from the Keep-your-hands-off-of-my-stash dept.
First, the Artemis Accords go beyond simply rejecting the unpopular 1979 Moon Agreement, which declared lunar resources to be the "common heritage of mankind" and committed parties to establish an international regime to oversee space mining. Only 18 countries have signed the treaty.
In its place, the accords envisage a US-centric framework of bilateral agreements in which "partner nations" agree to follow US-drafted rules.
Second, the accords introduce the concept of "safety zones" around lunar operations.
Although territorial claims in space are prohibited under international law, these safety zones would seek to protect commercial and scientific sites from inadvertent collisions and other forms of "harmful interference". What kinds of conduct could count as harmful interference remains to be determined.
(2020-06-02) Third European Service Module for Artemis Mission to Land Astronauts on the Moon
(2020-05-16) NASA Wants Partner Nations to Agree to "Artemis Accords" for Lunar Exploration
(2020-03-12) CoronaVirus (SARS-CoV-2) Roundup 2020-03-12
(2018-07-22) Who Owns The Moon? A Space Lawyer Answers
(2018-03-07) China to Recruit Civilian Astronauts, Partner With Russia on Upcoming Missions
(2018-01-09) Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
(2017-10-18) Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
(2015-11-26) Who Owns Space? USA's Asteroid-Mining Act is Dangerous and Potentially Illegal
Robert Heinlein explored the notion in a novel. Does the future of space exploration lie with governments or corporations?
An event of cosmic proportions occurred on November 18 when the US congress passed the Space Act of 2015 into law. The legislation will give US space firms the rights to own and sell natural resources they mine from bodies in space, including asteroids.
Although the act, passed with bipartisan support, still requires President Obama's signature, it is already the most significant salvo that has been fired in the ideological battle over ownership of the cosmos. It goes against a number of treaties and international customary law which already apply to the entire universe.
The new law is nothing but a classic rendition of the "he who dares wins" philosophy of the Wild West. The act will also allow the private sector to make space innovations without regulatory oversight during an eight-year period and protect spaceflight participants from financial ruin. Surely, this will see private firms begin to incorporate the mining of asteroids into their investment plans.
The act represents a full-frontal attack on settled principles of space law which are based on two basic principles: the right of states to scientific exploration of outer space and its celestial bodies and the prevention of unilateral and unbridled commercial exploitation of outer-space resources. These principles are found in agreements including the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the Moon Agreement of 1979.
In a move intended to align with the National Space Council's call for NASA to return to the Moon, the United Launch Alliance intends to launch a Bigelow Aerospace B330 inflatable module into low Earth orbit, and later boost it into lunar orbit using a rocket which can have propellant transferred to it from another rocket:
Bigelow Aerospace, a company devoted to manufacturing inflatable space habitats, says it's planning to put one of its modules into orbit around the Moon within the next five years. The module going to lunar space will be the B330, Bigelow's design concept for a standalone habitat that can function autonomously as a commercial space station. The plan is for the B330 to serve as something of a lunar depot, where private companies can test out new technologies, or where astronauts can stay to undergo training for deep space missions.
"Our lunar depot plan is a strong complement to other plans intended to eventually put people on Mars," Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace, said in a statement. "It will provide NASA and America with an exciting and financially practical success opportunity that can be accomplished in the short term."
To put the habitat in lunar orbit, Bigelow is looking to get a boost from the United Launch Alliance. The B330 is slated to launch on top of ULA's future rocket, the Vulcan, which is supposed to begin missions no earlier than 2019. The plan is for the Vulcan to loft the B330 into lower Earth orbit, where it will stay for one year to demonstrate that it works properly in space. During that time, Bigelow hopes to send supplies to the station and rotate crew members in and out every few months.
After that, it'll be time to send the module to the Moon. ULA will launch two more Vulcan rockets, leaving both of the vehicles' upper stages in orbit. Called ACES, for Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, these stages can remain in space, propelling other spacecraft to farther out destinations. ULA plans to transfer all of the propellant from one ACES to the other, using the fully fueled stage to propel the B330 the rest of the way to lunar orbit.
