Artemis and the Moon: An International Law Conundrum

Date & time
5.30–6.30pm Thursday 18 March 2021

ANU College of Law Moot Courts

Dr Cassandra Steer
Prof Melissa de Zwart
Prof Don Rothwell, FAAL
Ashley Rogge
CIPL Seminar

Part of the CIPL Monthly Talk series series

Earth & Moon by Sean Doran_Flickr

Australia finds itself in a challenging position with respect to its international law obligations under the 1979 Moon Agreement, and its recent signing of the bi-lateral Artemis Accords with NASA in October 2020. As one of the original eight States to sign the Artemis Accords, the Australian space sector is excited to be partnering with NASA on its plan to return astronauts to the Moon for the first time in four decades, and to develop new technologies for long-term human habitation in space and resource extraction on the Moon. However, as one of only 18 signatories to the Moon Agreement, Australia is in a unique position, and faces an international law conundrum, which has not yet been explicitly solved.

The Moon Agreement states that the Moon is the “common heritage” of all humankind, and obliges States Party to establish an international regulatory regime for resource extraction “as such exploitation is about to become feasible”. However, the Artemis Accords state that all parties agree that resource extraction “can and shall take place” and is in accordance with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty - in reference to Article III of that treaty which prohibits appropriation in outer space. Can both of these obligations be read in harmony, and what other questions remain?

Chaired by Professor Donald Rothwell, FAAL (ANU College of Law), this panel will discuss the context of the core space treaties, the new position Australia is in as an Artemis Accords partner, and will consider what might be learned from other areas beyond national jurisdiction where resource extraction has led to difficult international law questions, such as the Antarctic and the deep-sea bed.

This event will be delivered in a hybrid format- both in-person and virtually via Zoom webinar.


  • Dr Cassandra Steer »

    Dr Cassandra Steer

    Dr. Cassandra Steer is a Mission Specialist with the ANU Institute of Space (InSpace), and a Senior Lecturer at the College of Law specialising in space law, space security and international law. She was formerly Acting Executive Director at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Ethics and Rule of Law, where her major focus was the design and delivery of a high level international conference on “The Weaponization of Outer Space: Ethical and Legal Boundaries”. Previously she has held positions as Executive Director of Women in International Security - Canada, Executive Director of the McGill Institute of Air and Space Law, and Assistant Professor at the University of Amsterdam. Dr. Steer is a member of the Australian Space Agency's technical Advisory group for Space Situational Awareness, and is the Canadian representative member on the International Law Association Space Law Committee, an Associate Expert on the Woomera Manual on the International Law of Military Space Operations, and a member of the International Institute of Space Law.

  • Professor Melissa de Zwart »

    Prof Melissa de Zwart (Adelaide Law School)

    Professor Melissa de Zwart is the Dean of Adelaide Law School and has a keen interest in the intersection between law and technology. Prior to joining academia, she was the Manager, Legal Services, CSIRO, where she advised on protection and commercialisation of technology. Her areas of research focus primarily on digital technology, as it interacts with culture, human behaviour and new areas of innovation. She has published widely on copyright, social media, surveillance, popular culture, the internet and outer space. She is a Board Member of the Space Industry Association of Australia, a member of the International Institute of Space Law, Co-Editor of the Woomera Manual on the International Law Applicable to Military Space Operations and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law. In 2015 she was the Team Leader of the AdelaideX Cyberwar, Surveillance and Security MOOC which has attracted over 40,000 students globally.

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