- The United States has signed bilateral agreements, called the Artemis Accords, with 11 other states. The Accords lay down norms for space exploration and are a prerequisite for states seeking to join NASA’s Artemis programme, which envisages a new wave of lunar exploration that would eventually use the moon as a launch pad for voyages to Mars and the Asteroid Belt.
- The lunar exploration programme could provide a major boost to India’s lunar ambitions. However, while terms of the Accords are generally in line with existing international space law, there are concerns. Chiefly, one provision in the Accords allows for unregulated mining on the moon and other celestial bodies. The Accords also allow states to declare ‘safety zones’ that could become de facto private property by virtue of sustained presence.
- The Artemis programme also has a rival in the form of the International Lunar Research Station led by Russia and China. As these two spacefaring states prepare to release their own set of norms by the end of 2021, India is faced with an imperfect choice: joining either or both programmes will aid its own ambitions, but rival blocs could scuttle any chances of creating a widely accepted multilateral framework for space governance in this century.
- This document concludes that India would benefit from signing the Artemis Accords and joining the Artemis programme. However, it should keep its options open, seeking space cooperation with Russia bilaterally or via the ILRS, while also pushing for an overarching multilateral set of norms or a new treaty