Thanks to NASA and Artemis I, we are now seeing a new era in human space exploration. On November 16, NASA launched its most powerful rocket, known as the Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS is the first phase of the Artemis I mission designed to take NASA’s Orion spacecraft toward the moon.
In a November 21 news briefing at the Johnson Space Center, Artemis I mission manager Mike Sarafin commented, “The mission continues to proceed as we had planned, and the ground systems, our operations teams, and the Orion spacecraft continue to exceed expectations, and we continue to learn along the way about this new, deep-space spacecraft.”
On November 25, Orion entered a high-altitude orbit around the moon; this type of orbit is known as a Distant Retrograde Orbit (DRO). It allows Orion to move around the moon without the use of much fuel.
NASA has released several pictures taken from Orion that show some spectacular images, including the earth disappearing behind the moon and black-and-white pictures of the moon’s surface. The Artemis I mission is a major step forward in testing the SLS, Orion and its capabilities.
In future, the Artemis I mission could be instrumental in bringing astronauts back to the moon. It could even be the gateway for a long-term human presence on the moon, but will likely also bring about the need for more international cooperation and space legislation.
What Experiments Are Happening on Orion?
Rebecca Heilweil and Ellen Ioanes of Vox reported on some of the experiments taking place on Orion. These experiments are focusing on enabling humans to be launched into space during the next phase of the Artemis I mission.
Heilweil and Ioanes noted, “There aren’t any humans on NASA’s big trip, but there are three astronauts: Helga, Zohar, and Moonikin Campos. They’re high-tech manikins — that’s the term for human models used in scientific research — filled with sensors that will test how the human body responds to space travel.
“Helga and Zohar are designed to measure the effects of radiation on women’s bodies in space, and Moonikin Campos will sit in the commander’s seat to track just how bumpy a voyage to the moon might be for future human crew members.”
What Will the Artemis I Mission Mean for International Cooperation and Space Legislation?
The Artemis mission is run by NASA, but it has private-sector partners. One of the most well-known of those partners is Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which hopes to finally launch its new spacecraft, Starship, this year. Unlike SLS, Starship has reusable launching equipment, which is not reusable and therefor more expensive.
As Mike Wall of Space.com notes, “Starship consists of a giant first-stage booster called Super Heavy and a 165-foot-tall (50 meters) upper-stage spacecraft known as Starship. Both elements are designed to be fully reusable, and both will be powered by SpaceX’s next-generation Raptor engines — 33 for Super Heavy and six for Starship.”
This partnership between NASA and SpaceX may entice other nations to join the Artemis Accords and bring about greater international cooperation in space exploration. The Artemis Accords, a 2020 treaty signed by NASA and various nations around the world, created new partnerships between NASA and the national space agencies of different countries. It also paved the way for more cooperation in space exploration.
It is no secret that the creators of the Artemis Accords want to chart a new course in space legislation and do not take the Outer Space Treaty very seriously, but you can’t argue with mission success. The success of the Artemis I mission shows that it is time to resolve the legal and political issues concerning space exploration.
These are exciting times. The resurgence of the space exploration spirit and the visible successes of both NASA and private actors show that we are in a new era. That new era demands innovative space legislation to govern this new frontier.
In regard to developing space legislation, the United Nations should look at the fast-paced movements in space exploration, including Artemis I, and create a new initiative for international space law. As we plan once again to explore outer space, it is essential to think about the legislation to guide national space agencies and multi-national corporations in their work.