The Weekend Australian - Review

DEIRDRE MACKEN

- THE SIGHTGEIST Glen Le Lievre

While we were trying to keep law and order on earth, a set of rules for keeping law and order in space were revised, circulated to interested parties and signed by most of the nicer residents of earth.

And it’s just in time because Elon has started doing moon shots; Australia has just set up another space body and President Biden now sits in the White House, with a moon rock on his desk and a desire to add to the collection.

The Artemis Accords are named after the Greek goddess of the moon, the hunt and chastity and, while they don’t proscribe bonking laws, they cover the rules of behaviour in space in much the same way as those rules posted on the fridge doors of shared households.

It should be pointed out that China, Russia and India have yet to sign, which is a worry especially as China went to the moon to pick up rocks two months ago and left behind a flag in the moon dust. Perhaps a few copies of the house rules can be pushed under the bedroom doors of those who sneak other people’s yoghurt from the fridge and refuse to use the toilet brush.

Yes, it’s getting crowded up there and terrestria­ls are hoping that we don’t get fallout from people behaving badly 384,400km above our heads. As space lawyer Laura Montgomery put it: “These are agreements to be a good citizen in space. You don’t want anybody landing on your lunar habitat and you also don’t want rocket plumes kicking up dust and rocks and breaking windows.”

The don’t-be-a-dick rule pretty well covers most of the Accords but we can break them down into five areas of concern and most could fit on a bar fridge door.

Firstly, heritage. In much the same way that you wouldn’t do shots from your flatmate’s antique thimbles, space explorers are advised to protect heritage zones. They don’t want Russian boots muddying Neil Armstrong’s footprints or tourists from Space X taking selfies next to the Apollo 12 flag.

The next rule covers transparen­cy. You should tell people where you’re going and what you’re going to do. You don’t want to be surprised by Russia knocking on your bedroom door while you are testing the boundaries of the chastity rules.

Next is the plug and play rule. Most shared households have this sorted already. They are either a PlayStatio­n house or a Nintendo household and other games are not welcome. Ditto for the moon. You don’t want to run out of fuel and discover that the refuelling station is fitted with bowsers that don’t fit your hydrogen caps.

Cleaning Up. There’s already a lot of space junk up there and the debris clause of the Accords suggests you clean up your own space junk but work with foreign space crews for big clean ups. There is no council pick up night.

Occupation­al Health and Safety. Apart from not leaving junk around for others to trip over, this rule is all about giving emergency assistance to astronauts in distress. Seriously, if you see anyone floating around at the end of a rope, pull them in, give them a suck of freeze-dried lemonade and ask if they want a lift.

That’s it. These house rules for the universe are pretty sensible. They could just as well be used on earth for, say, living at the Poles or under the oceans or - you know where we’re heading – as a climate agreement. Just think, if we can sort out ways to live sustainabl­y on our planet, we won’t need to learn how to live on the moon.

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