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India signs the US-led Artemis Accords

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

 

Source: IE

 

Context: During the Indian PM’s state visit to the US, India signed the Artemis Accords.

 

About the Artemis Accords:

  • They are a US-led international partnership (introduced in 2020 by NASA) signed by 27 countries till now, including Japan, Australia, the UK, France, and Canada – on planetary exploration and research.
  • They are a set of 13 principles, closely linked to the 2018 US Artemis Program, which aims to return astronauts to the lunar surface, build a space camp there, and carry out deep space exploration.
  • They are a non-binding bilateral arrangement based on the political understanding of the participating countries.
  • This means the Accords do not have the status of a multilateral treaty or a contract nor does it set out legal principles or rules by any stretch of imagination.

  

 

 

Why were the Artemis Accords created by the USA?

  • The US domestic law provides rights to private citizens to extract, own and bring back such asteroid or lunar resources they might commercially exploit.
  • However, such a law is consistent with the Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits national appropriation of space resources by claims of sovereignty, by use, by occupation or by any other means.
  • Therefore, the Accords enable the US to seek international support and partners for advancing the 2018 US Artemis Program, which aims off-Earth exploration and commercial mining of planetary resources.
  • It is important to note that the Accords document does not specifically refer to the commercial exploitation or mining of lunar and asteroid resources.

 

How can signing the Artemis Accords benefit India?

  • The Accords could fast-track India’s human spaceflight capabilities and ambitions cost-effectively and via collaborations.
  • The Accords could help catalyse a strong NASA-ISRO collaboration. For example, India can contribute to the Gateway – an upcoming NASA-led international lunar orbital station for Artemis astronauts. In return, India can get a crew seat.
  • This could help India shape the governance of the extraction (of prospecting resources on the Moon) as and when it becomes a reality.
  • The Indo-Japanese LUPEX Moon rover mission – targeted for launch in the 2026-2028 timeframe – will certainly feed into the critical data on which future crewed Artemis missions will depends.

 

Challenges for India:

  • ISRO’s upcoming space science missions have been facing delays due to budget shortages.
  • The signing of the Accords means India has completely sided with the West regarding space exploration.

 

India’s new space policy:

  • It explicitly encourages ISRO to undertake missions on in-situ resource utilisation, celestial prospecting and other aspects of extra-terrestrial habitability.
  • This would allow India to sufficiently leverage the Accords for helping shape its future on the Moon.

 

Conclusion: Space is all about geopolitics and international cooperation and mutual understanding are key pillars of international relations for every country. So, for India, it’s not a case of siding with the US but to fulfil its national interest.

 

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Artemis Accords