Elle Agnew: Hello I’m Elle Agnew, Manager of International and Regulatory Affairs at the Canadian Space Agency or “CSA”.
The CSA’s mandate is to promote the peaceful use and development of space, to advance the knowledge of space through science, and to ensure that space science and technology provide socio-economic benefits for Canadians. One area in which we do this is through space exploration, including partnering on the International Space Station, and missions like OSIRIS-REx.
Today’s webinar is designed to provide information and seek the views of Canadians on “rules” for space exploration activities. In order to ensure all participants have a good understanding of the issues, we will be providing background information on recent activities and the existing “rules”, framing some of the principles and considerations, and informing you about how to provide your input to the Government. Throughout the presentation, we will raise questions – these should serve as “food for thought” as you develop your input.
When providing feedback on “rules” for space exploration, you may want to consider: which issues are most important to you; what you would like to know more about; what you think of the existing rules; and what considerations you think are necessary for future rules.
This webinar is organized into three parts. The first part will provide some context for why the CSA is consulting Canadians at this time. We will provide a brief description of some of our deep-space exploration plans, a very high-level overview of the existing “rules” including treaties governing space activities, and finally a summary of recent efforts to advance “rules” within the international and multilateral communities.
Part two will focus on one of the efforts to advance “rules”, the Artemis Accords, which are norms of behaviour that Canada and partners have committed to. We will provide a general overview of the principles of the Accords as well as additional details on those principles that will require further consideration to implement. We will also take a more in-depth look at space resource utilization as a particular case study for the “rules” governing space exploration activities.
Finally, the third part of today’s session will explain how you can provide your input to the Government for this consultation. We will also answer questions that are raised throughout this webinar.
We will begin by providing some information on Canada and the international communities deep space exploration plans.
In a world of shrinking budgets and increasing global problems, we are often asked, why do we explore space? The benefits to Canadians are not always well understood, but they are substantial.
Not only does space exploration increase our knowledge of our planet and universe, but it also advances research and discoveries that lead to breakthrough science in areas that benefit people on Earth, like health sciences, and gives rise to technologies that do not even exist today. Some real-world benefits of space exploration include: enriched baby formula, memory foam, international search and rescue, shock absorbers for buildings and bridges, advanced water filtration, water-mapping technology to locate underground water sources for wells, cardiac pumps, cochlear implants, and air purifiers. They are all a direct result of space exploration programs.
Space exploration creates new business opportunities in Canada, especially in niche areas such as robotics, digital products, and Artificial Intelligence. Exploration increases our knowledge of Earth and helps address real-world challenges such as climate change and the effects of solar activities on systems, such as the power grid or satellites. And finally, space exploration inspires – it encourages the next generation to pursue careers in not only traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) but also other related fields such as legal, policy, and communications.
Collaboration is essential for space exploration and for addressing scientific challenges that are inherently global in nature. Space agencies around the world are working together to promote coordinated efforts in human and robotic space exploration on and around the Moon and Mars.
Recently, space agencies gathered virtually for a meeting of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (or “ISECG”). They highlighted the importance and benefits of international cooperation and coordination to better advance their goals in space exploration. These goals are reflected in the recently published Global Exploration Roadmap Supplement – Lunar Surface Exploration Scenario Update that built on the 2018 Global Exploration Roadmap.
ISECG space agencies envision a future of expanding partnerships and collaboration, with an increasing number of actors, as a means to realise the ambitious shared goal of sustainably expanding human and robotic presence into the Solar System.
Canada’s space exploration plans are laid out in the 2019 Space Strategy and include key elements such as partnering with NASA and other International Space Station partners on the Lunar Gateway, as well as preparing Canada’s space sector for missions to the lunar surface through Canada’s Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (or “LEAP”).
In addition, 2019 saw the launch of the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan, a milestone in Canadian mining history. It offers a vision of how governments, industry, indigenous partners and stakeholders can work together to develop a strong and globally competitive mining sector into the future.
Among its various strategic directions, targets, and areas for action, the CMMP recognises the need to develop a policy approach for mining new frontiers, including space, to drive success of the mining sector by fostering innovation, investment and competitiveness.
In February 2019, the Prime Minister committed to Canada’s participation in the United States led Lunar Gateway Program. In December 2020, Minister Bains announced that the CSA and NASA signed the Gateway Treaty. This agreement confirms Canada’s participation in the next major international collaboration in space exploration, the planned Lunar Gateway space station.
The Lunar Gateway will be a small outpost orbiting the Moon. At about one-sixth the size of the International Space Station, the Gateway will serve as a science laboratory, a testbed for new technologies, a rendezvous location for exploration to the surface of the Moon, a mission control centre for operations on the Moon, and one day, a stepping stone for voyages to Mars.
