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Luis Salgado

Artemis Accords: A New Age of Space Capitalism and Hegemony

- Document that aims to articulate international standards regarding celestial objects of economic interest.

Artemis Accords: A New Age of Space Capitalism and Hegemony

On October 13, 2020, the heads of NASA and seven other national space agencies signed the Artemis Accords, a document that aims to articulate international standards for the development of the Moon, Mars, and other celestial objects of economic interest in the near future. International public opinion ignored the announcement and the opinion of the international elite was disappointed. Yet there are good reasons why so few outside the orbit of space policy pundits paid attention to the announcement, and many who did were unimpressed.

First, the heads of the space agencies of America's main competitors in space - rival China and semi-rival Russia - were not among the signatories. By contrast, the other seven included the heads of the second and third-tier space powers of the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Canada, Italy and the United Arab Emirates, and Luxembourg without any experience in the matter. This was not even a complete list of allies the US can typically count on to support its diplomacy. For example, Brazil, South Korea, Israel, and Saudi Arabia are all would-be spacefaring states and are missing the signatures of the heads of their space agencies, as is that of the fifth member of the "Five Eyes" Anglo-American intelligence alliance. ": New Zealand.

Second, although the first page of the document states "the importance of compliance" with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, with the exception of the UAE, the signatures of the heads of space agencies in the Global South are missing. That matters because the treaty on which the international legal regime for space is based achieved its legitimacy only because it won the acceptance not only of the United States and the Soviet Union and their lesser allies, but also of countries of what was then described as the Third World.

While the superpowers signed the 1967 Outer Space Treaty as a nuclear arms control agreement for space, most of the rest of the planet signed it because it offered an unambiguous prohibition on territorial annexation or national appropriation to assuage anxieties. historical statements about imperialist rivalry in the skies, promising in rather ambiguous language that the scientific and economic benefits of space as an international commons would be shared internationally. The 1979 Moon Treaty, which explicitly promised to share the scientific and economic benefits of the “Eight Continent” resources, was strongly supported by the Global South but equally opposed by the United States. That is why today it is a dead letter.

What the 1967 Outer Space Treaty did not provide was the international legal basis for the kind of property rights that investors want when making large and risky investments such as extraterrestrial mining operations. Yes, there are potentially profitable mining opportunities in the large object seen regularly in the night sky. The Moon is much closer than any other large celestial object, and hidden beneath its Asia-sized area are minerals and water ice crucial to further space exploration and development.

The Artemis Accords are an international legal "side job" to recognize and protect such exotic property rights while pretending that their creation by the United States is not effectively territorial annexation or resource appropriation clearly prohibited by the Outer Space Treaty. of 1967. Section 10, Subsection 2 of the Artemis Accords refers to the "extraction and utilization of space resources, including reclamation from the surface or surface of the Moon, Mars, comets, or asteroids" and promises that "The Signatories affirm that the extraction of space resources does not inherently constitute national appropriation under Article II of the Outer Space Treaty." That's the kind of language lawyers resigned to the reality that their work must pass the "duck test" write.

The law often involves fiction, especially when it is deemed useful to facilitate trade. The assumption that large business corporations and individual consumers are equally competent to negotiate the terms of contracts with each other is an example. As long as almost everyone plays along, these fictions can be reasonably functional. The problem with the Artemis Accords is that few countries seem willing to suspend disbelief. With no signatures from heads of space agencies from China, Russia and most of the Global South, the document is billed as the first step in the annexation of territory or appropriation of resources on the Moon via condominium - the United States plus a small circle of its friends. - in violation of the explicit prohibition of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

Therefore, it is likely that the Artemis Accords are a transient, political lunar phenomenon. The United States can get away with it only as long as it absorbs some of the commercial risk from alien mining projects of sketchy international legality and, crucially, neither China nor Russia decide to renounce the 1967 Outer Space Treaty by annexing their own portions of lunar territory. . That both Beijing and Moscow view territorial annexations quite differently from Washington is evident in the former's claim to the South China Sea and the latter's annexation of Crimea. In fact, they might be tempted to poke holes in the fiction just to put America down a bit. Ironically, in the long run, the only way to save the Artemis Accords from that fate would be to engage in lunar resource trading with the Global South that so strenuously opposes the 1979 Moon Treaty.

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Salgado, Luis. “Acuerdos Artemisa: una nueva era de capitalismo espacial y hegemonía.” CEMERI, 20 sept. 2022,