The Artemis Accords: A Peace Treaty for Space / Humans + Tech - #30

+ A device that can simulate any taste + A bionic eye that can give the blind 20/20 vision + Tech in the age of coronavirus

Hi :)

We are at the dawn of a new space race. This time around, it’s not only a race between governments but between private companies as well.

🚀Two days back, NASA approved SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to transport two astronauts to the International Space Station on Wednesday, May 27 [SpaceFlight Now]. This will be the first time ever for a private company to transport astronauts into space. A monumental achievement. 🤞 Let’s hope that all goes well.

SpaceX is the first private company to reach this milestone, but there are many other players in the field. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are both working on space tourism services. Blue origin is particularly secretive and is also said to be working on a lunar lander as well [Earth.com]. There are several more private companies building technology to take us to space [How Stuff Works].

🌗 Race to the Moon

Between governments, the race to return to the moon has particularly heated up in the last few years.

🇨🇳 China's Chang'e-4 probe has survived 500 Earth days on the far side of the moon [XinhuaNet]. They have an ambitious plan for several further lunar missions [Space.com].

🇷🇺 Russia plans a 2024 orbiter, a 2028 sample-return mission to the moon, and human flights in 2029 or 2030. Russia is also teaming up with China to work together on lunar projects.

🇮🇳 India’s Chandrayaan-2 attempted a landing on the moon in October of 2019 but crashed on landing [Space.com]. They have announced that they will attempt to do so again with Chandrayaan-3 [Space.com]. A launch date has not been finalized.

🇺🇸 The USA has also announced it’s Artemis program [NASA], aiming to land American Astronauts back on the moon by 2024 [NASA]

🇪🇺 The European Space Agency is planning lunar missions from 2025 onwards with an aim of exploring lunar resources to produce drinkable water or breathable oxygen on the moon [ESA]. They are also planning a Moon Village [ESA].

The moon is the first target. Mars is the next. The moon will serve as a pit-stop for future missions to Mars and beyond. As a result, scientists are researching how to power human settlements in space, starting with the moon. Nuclear reactors are one solution they are looking at [Futurism]. NASA is also looking at nuclear fission reactors which can be safely transported to the moon [Interesting Engineering].

Most lunar missions are aiming to study and map lunar water ice because the moon’s water ice could be used to produce rocket fuel [MIT Technology Review]. The moon is also a valuable resource for gold, platinum, and other rare earth metals. 

☮️ 🚀 The Artemis Accords: A Peace Treaty for Space

As competition heats up to explore and exploit space resources, NASA sees the need to ensure a civil exploration and use of space. They have drafted a peace treaty for space called The Artemis Accords [Big Think], a supplement to The Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 [Space Legal Issues], was unanimously adopted by the United Nations, declaring that the exploration and use of outer space must be carried out in the interest and for the good of humanity.

The Artemis Accords are listed on NASA’s website [NASA].

International space agencies that join NASA in the Artemis program will do so by executing bilateral Artemis Accords agreements, which will describe a shared vision for principles, grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to create a safe and transparent environment which facilitates exploration, science, and commercial activities for all of humanity to enjoy.

Image Credit: NASA

The main principles in The Artemis Accords are:

  1. Peaceful Purposes - Activities by all partner nations should be conducted for peaceful purposes.

  2. Transparency - All partner nations to publicly describe their own policies and plans in a transparent manner.

  3. Interoperability - All partner nations to utilize open international standards, develop new standards when necessary, and strive to support interoperability to the greatest extent practical.

  4. Emergency Assistance - All partner nations commit to taking all reasonable steps possible to render assistance to astronauts in distress.

  5. Registration of Space Objects - Registration is critical to creating a safe and sustainable environment in space to conduct public and private activities. It is vital for coordination to avoid harmful interference from taking place.

  6. Release of Scientific Data - All partner nations agree to follow NASA’s example, releasing their scientific data publicly to ensure that the entire world can benefit from the journey of exploration and discovery.