The Canadian Space Agency is preparing Canada's space community and collaborating sectors – including Canadian companies, universities, research institutions, and other organizations – for potential roles in missions to the Moon and beyond.
LEAP is looking to foster innovation in areas of strength for Canada, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, science and health. It supports the commercialization of innovative ideas from Canadian industry, including small and medium-sized businesses, to help them become an integral part of the growing new-space economy. The scientific and technological advancements stemming from LEAP are expected to generate tangible benefits for Canadians in their everyday lives.
In addition to Canada’s space exploration program, Canada’s Mines Ministers released the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan (or “CMMP”) in 2019, identifying New Frontiers as an area for action. It recognizes that harnessing the technological advancements and disruptions taking place in deep mining, extreme climates, offshore and in space could lead to benefits for industry and Canadians.
The development of technologies to support space resource utilization is identified in the CMMP as a strategic opportunity to demonstrate Canadian leadership in science, technology and innovation, while working to address today’s grand challenges.
Exploring the potential to pool resources and expertise could lead to making the extraction and use of resources on Earth and in space more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable.
Also, leveraging Canada’s strengths and potential for cross-collaboration between industries could position Canadian firms and innovators to lead in the development of the inherently high-tech, digital, and cleaner mines of tomorrow on Earth and in space.
Advances in technology coupled with Canada’s expertise in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics and mining position Canada as a key partner for international collaboration in space exploration.
At the core of our approach to collaboration is a commitment to ensuring that we undertake space exploration safely, sustainably, and in full compliance with our international obligations. With the growing number of countries interested in space exploration, it is becoming increasingly important to ensure we have an internationally agreed to set of “rules” to follow.
We are now going to go over the “rules” that currently guide space activities.
The existing international legal framework for space activities was established over 50 years ago. The treaties remain relevant today and continue to form the legal structure for space activities. When you consider when they were developed, it helps you understand why they are structured the way they are. The fact that they were negotiated during the Cold War and during the space race shaped how they were written. We are going to provide a brief overview of Canada’s international obligations under these treaties.
There are four core treaties governing Canada’s activities in space. The Outer Space Treaty, the Rescue and Return Agreement, the Liability Convention, and the Registration Convention.
The first, and most important is, the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, which is commonly known as the Outer Space Treaty. Established in 1967, the Outer Space Treaty, sets out the core principles under which nations must conduct their space operations. It also provides the foundation from which the other space treaties were developed. We won’t go into too much detail but it is important to provide some key information about the elements of the treaty most relevant to the issues discussed today.
The Outer Space Treaty stipulates that space exploration and use should be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all peoples, and further details that the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used for exclusively peaceful purposes. It also states that all celestial bodies shall be free for exploration and use by all States, without discrimination of any kind.
At the same time, although space is open for use by all, States may not appropriate it through any means.
The Outer Space Treaty prohibits the installation of military bases, installations and fortifications and the testing of any weapon on planetary bodies. There is also a prohibition on placing weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons in orbit or on planetary bodies. However, there is no prohibition against weapons of mass destruction, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBMs, travelling through space.
The treaty says that States should regard astronauts as envoys of mankind and that States are obligated to render all possible assistance to them in the event of an emergency.
The Outer Space Treaty states that nations bear international responsibility for national activities and must authorize and continually supervise those activities. In this way, the treaty allows for commercial activities but States are obligated to authorize and supervise those activities and bear responsibility and liability for them.
The treaty establishes that nations own the objects they launch into space or even build in space, and that this ownership is not affected by the object’s presence in outer space. It further stipulates that nations must register their objects, and obligates States to return such objects to the state of registry if the objects, or parts of the objects are found. It also introduces the principles of States being liable for damages caused by its space objects. These key principles around States’ obligations are further detailed in subsequent treaties.
The Outer Space Treaty requires that States be guided by the principle of cooperation and mutual assistance, and that activities should be conducted with due regard to the interests of other States. In other words, in the conduct of space activities, states must consciously consider the needs of other states. It encourages cooperation in order to avoid harmful interference with the activities of other States.
The Outer Space Treaty allows for the inspection of installations, equipment and space vehicles with prior coordination.
The Outer Space Treaty also discusses planetary protection or, in other words, avoiding the harmful contamination of a celestial body or bringing such harmful contamination back to Earth. Although the treaty doesn’t say how to do that, the international Committee on Space Research or “COSPAR” has developed planetary protection standards that most countries follow. It further highlights the need for, and importance of, international cooperation, not only to ensure transparency and deconfliction of activities, but as a means of capacity building.
Finally, the Outer Space Treaty requires that disputes be settled through international cooperation and coordination.
Building on the principles in the Outer Space Treaty, the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space, commonly known as the “Rescue and Return Agreement”, signed in 1968, provides for the rescue of Astronauts, the return of Astronauts and the return of Spacecraft.
