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UAE joins 7 states to sign pact for moon exploration

Aerial view of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) during a testing phase, late 1960s [NASA/Interim Archives/Getty Images]
Aerial view of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) during a testing phase, late 1960s [NASA/Interim Archives/Getty Images]

Eight states, including the UAE, have signed an international pact for moon exploration, NASA said yesterday.

The pact, called the Artemis Accords, is intended as a framework for best practice on moon and space exploration, covering guidelines on the use of resources, making rocket fuel, safe operations and emergency assistance.

The United Arab Emirates, UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, Italy and Luxembourg signed the US-led agreement yesterday, with more countries expected to follow suit.

"What we're trying to do is establish norms of behaviour that every nation can agree to," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters, according to Al Jazeera.

Under the pact, the US will seek to send the first woman to the moon as early as 2024, as part of a project called Artemis.

The planned return to the moon will mirror the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 70s, the BBC said, but unlike earlier visits, astronauts will seek to establish a permanent presence.

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NASA is also planning to build a Lunar Gateway, a space station orbiting the moon, which will act as a jumping off point for astronauts as they shuttle back and forth to the moon's surface.

The Accord builds on current international regulations, which exempt celestial bodies, including the moon, from national claims of ownership, and adds a provision for "safety zones" around future lunar bases.

The addition is intended to prevent conflict between nation-states operating on the moon and will allow private companies to claim ownership of the lunar products they mine.

The "safety zones", however, are set to be temporary, rather than enduring, after the British delegation raised concerns the pact could be seen as an appropriation of the moon's surface, which is prohibited in international law.

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are also preparing a Memorandum of Understanding on their moon exploration partnership, to supplement the agreement, the BBC said.

Some nations with the capacity to explore space, however, have not entered the agreement, with Russia and China both choosing to abstain for the time being.

The head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said he felt the current form of the agreement was "too US-centric".

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