  7. Protecting Heritage - NASA and partner nations will commit to the protection of sites and artefacts with historic value.

  8. Space Resources - All partner nations agree to share resources under the auspices of the Outer Space Treaty, with specific emphasis on Articles II, VI, and XI.

  9. Deconfliction of Activities - NASA and partner nations will provide public information regarding the location and general nature of operations which will inform the scale and scope of ‘Safety Zones’.

  10. Orbital Debris and Spacecraft Disposal - NASA and partner nations will agree to act in a manner that is consistent with the principles reflected in the Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

It will be interesting to see which nations and private entities agree to and sign these accords. With the heightened global tensions in the last few years, aggravated further by COVID-19, the path is not easy.

Is this just a way for the USA to dictate the terms of lunar mining?

How does it work if some sign the accords and some don’t?

Will this work if it’s not unanimously agreed to?

It’s not by accident that no country in the world has an official Department of Peace [PeaceNow.com].


👅 This Lickable Screen Can Recreate Almost Any Taste or Flavor Without Eating Food

Want to get that chocolate taste without the calories? You may soon be able to do just that. Homei Miyashita from Meiji University in Japan has invented a device that can artificially recreate any flavour [Miyashita Laboratory] by triggering the five different tastes on a user’s tongue.

Similar to how printers use a mixture of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to combine in different quantities to create millions of colours and print out any photo you like, Miyashita’s device called the Norimaki Synthesizer uses five different gels that combine in different quantities to simulate different tastes [Gizmodo].

I am intrigued to test this out. Will it give the same satisfaction of eating the food it’s simulating. Taste is also influenced by smell and texture. Will the taste of chocolate without the creamy texture and sweet smell provide the same satisfaction?


👁 A New Bionic Eye Could Give Robots and the Blind 20/20 Vision

Researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have devised a way to build photosensors directly into a hemispherical artificial retina. This enabled them to create a device that can mimic the wide field of view, responsiveness, and resolution of the human eye [Singularity Hub].

Key to the breakthrough was an ingenious way of implanting photosensors [ScientificAmerican] into a dome-shaped artificial retina. The team created a hemisphere of aluminum oxide peppered with densely-packed nanoscale pores. They then used vapor deposition to grow nanowires inside these pores made from perovskite, a type of photosensitive compound used in solar cells.

It’s still only a proof of concept so far. They still have challenges to overcome such as how to wire up the high density of photosensors efficiently. However, once perfected, this could be a boon to blind people and even has the potential to work better than the human eye in some metrics.


🦠 Tech in the Age of Coronavirus

🇦🇫 Teen girls build a ventilator from car and motorcycle parts

Afghanistan has just 400 ventilators for a population of 39 million. With their coronavirus cases already at close to 8,000, they anticipate a severe shortage of ventilators. An all-girl robotics team aged between 14 and 17 has stepped in and built a prototype ventilator from car and motorcycle parts. Their ventilator costs less than $600 each. They have completed the first phase of development and tested it in a hospital. They are working on phase two after which they can introduce it into the market [BBC].

🦠 Promising antibody treatment for COVID-19

Sorrento Therapeutics out of San Diego, California, says it’s made a major breakthrough in a temporary, preventative antibody treatment for COVID-19 that blocked 100% of infections in lab tests. Their treatment could serve as a stopgap, while the search for a vaccine continues. The treatment could provide protection that could last up to two months [FastCompany].

🦠 Identifying patients likely to experience more severe forms of COVID-19

Scientists in the UK have found indicators that can help identify which patients are more likely to suffer a severe form of COVID-19. They have identified drugs that can counter the effects of COVID-19 in these individuals and will begin testing the treatment soon [BBC].


Quote of the week

“The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.”

—Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (Russian and Soviet rocket scientist and pioneer of the astronautic theory)

I wish you peace, good health, and a brilliant day ahead :)

Neeraj