Are the Artemis Accords enough?

In February, Uruguay became the 36th country to sign the Artemis Accords, a set of non-binding principles to drive responsible action on the moon.

The agreements were reached and formulated in 2020 by NASA, in coordination with the US Department of State. Since that time, there has been a steady pace of countries signing the Artemis Accords, a set of principles designed to guide space exploration cooperation between countries, including those participating in NASA’s Artemis program to ‘reboot’ the moon ‘.

The underlying premise of the agreements is to promote ‘best practices and standards of responsible behavior’ when it comes to lunar exploration. But that’s quite a task, given the tumult of the time. briefed specialists on how the Accords are performing globally, as well as within the eagle-eye-legal-beagle community.

Related: Artemis Accords: Why the International Framework for Lunar Exploration Matters

The stakes are high and basic standards are needed

‘Make no mistake. “Humanity is once again engaged in a space race,” Space Advocate said Michelle Hanlona ‘permanent observer’ of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

Hanlon is executive director of the Center for Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law, and co-founder of For All Moonkind.

As for a 21st century space race, Hanlon told that the stakes this time are much higher than when just the United States and the former Soviet Union were trying to outdo each other.

“Many talk about access to resources on the moon and beyond, but it’s even bigger than that. We’re talking about the governance framework that will underpin all space activities for decades to come,” Hanlon said.

The Artemis Accords are not a binding treaty, Hanlon said, but a political commitment.

“It says that we, the undersigned, are in general agreement on some important aspects of space exploration. It also says that we have much more negotiation and agreement to do,” Hanlon said.

“The laws and standards that will be applied to space activities cannot be formed in a vacuum; instead, we find baselines – the agreements – and agree that these will be a starting point,” the space lawyer said.

There are those who suggest that the agreements compete with China’s stated ambition to plant an International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) on the moon. “And in a sense it is,” Hanlon noted.

“It’s like picking teams for the football game,” Hanlon added. “But there is no reason from a policy perspective that the ILRS parties and the Artemis parties cannot agree on basic standards for space.”

Hanlon believes that “any nation that wants to have a say in the future of humanity should join the Accords.”

Four men in suits smile and hold up a signed document for the cameras to see

Four men in suits smile and hold up a signed document for the cameras to see

Power rivals

John Hickman is a professor of international affairs at Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia. He said Washington DC’s Artemis Accords cannot be understood as international politics separate from Beijing’s ILRS venture.

“Dominated by great power rivals the US and China, both are coalitions of spacefaring states competing for the moon and cislunar space,” Hickman told

Hickman said the Artemis Accords “represent a diplomatic attempt to ‘cover up'” shortcomings in the 1967 United Nations Space Treaty. He pointed in particular to the non-appropriation language, “which is open to different interpretations.”

Hickman explained the, in his view, unimpressive nature of the Artemis Accords a few years ago in an op-ed for the magazine E-International Relations.

The Artemis Accords “are likely a passing lunar phenomenon of a political nature,” Hickman wrote in the op-ed.

Moreover, Hickman concluded, the United States can only get away with the Artemis Accords “as long as it assumes some of the business risk of the vague international legality of alien mining projects, and if that is critical neither China nor Russia decide to abandon the 1967 Alien Mining Projects Outer Space Treaty by annexing their own bits of lunar territory.”

a list of flags of 36 different countries below the text a list of flags of 36 different countries below the text

a list of flags of 36 different countries below the text

An imperfect one

“I think the Artemis Accords contribute to the progressive development of international space law,” said Rossana Deplano, associate professor at the University of Leicester Law School and co-director of the Center for European Law and Internationalization in the United Kingdom.

“My analysis of the Artemis Accords in particular suggests that they are fully consistent with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which is unanimously regarded as ‘the Constitution for Outer Space.'”

Deplano said the Artemis Accords are just one of several possible ways space actors can ensure compliance with the Outer Space Treaty.

“The upcoming Sino-Russian International Lunar Research Station can provide another way to conduct scientific research on the moon, including another way to implement the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty,” Deplano said.

However, there are two flaws in the Artemis Accords, as explained in Deplano’s review in the journal International & Comparative Law Quarterly.

Those flaws in the accords, Deplano said, are that they do not explicitly take a position on the issue of benefit sharing. They also do not refer to relevant mechanisms for the settlement of space disputes.

Nevertheless, Deplano said, the Artemis Accords generally promote transparency and due diligence in scientific space missions.

astronauts stand under a giant white rocket on the surface of the moonastronauts stand under a giant white rocket on the surface of the moon

astronauts stand under a giant white rocket on the surface of the moon

Inevitable opposition

“Since their announcement, the Artemis Accords have proven to be very successful,” said Almudena Azcárate Ortega, a space security researcher at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Support for the accords is significant, despite their non-legally binding nature, Ortega told

Moreover, the willingness of states to adopt them can serve as an indicator of state practice, Ortega added, which can contribute to the interpretation of the general principles enshrined in the Outer Space Treaty “which have been very unclear and about which much debate debated in space law and the space treaty. multilateral policy sphere.”


– Artemis agreements: what are they and which countries are involved?

– NASA’s Artemis Program: Everything You Need to Know

– Not just Artemis: China and Russia are also planning to put boots on the moon

Ortega said the Artemis Accords have led states to speak out against them, namely two of the other major space powers: Russia and China.

“Both countries have expressed concerns that the Artemis program is too US-centric, and that the likelihood of either of these countries signing the accords is most likely zero,” Ortega advised.

This “inevitable opposition” is due both to substantive issues, Ortega said, but also to the current geopolitical climate.

That hot-button climate influences every measure or initiative presented to the international community, Ortega said, “and the Artemis Accords are no exception.”

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