It covers the rescue, rendering aid and return of astronauts, if, due to accident, distress, emergency or unintended landing, astronauts are found in another State’s territory. It addresses obligations when such issues happen in the high seas or any other place where the Launching State does not have jurisdiction.
The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects, commonly known as the “Liability Convention”, entered into force in 1972, builds on the Outer Space Treaty principle regarding State liability. The Liability Convention defines the concept of a “Launching State” for the purpose of the convention and explains that a Launching State is liable to pay compensation for:
Damage caused on the surface of the Earth
Damage to aircraft
Damage caused in space or “elsewhere than on the surface of the Earth”
The Liability Convention stipulates that liability for damage caused on the surface of the Earth or to aircraft in flight is absolute – which means that the Launching State is automatically liable and the compensation for damages is not limited by fault or negligence. It further specifies that when the damage is caused elsewhere other than on Earth, Launching States are liable if they are determined to be at fault for the damage. For the purposes of this convention, a Launching State is defined as a State that launches or procures the launch of a space object, or a State from whose territory or facility a space object is launched. Therefore, if Canada were to have a launch facility, it would be considered one of the Launching States for all objects launched from that facility.
In the world of global programs, such as those for space exploration, liability becomes a very complex issue, with multiple countries involved in procuring and launching a space object.
The last space treaty signed by Canada is the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, commonly known as the “Registration Convention”. The Registration Convention, entered into force in 1976, sets out the requirement for States to register the spacecraft they bear responsibility for, as outlined in the Outer Space Treaty. It identifies key definitions, such as Launching State, Space Object and State of Registry for the purposes of registration. Although the Registration Convention includes objects launched into Earth’s orbit and beyond, the specifics for how to register objects that will remain on the Moon or other celestial body or are constructed on the Moon have not been identified.
We will now review some of the work that has been done to advance the “rules” in space since the core treaties were established.
When we look back at the Apollo 11 Moon landing, more than 50 years ago, what we saw was one nation achieving the amazing feat of having one of its citizens on the Moon. Although the Outer Space Treaty had requirements in place with respect to free access, due regard and avoiding harmful interference, these concepts were not of great concern because there was only one country there.
The space treaties have provided a solid framework for space activities for the past 50 years, but there is a need to apply that framework to the new space reality .
Unlike the days of the Apollo 11 landing, space exploration today is very much multinational. Canada will go to the Moon with partners, but other countries’ space agencies and industries will also be there.
The drafters of the original treaties couldn’t have imagined concepts such as self-sustaining Moon settlements, like ESA’s proposed Moon Village or commercial space resource operations. As we move towards activities like these, it is key that we establish “rules” to avoid misinterpretation and miscommunication.
For example, the Outer Space Treaty does not provide clear direction on the extraction and use of resources – in fact, some of the principles can be read as contradictory. The Rescue and Return Agreement does not provide clear direction on how tourists or commercial astronauts are to be treated, although we expect they will be afforded the same level of care as State’s astronauts. And the practical application of the Registration Convention for activities or objects constructed and/or remaining on the Moon or other planetary bodies, remains unclear.
So, although the Treaties still provide the foundation for space exploration activities, there is a need to take their high-level concepts and apply them to the reality of multiple countries working together or on their own, in relative close proximity to each other.
In addition to the core treaties, Canada has contributed to the development of other key instruments over the past few years. Although not legally binding, we have committed to meeting the commitments in these guidelines. These instruments include:
The 2007 Debris Mitigation Guidelines
The 2019 Long-Term Sustainability Guidelines
And most recently, the 2020 Artemis Accords
The Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space seeks to address, through a set of practical and voluntary measures, the growing orbital debris problem.
The Guidelines address the near-term generation of space debris through measures during the life of the mission and the avoidance of breakups. In addition, they seek to address the longer term problem through end-of-life procedures that remove debris in orbital regions populated by operational spacecraft.
The Guidelines for the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities are voluntary best-practices, designed to further address sustainability issues by establishing practical measures to guide States. The Long-term Sustainability Guidelines provide advice on: policy and regulatory frameworks for space activities; the safety of space operations; international cooperation, capacity building and awareness; and scientific and technical research and development.
Both these and the Debris Mitigation Guidelines are focused around Earth’s orbit rather than into deep space but the overall concepts should be considered for activities beyond Earth’s orbit.
The Principles for Cooperation in the Civil Exploration and use of the Moon, Mars, Comets, and Asteroids for Peaceful Purposes, commonly referred to as the “Artemis Accords”, were originally signed by the U.S., Canada and 6 other States in October 2020. The Artemis Accords are a set of principles designed to guide the exploration and use of outer space in a safe and sustainable manner and in compliance with international treaty obligations.