Previously: Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies
Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again?
How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
Buzz Aldrin: Retire the ISS to Reach Mars
China to Send Potato Farming Test Probe to the Moon
Stephen Hawking Urges Nations to Pursue Lunar Base and Mars Landing
Lockheed Martin Repurposing Shuttle Cargo Module to Use for Lunar Orbiting Base (could they be joined together?)
ESA Expert Envisions "Moon Village" by 2030-2050
NASA and Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on the Development of a Lunar Space Station
Bigelow Expandable Activity Module to Continue Stay at the International Space Station
Deep Space Gateway (DSG) is a planned space station in lunar orbit. The U.S. and Russia signed an agreement last year to work on the station's development. Now Russia has created an engineering department inside the RKK Energia space corporation in order to plan the nation's lunar exploration, including a possible manned landing:
Officially, Moscow has been on a path to put a human on the Moon since 2013, when President Putin approved a general direction for human space flight in the coming decade. The program had been stalling for several years due to falling prices for oil, the main source of revenue for the Russian budget. Last year, however, the Russian lunar exploration effort was given a new impetus when the Kremlin made a strategic decision to cooperate with NASA on the construction of a habitable outpost in the orbit around the Moon, known as Deep Space Gateway, DSG.
Although the US saw the primary goal of the DSG as a springboard for missions to Mars, NASA's international partners, including Russia, have been pushing the idea of exploring the Moon first. On the Russian side, RKK Energia led key engineering studies into the design of the DSG and participated in negotiations with NASA on sharing responsibilities for the project.
To coordinate various technical aspects of lunar exploration, the head of RKK Energia Vladimir Solntsev signed an order late last year to form Center No. 23Ts, which would report directly to him. According to a document seen by Ars Technica, the group will be responsible for developing long-term plans for human missions to the vicinity of the Moon and to its surface, as well as for implementing proposals for international cooperation in lunar missions. This is a clear signal that NASA might soon have a new liaison in Russia for all things related to the DSG. The same group will also take care of all the relevant domestic interactions between RKK Energia and its subcontractors.
Unlike the ISS, the DSG should not require any orbital boost burns and could reach any altitude above the Moon using ion thrusters.
Here are two op-eds from last year about the Deep Space Gateway:
Previously: NASA Eyeing Mini Space Station in Lunar Orbit as Stepping Stone to Mars
Lockheed Martin Repurposing Shuttle Cargo Module to Use for Lunar Orbiting Base
Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1
Related: Space Habitats Beyond LEO: A Short Step Towards the Stars
Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again?
Japan Planning to Put a Man on the Moon Around 2030
Space Race: 6 Manned Moon Missions With the Best Chances of Success
ESA Expert Envisions "Moon Village" by 2030-2050
Bigelow Expandable Activity Module to Continue Stay at the International Space Station
Enter the Moon Cave
India and Japan to Collaborate on Lunar Lander and Sample Return Mission
China will begin recruiting civilians for crewed space missions, rather than limiting the space program to military personnel:
China will begin recruiting civilian astronauts for its military-backed space program and plans to increase the number of crewed missions to around two a year, a top official with the country's space program said.
China's third batch of astronaut trainees will include recruits from industry, research institutions and universities who will help build and crew China's independent space station, Yang Liwei, deputy director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, told reporters on the sidelines of the annual session of China's ceremonial parliament.
Russia and China have agreed to collaborate on future missions:
Russia and China have agreed to create a joint data center for lunar and deep space projects, Russian space agency Roscosmos has announced. The projects will involve Russian and Chinese scientific and industrial bodies and companies, Roscosmos said in a statement on Saturday.
Roscosmos and the China National Space Administration (CNSA) also signed an agreement of intent on cooperation over moon and deep space research, at the International Space Exploration Forum (ISEF) in Tokyo. The countries will also look into the possibilities of providing assistance for each other's lunar programs. That would include the launch of the Russian Luna-26 orbiter in 2022, and the Chinese planned landing on the south pole of the moon scheduled for 2023.
