Canada has signed on to the Artemis Accords, a U.S.-led effort to establish global guidelines for sending explorers back to the moon and beyond.
NASA says space agencies in Australia, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates also joined the pact. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said he expects more countries to join the effort to put astronauts back on the moon by 2024.
It promises to be the largest coalition for a human spaceflight program in history, according to Bridenstine, and is expected to pave the way for eventual Mars expeditions.
The accords, which establish rules for extracting and using “space resources,” commit signatories to exploring space peacefully and in the spirit of international co-operation.
Rule No. 1: Everyone must come in peace. Other rules:
- Secrecy is banned, and all launched objects need to be identified and registered.
- All members agree to pitch in with astronaut emergencies.
- Space systems must be universal so everyone’s equipment is compatible, and scientific data must be shared.
- Historic sites must be preserved, and any resulting space junk must be properly disposed.
- Rovers and other spacecraft cannot have their missions jeopardized by others getting too close.
Violators could be asked to leave, according to Bridenstine.
The coalition can say, “Look, you’re in this program with the rest of us, but you’re not playing by the same rules,” Bridenstine said.
The U.S. is the only country to put humans on the moon: 12 men from 1969 through 1972.
Russia is still on the fence. The country’s space agency chief, Dmitry Rogozin, said at an International Astronautical Congress virtual meeting Monday that the Artemis program is U.S.-centric and he would prefer a model of co-operation akin to the International Space Station.
China, meanwhile, is out altogether. NASA is prohibited under law, at least for now, from signing any bilateral agreements with China.
The rules also call for transparency, the protection of heritage sites like the 1969 moon landing location and preventing the spread of orbital debris.
Canadian Space Agency president Lisa Campbell cheers the accords, but says more robust rules for the exploration of deep space are still a long way off.
Campbell says the agency will begin consulting with Canadians, as well as a United Nations committee that oversees space exploration.