India and the United States broke new ground in space collaboration with the signing of the Artemis Accord during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US.
The pact will help India participate in the US-led Artemis programme for exploration of moon and other celestial objects. "In a nutshell, it should suffice to say that India and the USA are to break new ground in the ‘space’, the ministry of science and technology, stated in a press release issued on Friday. m
The pact, according to minister of state for science and technology, PMO, personnel, public grievances, pensions, atomic energy and space, Dr Jitendra Singh, is the result of a series of unorthodox and path-breaking decisions taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the last 9 years.
India has achieve a quantum jump in space sector capabilities with the US, which began its space journey several years before India, seeking collaboration with the country as an equal partner.
Briefing the media about several significant decisions and agreements signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit, Singh said the two countries have also agreed on a joint Indo-US mission to the International Space Station in 2024.
“Could anything give us greater pride than to realise that the country like USA which landed the first human being on the surface of Moon when we were singing nursery rhymes about Moon, is today seeking our inputs and our expertise on Moon mission,” he said.
The minister explained that the purpose of the Artemis Accord is a common vision with USA and other countries via principles, guidelines and best practices that would supplement each other's activities for peaceful purposes with transparency and also work togetherto avoid harmful activities.
He said the joint mission to the International Space Station, which is separate of signing of the Artemis Accord, will develop a framework for joint mission to the International Space Station in 2024, which the USA envisages as a possibility for closer cooperation between the space agencies of the two countries to get closer to the realities of Moon and subsequently to Mars and other planets.
Singh said India will contribute to the International Space Station next year as part of the India-US collaboration in the Space Science field. US President Joe Biden has already confirmed this in the White House after a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, he added.
Singh said Isro is likely to team up with NASA as it plans to return to the moon with a manned mission by 2025.
According to the joint statement by India and the United States issued during PM Modi’s recent visit, NASA would provide “advanced training” to Indian astronauts at one of its facilities.
The pact will also pave the way for easing restrictions on import of critical technologies in the space domain especially electronics, benefitting Indian companies to develop systems and innovate for US markets. It will also facilitate participation of India in more scientific programmes jointly, allow access to common standards for long term engagements in activities including human spaceflight programmes and stronger engagements with the US in more strategic areas, including micro-electronics, quantum, space security etc, the minister added.
The Artemis Accord was signed on 13 October 2020 by eight founder nations - Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, UAE, UK and the United States. Its members include the traditional US allies like Japan, France, New Zealand, UK, Canada, South Korea, Australia and Spain while African nations like Rwanda, Nigeria etc are the new partners. Out of 22 European nations only eight (Luxembourg, Italy, UK, Romania, Poland, France, Czech Republic and Spain) have signed the accord.
The Artemis Accord is a non-binding agreement with no financial commitments. The purpose of these accords is to establish a common vision via a practical set of principles, guidelines, and best practices to enhance the governance of the civil exploration and use of outer space with intension of advancing the Artemis programme. Adherence to a practical set of principles, guidelines, and best practices in carrying out activities in outer space is intended to increase the safety of operations, reduce uncertainty, and promote the sustainable and beneficial use of space for all humankind. The accords represent a political commitment to the principles described herein, many of which provide for operational implementation of important obligations contained in the Outer Space Treaty and other instruments.
The principles set out in these accords are intended to apply to civil space activities conducted by the civil space agencies of each signatory. These activities may take place on the moon, Mars, comets, asteroids, including their surfaces and sub surfaces, as well as in orbit of the Moon or Mars, in the lagrangian points for the Earth-Moon system, and in transit between these celestial bodies and locations. The signatories intend to implement the principles set out in these accords through their own activities by taking, as appropriate, measures such as mission planning and contractual mechanism with entities acting on their behalf.
All activities under the Artemis Accord will be conducted for peaceful purposes. Partner states are to uphold the transparency principle by publicly describing policies and plans. Partner nations to utilise open international standards, develop new standards when necessary, and strive to support interoperability. Partner nations commit to taking all reasonable steps possible to render assistance to astronauts in distress and determine which of them should register relevant space object in accordance with the Registration Convention.
Partner nations are obligated to release their scientific data publicly to ensure that the entire world can benefit from the Artemis journey. Member nations are to inform UN about their space activities. Partner nations will avoid harmful interference and act in a manner that is consistent with the principles reflected in the Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines of the UNCOPUOS.
International cooperation has been part of the Indian space programme since inception. Isro’s maiden mission to Moon, the Chandrayaan-1, has been an exemplary example of international cooperation with its international payloads. It has also earned several national and international laurels and was instrumental in the Isro-NASA joint discovery of water molecules on the moon surface, unattained by any of the previous missions of such nature.
Isro and NASA are realizing a joint satellite mission called NISAR (NASA-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar) for earth science studies. As part of Isro’s prestigious Gaganyaan programme, the cooperation opportunities with countries and space agencies having expertise in human space flight are being explored. The cooperation activities are focused in astronaut training, life support systems, radiation shielding solutions etc.