Artemis Accords

Context: On June 21, India became the 27th signatory to the Artemis Accords, a set of non-binding guidelines that underpin the Artemis programme, a U.S.-led project to return humans to the moon permanently.

image 58

About the Artemis Accords

  • It was announced by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), the U.S. civil space agency, in 2020. 
  • It is a set of guidelines surrounding the Artemis Program for crewed exploration of the Moon. This agreement is for lunar exploration and beyond, with participation of both international partners and commercial players.
  • The accords describe a shared vision for principles, grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 to create a safe and transparent environment. The Outer Space Treaty 1967 laid down the foundational principles for human space exploration which facilitates exploration, science, and commercial activities for all of humanity to enjoy. India ratified the treaty in 1982. 
  • Signatories: 27 countries including India
  • Non-Signatories: Major space players like Russia, China, The European Space Agency (ESA) as an organisation have not signed on to the accords either, but a number of ESA member states have.

Key Principles

The Accords are a single document, signed by each country that commits to the Accords’ principles. Bilateral agreements between space agencies for specific operations on the Moon and beyond are expected to reference the Accords and implement them in particular projects.

The provisions:

  • Cooperative activities under these Accords should be exclusively for peaceful purposes and in accordance with relevant international law.
  • Commitment to transparency and to share scientific information, consistent with Article XI of the Outer Space Treaty.
  • Utilising current interoperability standards for space-based infrastructure, and to establish standards when they do not exist or are inadequate.
  • Take all reasonable efforts to render necessary assistance to personnel in outer space who are in distress.
  • Specify responsibility for the registration of objects in space.
  • Publicly share information on their activities and to the open sharing of scientific data
  • Preserve outer space heritage, which comprise historically significant human or robotic landing sites, artefacts and spacecraft.
  • Extraction and utilisation of space resources should be conducted in a manner that is safe and sustainable
  • Commit to respect the principle of free access to all areas of celestial bodies by others.
  • Mitigate space debris and to limit the generation of new, harmful space debris in the normal operations, break-up in operational or post-mission phases, and accidents.

Benefits for India

  • Enhanced space cooperation among Quad countries: The US, Japan and Australia are already signatories of the accords. Thus, accords could be considered as a natural extension of the Quad’s Critical and Emerging Technologies Working Group. India’s addition to the accords would provide a framework for space cooperation among these Quad countries. India is also  collaborating with Japan on a future lunar mission, called LUPEX, to the Moon’s surface.
  • Attracting more investments: By being a part of the accords, India’s space companies could become part of a global supply chain. This would also help attract investment capital towards Indian space startups.
  • Opportunities to learn about interplanetary missions and human spaceflight: In the 1960s and 1970s, India took help from western countries such as the US and the UK to better understand sounding-rocket and satellite technologies. The Artemis Accords provide a similar opportunity to learn about interplanetary missions and human spaceflight.
  • Harbinger of change in space governance: The accords are bilateral agreements and not binding instruments of international law. But, by establishing practice in the area, they could have a significant influence on any subsequent governance framework for human settlements on Mars and beyond.

Challenges that India faces in signing the Artemis Accords

  • Reinforcing US Hegemony: The US promotion of the accords outside of the “normal” channels of international space law is a cause of consternation for some Countries.
  • Diplomatic challenges: India has had a traditional partnership with Russia, which recently partnered with China in its International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) initiative. Russia might invite India to join, but on the other hand, growing assertiveness of China is likely to prevent any meaningful association of India with ILRS. 
  • Focus on indigenous programmes may be compromised

Way Ahead 

India’s decision to sign the Artemis accords, or for that matter any other bilateral space agreements, should completely be based on the merits of the proposal i.e. whether proposals meet India’s expectations or not. All such decisions could be complemented with following initiatives 

  • Confidence building with the US: Working together on the Chandrayaan-1 and NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) missions have helped to build confidence in each other. These could be the stepping stones for India to sign the accords themselves.
  • Strategic balance with Russia: India’s signing up for the accords must not be equated to severing ties with Russia. India has maintained a balanced relationship with the US as well as Russia in other strategic areas and the same could apply for space after India signs the accords  as well.
  • Pursuing Indigenous programmes: India should encourage the involvement of the private sector in communications and Earth-observation satellites construction and launch and should also outline its priorities for interplanetary and human spaceflight missions and actively pursue them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 20 MB. You can upload: image, document, archive, other. Drop files here

Online Counselling
Table of Contents