BAKU, Azerbaijan — A working group of nations signed up to the Artemis Accords aim to increase transparency and safety of civil lunar exploration missions.

The second agency meeting of Artemis Accords signatories concluded on the sidelines of the 74th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Baku, Oct. 3. The meetings continued efforts to establish principles for safe and sustainable space exploration held for the first time at the 73rd IAC in Paris last year.

Representatives from three co-chairing nations presented findings from work groups conducted over the last year immediately after the meetings.

“As a result of discussions in Working Group One over the past year, the signatories reaffirmed the significance of ensuring transparency, and agreed to the need to discuss the information of near-term civil mission plans,” said Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

“As a result of careful considerations, signatories discussed an initial set of mission information items that should be disclosed to avoid interference on the surface.” 

Specific items include launch and lunar landing dates, mission duration and related deployments. Information concerning scientific activities worthy of special consideration, for example a quiet zone needed for seismic measurements, should also be disclosed.

Information is to be disclosed to signatories of the Artemis Accords and to the United Nations Secretary General when procedures are in place. This is to enable coordination between both mission planners to all avoid interference and ensure safety of missions, Yamakawa said.

“The signatories of the Artemis Accords desire all states with near-term civil lunar mission plans to share information likewise.” 

Pam Melroy, NASA deputy administrator, stated that there’s very little outer space law other than the Outer Space Treaty from 1967.

“Each of the Artemis Accords signatories and countries have made a decision to be a leader in space policy. To begin to understand how to go beyond the limited law that we have and understand what responsible exploration is.”

Melroy stated in response to a question about India’s Chandrayaan-3 lunar landing mission, that the country had shown “remarkable transparency.”

“They showed everything. They let the world join them online to watch the progress of this event.” 

This, Melroy said, was important for inspiration and excitement for space exploration. “And in so doing, they upheld the highest principles of the Accords.”

The participants also highlighted the contributions and successes of missions involved in lunar exploration over the last year, including the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), or Danuri, Artemis 1, and Japan’s recently-launched SLIM lunar lander.

Grzegorz Wrochna, president of the Polish Space Agency (POLSA), presented findings from a second working group. He noted a great environment because the Accords are now signed by 29 countries, including eight countries during the last year. “And we are very proud that we have members from all continents now,” Wrochna said.

“We’re working with a focus on engagement in the international community, especially with emerging space countries in order to advance the opportunities for them.”

Andrew Jones covers China's space industry for SpaceNews. Andrew has previously lived in China and reported from major space conferences there. Based in Helsinki, Finland, he has written for National Geographic, New Scientist, Smithsonian Magazine, Sky...