Space exploration soars with Artemis Accords
New Zealand has joined an international arrangement to co-operate with NASA on peaceful exploration and activity in outer space.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash announced the government has agreed to join the Artemis Accords, launched by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and now signed by eleven nations.
“The Artemis Accords guide cooperation on space exploration, including support of NASA’s Artemis program to return humans to the Moon in 2024, and explore Mars and beyond,” said Nanaia Mahuta.
“They set principles around the exploration of space, such as transparency, inter-operability, release of scientific data, sustainable use of resources, safe disposal of debris, and prevention of harmful interference in other’s activities.
“As one of only a small number of states with space launch capability we take responsibilities of kaitiakitanga of the space environment seriously. New Zealand is committed to ensuring the next phase of space exploration is conducted in a safe, sustainable and transparent manner and in full compliance with international law.
“While existing international law provides high level rules around the utilisation of resources, we see a need for additional rules or standards to ensure the conservation and long-term sustainability of these resources. The Artemis Accords are an important first step in that regard.
“The ability to use space resources such as minerals on the moon and other celestial bodies is critical to enable the next phase of space exploration, including the possibility of sending humans to Mars.
“New Zealand is committed to collaborating with all stakeholders across all space issues to ensure that the space environment will be available, and accessible, for the benefit of all, now and into the future” said Nanaia Mahuta.
“New Zealand’s participation in the Artemis Accords is an historic moment for our nation and our highly-regarded local space industry,” Stuart Nash said.
“The government’s economic priorities include supporting firms to make the most of our international connections. The Artemis Accords enable us to prepare for future economic and trade opportunities as well as meeting foreign policy objectives.
“Our space sector is worth over $1.7 billion and our space manufacturing industry generates around $247 million per annum in revenue. Signing the Artemis Accords facilitates participation in the Artemis program by New Zealand and our space sector companies.
“NASA is explicitly seeking international collaboration and outsourcing key technology solutions to the private sector. Space exploration not only increases our knowledge of our planet and universe and encourages research, science and innovation, it also provides economic opportunities for New Zealand.
“Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and many New Zealanders will remember watching the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 as grainy footage on black and white televisions. By signing the Artemis Accords, we can more easily be an active partner in the successor to the Apollo lunar program more than 50 years later,” Mr Nash said.
All applications to launch a satellite from New Zealand must first be approved under the Outer Space and High-Altitude Activities Act. Information about the oversight and regulation of space activities is here: https://www.mbie.govt.nz/science-and-technology/space/
Background for Editors – Artemis Accords
The Artemis Accords were signed for New Zealand yesterday, 31 May 2021, by Dr Peter Crabtree, Head of the New Zealand Space Agency at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
New Zealand is the 11th signatory alongside Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Republic of Korea, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States and Ukraine. Brazil has also announced its intention to sign.
One aspect of the Artemis Accords which New Zealand wants to develop further is the question of space resource utilisation. The ability to use space resources (the mineral resources in and on the moon and other celestial bodies) is critical to enable the next phase of space exploration, including to the possibility of sending humans to Mars.
There is more work to be done to ensure the robust governance of space resource utilisation activity. In particular, New Zealand sees a need for rules, norms and standards to ensure the conservation and long-term sustainability of space resources, to reinforce the peaceful use of outer space and ensure that the existing international rules applying to outer space are effective in the modern space environment.
The Artemis Accords are an important first step, confirming that the extraction and use of space resources must be done consistently with existing international law, and that a multilateral process is required to progress this issue.
The use of space resources, for example for spacecraft propellant, construction of habitats, or use in life support systems, will enable ambitious deep-space exploration by making space exploration safer, cheaper and more accessible. The activity supported by space resource utilisation (SRU) will deepen scientific understanding, drive innovation and produce economic opportunity across the growing global space sector.
Existing international law provides some high level rules which apply to space resource utilisation – including that any such activity must be for the benefit and in the interests of all countries. But, these rules were developed in the 1960s, before space resource utilisation was contemplated. As a result, there are some significant gaps especially regarding long-term sustainable management of space resources and the space environment.
A message from the NASA Administrator regarding New Zealand’s signature of the Accords is on the MBIE YouTube site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5VOGBKyHgo
Further information about the Artemis Accords and the associated Artemis Programme is here: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-international-partners-advance-cooperation-with-first-signings-of-artemis-accords
Summary of the text of the Artemis Accords
The Accords are not binding in international law, but contain a set of principles designed to guide the safe and sustainable exploration and use of outer space. The principles are:
- Peaceful Exploration: All activities conducted under the Artemis program must be for peaceful purposes
- Transparency: Artemis Accords signatories will conduct their activities in a transparent fashion to avoid confusion and conflicts
- Interoperability: Nations participating in the Artemis program will strive to support interoperable systems to enhance safety and sustainability
- Emergency Assistance: Artemis Accords signatories commit to rendering assistance to personnel in distress
- Registration of Space Objects: Any nation participating in Artemis must be a signatory to the Registration Convention or become a signatory with alacrity
- Release of Scientific Data: Artemis Accords signatories commit to the public release of scientific information, allowing the whole world to join us on the Artemis journey
- Preserving Heritage: Artemis Accords signatories commit to preserving outer space heritage
- Space Resources: Extracting and utilizing space resources is key to safe and sustainable exploration and the Artemis Accords signatories affirm that such activities should be conducted in compliance with the Outer Space Treaty. Signatories intend to use their experience under the Accords to contribute to multilateral efforts to further develop international practices and rules applicable to the extraction and utilisation of space resources, including through ongoing efforts at the UN committee COPUOS.
- Deconfliction of Activities: The Artemis Accords nations commit to provide notification of their activities and coordinate with any relevant actor, as required by the Outer Space Treaty
- Orbital Debris: Artemis Accords countries commit to planning for the safe disposal of debris.