

    India fires a salvo at China

    Bend it like Kerala: How an Indian state is holding its own against COVID19

    Post covid stimulus for clean energy: Govt must focus on developing an EV ecosystem

    Women leaders and alpha males up against Covid19

    East Africa and Kenya under the COVID19 emergency

    Can ‘Advance manufacturing’ change the game in India-Australia relationship

    International trade and environment sustainability: The two must tango

    Fiscal prudence still matters

    Maldives: Evacuation, yet another-milestone in bilateral ties

    2020 could be to Narendra Modi what 1991 was to P.V. Narasimha Rao: a lasting legacy

    China’s salami slicing overdrive

    Rolling up the welcome mat for Chinese investors

    China’s assertive behavior in the South China Sea and the implications for India

    Xi Jinping: A matter of state security

    How growth and equity get a boost in Finance Minister’s economic stimulus package

    Why is China building its nuclear arsenal as world fights COVID?

    Keep Hobbes at bay whilst Covid is at play

    Nepal: Challenges of reviving economy, post-Covid

    The pandemic and China are strengthening US-India relations, for now

    The trends shaping the post-COVID19 world

    How the pandemic is an opportunity to create a ‘more equal’ world

    COVID19 and the middle power moment in global politics

    Coronavirus is straining the concept of federalism

    Infections, Islamophobia, and intensifying societal polarization

    Government is being cautious, and that’s sensible

    Covid19 and implications on global health governance

    Community model from rural Maharashtra to combat Covid19

    Covid19: The birth of a new power

    Biological Weapons and Biosecurity – Lessons from the COVID19 war

    What can we learn from the genomes of the novel coronavirus?

    What India’s digital divide means for migrant workers in a COVID19 world and beyond

    COVID19 has hit Africa’s amateur athletes

    Exiting the ‘COVID chakravyuh’ through a bioethics prism

    Guiding democracy through Covid19: Poland shows us what not to do

    Rethink, Revive, Rescue: From the Pandemic to Multilateralism 2.0

    Return of the migrants

    Covid19 is reshaping Brazil’s politics

    Vietnam emerges victorious in fight against Covid19

    How Georgia tackled Covid19 bit by bit

    The potential fallouts of EU’s collective response to COVID19

    Covid19 has forced us to think about building a remote working culture

    How Bangladesh is addressing the Covid19 pandemic

    Covid reality: Cost of human lives and how to fund healthcare

    Walled city dilemmas in the fight against COVID19: The case of Ahmedabad

    Viral load matters: Frontline healthcare workers 11% of US COVID19 cases

    Sustained shift to virtual classrooms may not be a good idea for India

    Cooperation of consequence: Lessons from the 2004 tsunami response in the era of COVID19

    COVID, oil collapse and economic contraction: Can the low carbon transition be salvaged?

    Antibody tests not useful for back-to-work policy decisions: Expert

    Risks of putting all eggs in China basket

    Mumbai in numbers

    Every policy change does not a reform make

    Reviving the Indian economy- revisiting Mr. Keynes

    India needs to win back the third world’s trust

    Epidemic in China and the world: Public health, earth science and geopolitics

    COVID-19: China’s ‘Health Silk Road’ diplomacy in Iran and Turkey

    China’s footprint is growing within the United Nations

    Russian response to Covid-19: The challenges ahead

    Inter-species spillover of viruses: Understanding zoonosis and India’s future concern

    Nature, politics and Covid-19

    The real journey of Hydroxychloroquine

    The economic cost of COVID19 is bigger than the great depression

    To die hungry or die sick

    US-India cooperation against COVID19

    Towards a quad-plus arrangement

    Will the coming monsoons result in a spike in COVID19 cases in India?

    Covid19 and Conflict in Myanmar: No Truce for the Rohingya

    Perspectives on SARS-CoV-2 strains

    COVID19 and the acceleration of digital transformations in maritime logistics

    • May 22 2020

    How the Visegrád group countries have managed the Corona crisis

    Lockdown: uncertain gains, rising losses

    Covid Corrections: How the Pandemic Reveals the Failures of India’s Growth Model

    COVID19: Public health is a question of national security

    Understanding the coming challenges to India’s pharma sector

    Lockdowns, curfews and prayer: Exploring East African countries’ COVID19 response

    WHO, the battleground for cold war 2.0

    Covid-19 and emerging economies: What to expect in the short- and medium-term

    The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Germany’s response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

    Covid19-Indian political class needs to band, not to bicker

    Understanding the risks posed by COVID-19: A Public Health perspective

    No, India doesn’t need a bigger stimulus

    Russia in the post-coronavirus world: New ideas for foreign policy

    Building a new India after Covid19 amidst the fear

    Global contest for medical equipment amidst the COVID19 pandemic

    State of the States: Two months of the pandemic

    Need to revisit Anganwadi workers

    From SMART to sustainable cities: Is COVID19 an opportunity?

    50 days of lockdown: Measuring India’s success in arresting COVID-19

    Driving self-reliance while combating a pandemic

    Post-Covid, nations will look inwards; India should look at neighbourhood: Ex-NSA

    The migrant as economic hero and saviour

    Atmanirbhar Bharat package concludes with a Rs 21 lakh crore climax

    What does COVID19 tell us about democracy vs authoritarianism?

    Poor sanitation in Mumbai’s slums is compounding the Covid19 threat

    Central and Eastern Europeans in avant-garde of tackling the COVID19 pandemic