NASA’s Historic New International Agreements Set Stage for Peaceful and Cooperative Future of Space Exploration

NASA, along with a number of partnering space agencies from around the world, have announced a new set of international agreements that will help to govern a “safe, peaceful, and prosperous future” of space exploration.

The recently-released “Artemis Accords” are the latest development of the Artemis Program, through which the agency vows to send the first woman—and next man—to the moon by 2024.

NASA hopes that the Accords will better allow it to work with international partners to conduct a human mission to Mars as well.

“It’s a new dawn for space exploration!” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote on Twitter last week. “Today, I’m honored to announce the Artemis Accords agreements—establishing a shared vision and set of principles for all international partners that join in humanity’s return to the Moon. We go, together.”

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The core values enshrined in the Accords expand upon the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. They include the principle that space exploration should be done for peaceful purposes, that the U.S. and its partner nations must be transparent in their practices, and they should strive to build interoperable systems to information that can be exchanged and shared between nations.

The program also aims to protect historic sites and artifacts beyond the bounds of our planet, in much the same way that heritage sites on earth are protected by law. These include the artifacts left behind during the moon landings of the Apollo program of 1969-1972.

“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,” NASA said in a statement.

International partners that have signed on to the Accords include the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency, the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, according to CNN.

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The Accords mark one of the most significant accomplishments thus far of the largest Artemis program, announced in 2019. The program involves the Orion spacecraft, Gateway and Space Launch Rocket System (SLS). The SLS rocket will be used to send Orion, with astronauts and large cargo on board, to the moon.

Unlike previous spacecraft which only supported short-term missions, the Orion will dock at the Gateway, described by CNN as “a spaceship that will go into orbit around the moon and be used as a lunar outpost. About 250,000 miles from Earth, the Gateway will allow easier access to the entire surface of the moon and potentially deep space exploration.”

Photo by NASA

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Watch Notre Dame Cathedral Bell Ring Out for Healthcare Workers on the One-Year Anniversary of Its Fire

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the fire that came within 30 minutes of destroying the beloved Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

Now as a means of honoring its survival and encouraging locals to remain unified in the face of the novel coronavirus lockdowns, the cathedral’s bell rang out across Paris for the second time since the fire.

On April 15th at 8PM when city-dwellers typically take to their windows to applaud healthcare workers on the frontline of the pandemic, three people donned hazmat suits to protect themselves from the toxic lead particulates released by the fire and spent five minutes ringing the iconic bell—which is reportedly the second largest in the country.

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As reporters captured the iconic event on camera, hundreds of French citizens could be heard cheering and clapping from the streets for the duration of the homage.

“The restoration of Notre-Dame… is a symbol of the resilience of our people, of their capacity to overcome hardships, and to recover,” said French President Emmanuel Macron.

Although the structure of the bell’s belfry was undamaged by the fire, it has been rung only once since the blaze, and that was to honor the passing of former French president Jacques Chirac in September 2019.

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President Macron originally planned to have the cathedral fully restored within five years of the fire, but the pandemic—coupled with poor winter weather—has put the initiative behind schedule.

Regardless, restoration managers told Reuters that they at least want to have the cathedral ready to host Easter mass on April 16th, 2024.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

(WATCH the AFP video below) – Feature photo by David Merrett, CC

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Impelled by Reactor Meltdown, Fukushima Japan Vows to Achieve 100% Renewable Energy Use in 20 Years

Nine years ago, an earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan caused one of the most significant nuclear disasters in human history in the area around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where the resulting reactor meltdown led to the evacuation of 150,000 individuals.

Now, the local government has vowed to restructure the grid of the north western prefecture to use entirely renewable energy sources by 2040. Fukushima is the third largest administrative district in the country, and uniquely includes a variety of energy resources like prime spots for solar and wind farms, and also opportunities for geothermal power as well.

Working to achieve these ambitious goals, Fukushima Prefecture signed a memorandum of understanding in the field of renewables with the Ministry of Environment for the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia, the largest energy-producing state in Germany—and Europe as well—in August of 2017.

North-Rhine Westphalia has doubled their renewable energy infrastructure over the last 15 years—growing it to deliver 9% of total energy production.

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Since 2012, however, Fukushima has tripled its renewable energy production, with solar, wind, water, thermal, and biofuel resources totaling 1,500 megawatts of electricity, delivering a contribution of nearly 18% of Japan’s total yearly energy consumption.

Additionally, 300 billion yen ($2.75 billion) for the project has already been fronted by sponsors such as the state-owned Japan Development Bank and Mizuho Bank. The funding will be used to construct 11 solar farms and 10 wind farms over the next 4 years. The new projects also include biomass plants, geothermal stations, even fleets of sea-going windmills.

The proposed new grid, spanning 80 kilometers, would reach the Tokyo metropolitan area and contribute 600 megawatts of electricity, replacing much of the power which, up until recently, the city had received from the pair of Fukushima atomic energy plants.

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Beyond moving away from its robust infrastructure and dependence on atomic energy, Japan is also the third largest importer of coal and natural gas, and a massive change in energy independence would help Japan reach its ambitious goals set forth in the recent UN climate change panel in Madrid last month.

The country’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, irrespective of the Fukushima Prefecture’s own energy objectives, is targeting 24% total energy from renewables nationally by 2030.

Power Up With Positivity By Sharing The Good News With Your Friends On Social Media — File photo by Tokyo Electric Power Co., TEPCO, CC