Did the Stars and Stripes on the moon signify the establishment of an American colony?
Most likely, this is the best-known picture of a flag ever taken: Buzz Aldrin standing next to the first U.S. flag planted on the Moon. For those who knew their world history, it also rang some alarm bells. Only less than a century ago, back on Earth, planting a national flag in another part of the world still amounted to claiming that territory for the fatherland. Did the Stars and Stripes on the moon signify the establishment of an American colony?
[...] Still, the simple answer to the question of whether Armstrong and Aldrin by way of their small ceremony did transform the moon, or at least a major part thereof, into U.S. territory turns out to be “no.” They, nor NASA, nor the U.S. government intended the U.S. flag to have that effect.
Most importantly, that answer was enshrined in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, to which both the United States and the Soviet Union as well as all other space-faring nations, had become a party. Both superpowers agreed that “colonization” on Earth had been responsible for tremendous human suffering and many armed conflicts that had raged over the last centuries. They were determined not to repeat that mistake of the old European colonial powers when it came to decide on the legal status of the moon; at least the possibility of a “land grab” in outer space giving rise to another world war was to be avoided. By that token, the moon became something of a “global commons” legally accessible to all countries—two years prior to the first actual manned moon landing.
So, the U.S. flag was not a manifestation of claiming sovereignty, but of honoring the U.S. taxpayers and engineers who made Armstrong, Aldrin, and third astronaut Michael Collins’ mission possible. The two men carried a plaque that they “came in peace for all mankind,” and of course Neil’s famous words echoed the same sentiment: his “small step for man” was not a “giant leap” for the United States, but “for mankind.” Furthermore, the United States and NASA lived up to their commitment by sharing the moon rocks and other samples of soil from the lunar surface with the rest of the world, whether by giving them away to foreign governments or by allowing scientists from all over the globe to access them for scientific analysis and discussion. In the midst of the Cold War, this even included scientists from the Soviet Union.
Case closed, no need for space lawyers anymore then? No need for me to prepare University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s space law students for further discussions and disputes on the lunar law, right?
Even though it has only been a short while since our last round-up there are 22 separate stories merged into this round-up. Many report duplicate news but, nevertheless, we have tried to distill the important elements of each submission.
Firstly, there is some confusion regarding the actual names that are reported for the virus, the disease that it causes, and names frequently seen in media reporting. From https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-020-0695-z:
The present outbreak of a coronavirus-associated acute respiratory disease called coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) is the third documented spillover of an animal coronavirus to humans in only two decades that has resulted in a major epidemic. The Coronaviridae Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, which is responsible for developing the classification of viruses and taxon nomenclature of the family Coronaviridae, has assessed the placement of the human pathogen, tentatively named 2019-nCoV, within the Coronaviridae. Based on phylogeny, taxonomy and established practice, the CSG recognizes this virus as forming a sister clade to the prototype human and bat severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses (SARS-CoVs) of the species Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus, and designates it as SARS-CoV-2.
In order to facilitate communication, the CSG proposes to use the following naming convention for individual isolates: SARS-CoV-2/host/location/isolate/date. While the full spectrum of clinical manifestations associated with SARS-CoV-2 infections in humans remains to be determined, the independent zoonotic transmission of SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 highlights the need for studying viruses at the species level to complement research focused on individual pathogenic viruses of immediate significance. This will improve our understanding of virus–host interactions in an ever-changing environment and enhance our preparedness for future outbreaks.
There is much more information at the link provided.
