Human from time immemorial has always been curious to know life beyond earth. In the quest to find life and resources outside earth,initially USA and USSR (Presently Russia) sent many unscrewed and crewed mission to moon and beyond and in space. After that, many countries joined elite league to mark their presence in space. Many historic moments were created by various space agency but USA Space Agency NASA’s achievement is one that is truly been inspiring and commendable. It is one of the leading space agency globally who has successfully established USA’s dominant status in outer space and one which many countries aspire to achieve from its space program. NASA’s Artemis mission is one such lunar program which many people have eye on its success and curiosity as to its mission.
Through Artemis lunar program, NASA is committed to land its astronauts on lunar surface once again after historic Apollo 11 mission in 1969. This time it is planning to land one woman and one male astronaut thus promoting gender equality in its space program.
The name ‘Artemis’ come from Greek mythology and has close connection with Apollo. Artemis was twin sister of Apollo, thus one can assume that’s why NASA’s second manned lunar mission is named as Artemis. This lunar mission program’s uniqueness lies in the fact that this is the first lunar mission where NASA is actively working with huge space companies like Space X, Blue Origin and Dynetics who are responsible to build human landing systems. Space X has been awarded contract to built a fully integrated Lander known as Starship that will use Space X’s super heavy rocket. Blue Origin is in process of developing the Integrated Lander Vehicle to be launched in its own New Glenn Rocket System and ULA Vulcan launch system while Dynetics is developing single structure human landing system to be launched on Vulcan launch system.
NASA Artemis program consist of two phase. In the first phase known as Artemis I, NASA will test its own powerful rocket, Space launch system and spacecraft Orion. It will be unscrewed flight mission and will be launched in 2021. In its second phase 2 known as Artemis II, the SLS and Orion will carry crewed mission. In its final and ultimate phase, Artemis III, NASA will land astronauts in 2024. NASA’s Artemis lunar mission is in line with its crewed Mars Mission set to be launch by 2028.
Recently, NASA announced ‘Artemis Accords’ which are guidelines to be followed by not just USA but every contracting nation who is and will be involved with NASA in its Artemis mission which is an international collaboration. The intent behind such accord is to prove that NASA is carrying out lunar mission well within the ambit of Outer Space Treaty, 1967(OST) and is not violating any principle and provision of it.
However it is too soon to comment on whether OST is being violated by NASA or not? Artemis Accord will be bilateral agreement meaning that any international agency will enter into bilateral agreement with NASA and execute it to create more transparent environment for space exploration, commercial and research activities in outer space to ensure that their mission is for the benefit of humankind and for their development. As per any bilateral agreement related to Artemis program, the participating space agencies will share the information on their space exploration plans and make their scientific data available to NASA including any activity related to space mining. One of the purposes of including space mining in its accord is to show to the world that NASA’s space mining activity is being carrying out keeping in mind provisions of Articles II, VI and XI of OST, 1967. As per Article II, outer space in not subject to any claim by any nation by means of occupation. Article VI deals with international responsibility to be borne by state party for its activities in outer space and any state party in order to carry out any space activity shall inform of it to UN Secretary- General, Scientific community and to public to ensure transparency as per Article XI.
While NASA claims to abide itself by OST, still there are certain doubts about it especially when it comes to space mining activity. Any resources find and explore by government and non-government organization will always have upper hand over its commercial use. OST talks about non-ownership by any entity yet reality will always be different. However, its just an assumption and will have wait and see how US non-governmental players abide by OST.
There is no doubt that US Space Agency’s ‘Artemis lunar mission’ will prove to be a breakthrough in demonstrating new technologies needed for future Mars exploration and establishing US as outer space leader .