Secondly, as this is a fusion of stories received over the last week or so take all quoted figures of casualties as possibly out-of-date. At the time of merging these stories (12 Mar 20) there have been 127,863 confirmed cases world-wide resulting in 4,717 deaths. 68,309 people have already recovered with the remainder either in self-imposed or advisory isolation, in basic hospital care and a relatively small number in critical care. The pandemic has affected 116 countries/regions. Source: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6 - a graphical display produced by Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
Many countries have taken emergency measures to restrict travel or large gatherings of people. As this is a very fluid situation we suggest you refer to the media of any specific country in which you have an interest. President Trump has banned transatlantic air travel from countries in mainland Europe to the USA from Friday 2020-03-13 at 23:59 (no timezone stated) for a period initially of 30 days, and air travel within Europe is also significantly disrupted.
NASA's plan to return to the Moon is ambitious enough on its own, but the agency is aiming to modernize international cooperation in space in the process. Today it published a summary of the "Artemis Accords," a new set of voluntary guidelines that partner nations and organizations are invited to join to advance the cause of exploration and industry globally.
Having no national affiliation or sovereignty of its own, space is by definition lawless. So these are not so much space laws as shared priorities given reasonably solid form. Many nations already take part in a variety of agreements and treaties, but the progress of space exploration (and soon, colonization and mining, among other things) has outpaced much of that structure. A fresh coat of paint is overdue and NASA has decided to take up the brush.
[...] First, the rules that could be considered new. NASA and partner nations agree to:
- Publicly describe policies and plans in a transparent manner.
- Publicly provide location and general nature of operations to create "Safety Zones" and avoid conflicts.
- Use international open standards, develop new such standards if necessary and support interoperability as far as is practical.
- Release scientific data publicly in a full and timely manner.
- Protect sites and artifacts with historic value. (For example, Apollo program landing sites, which have no real lawful protection.)
- Plan for the mitigation of orbital debris, including safe and timely disposal of end-of-life spacecraft.
It's official: when astronauts land on the Moon in 2024 they will get there with help from the European Service Module. The European Space Agency signed a contract with Airbus to build the third European Service Module for NASA's Orion spacecraft that will ferry the next astronauts to land on the Moon.
NASA's Artemis program is returning humans to the Moon with ESA's European Service Module supplying everything needed to keep the astronauts alive on their trip in the crew module – water, air, propulsion, electricity, a comfortable temperature as well as acting as the chassis of the spacecraft.
The third Artemis mission will fly astronauts to Earth's natural satellite in 2024 – the first to land on the Moon since Apollo 17 following a hiatus of more than 50 years.
ESA's director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker said: "By entering into this agreement, we are again demonstrating that Europe is a strong and reliable partner in Artemis. The European Service Module represents a crucial contribution to this, allowing scientific research, development of key technologies, and international cooperation – inspiring missions that expand humankind's presence beyond Low Earth Orbit."
[...] The first European Service Module is being handed over to NASA at their Kennedy Space Center for an uncrewed launch next year, and the second is in production at the Airbus integration hall in Bremen, Germany.
The government of Mexico announced Dec. 9 that it is signing the U.S.-led Artemis Accords outlining best practices for space exploration.
Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, Mexico's secretary of foreign relations, announced that Mexico would become the fourteenth country to sign the Artemis Accords, a document addressing various issues regarding safe and sustainable space exploration, many of which are directly tied to the Outer Space Treaty and other international accords.
In a statement, Ebrard said Mexico looked forward to participating in NASA's Artemis program of lunar exploration, but did not disclose details regarding the role he thought the country would play in the effort. He said that, during the Apollo program a half century ago, "we were spectators, now we are going to be participants. It is a great step for Mexico."
[...] NASA announced the Artemis Accords in October 2020 with an initial group of eight signatories. Five others later joined before Mexico, most recently Poland [on] Oct. 26. The countries who have signed include both traditional partners of the United States in space, such as Canada, Japan and several European nations, as well as emerging space nations like Brazil, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.
Previously: NASA Wants Partner Nations to Agree to "Artemis Accords" for Lunar Exploration
Could Corporations Control Territory in Space? Under New US Rules, It Might Be Possible
Legal Questions Linger as Governments and Companies Keep Pushing Into Space