They are important because they set the framework for collaboration between the signatories of the Artemis Accords and are applicable to the deep space exploration activities of the Artemis Program (including missions to the Moon and Mars) conducted by space agencies or entities working on their behalf. It is anticipated that the signatories will eventually extend the application of the Accords beyond the Artemis Program, as the Accords provide a broad overall framework for space exploration activities.
Next, we will take a closer look at the Artemis Accords principles.
There are some principles in the Artemis Accords that are very clearly defined, both in existing treaties and in the Accords. They are identified here as “traditional principles”. In addition, there are principles that are relatively new and less clearly defined. They are identified in the presentation as “modern principles”.
All activities conducted under the Artemis Program are for exclusively peaceful purposes – this is core to all our activities and is a fundamental aspect of the current international space framework. As mentioned in earlier remarks about the Outer Space Treaty, the conduct of space activities for peaceful purposes is fundamental to all space activities. It is therefore key that it is the first principle in the Artemis Accords;
Artemis Accords signatories commit to conducting their activities in a transparent fashion to avoid confusion and conflicts as well as enhance global scientific benefits. This not only addresses the sharing of information around our space programs, but also the sharing of scientifically relevant information for the benefit of all;
Nations participating in the Artemis program will strive to support interoperable systems to enhance safety and sustainability. It is for this reason that the CSA participates with other space agencies in efforts such as the International Space Exploration and Coordination Group (or “ISECG”). We know that to explore deep into space, we need to work together and to do that, we need to ensure we develop systems that can function together. The Outer Space Treaty promotes international cooperation in the exploration and use of space, and interoperability will ensure that cooperation is easier to accomplish;
As mentioned, the Outer Space Treaty and the Rescue and Return Agreement already require the rescue of astronauts, but they don't provide a definition of the term "astronauts". At the time of signature of these treaties, the only astronauts were representatives of their respective States. Now that civilian, or private astronauts, are participating in space flight, it is important to ensure that the interpretation of the word "astronaut" also includes them;
Artemis Accords signatories reaffirm their commitment to the Registration Convention as a means of ensuring the safety of deep-space activities, and agree to work together to determine who should register space objects when there is more than one country participating in an activity. Although the Registration Convention includes space objects on the surface of the Moon or other celestial bodies, it doesn’t clearly define to the level of detail necessary to register them. We can think of missions where objects or structures are built on the Moon from equipment from several launches – how would registration take place in such a case? More work will need to be done to determine how those “rules” should apply to missions on other planetary or asteroid surfaces and how to register and record related space objects in the UN’s database;
Artemis Accords signatories commit to the full and public release of scientific information, for the advancement of scientific discovery. As the Outer Space Treaty states, the exploration and use of space is for the benefit and in the interest of all humankind. Not only does space exploration enable us to explore our solar system, it also provides a wealth of socioeconomic benefits here on Earth.
The principles just outlined very clearly mirror the existing obligations under the Outer Space Treaty. We know there are small things we need to do to determine how they will apply to future space exploration missions but for the most part they are well understood.
However, the next principles, although fully aligned with the Outer Space Treaty, are in areas where we have much less experience and where we need to do more work nationally and internationally to figure out exactly how they will be implemented.
Just like we do on Earth, the Artemis Accords signatories are committed to respecting historically significant sites, and believe it is best to work through multilateral efforts to develop “rules” and best practices. As a result, we are committed to bringing this discussion to the UN in order to develop an international set of “rules” to protect global heritage, like the first footprints on the Moon or Mars. We believe this discussion has to happen within the construct of the UN because, in order to protect the history of humanity, there needs to be widespread agreement on what is historic and how best to protect it.
Further consideration will be needed to address key issues, such as:
the need to ensure that protection does not lead to appropriation and that it does not restrict free access; and
how to determine what constitutes a heritage site and how designated sites will be protected.
The signatories of the Accords will use best practices, gained through experience, to contribute to the multilateral discussion on the issue of protecting heritage sites.
The Artemis Accords signatories commit to preventing harmful interference and upholding the principle of due regard, as required by the Outer Space Treaty. First, we commit to adapting the UN Guidelines for the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities to include activities in deep space. We are also committed to notifying others of our planned activities as well as coordinating activities so as to not create harmful interference.
It is important to note that this is the longest section in the Artemis Accords because it was necessary to spell out, in as much detail as possible, how we can use the concept of safety zones to prevent interference with another State’s activities while still ensuring space remains open for free access to all. It is also important to note that safety zones are designed to be temporary, and will be used only to the extent necessary to avoid harmful interference, while respecting the right of free access to all areas of the celestial body.
The signatories have also committed to using the experience they gain, through the implementation of this principle, to support multilateral efforts but your views on this issue are important to solidifying the parameters.
The Artemis Accords signatories commit to planning for the safe disposal of debris in order to ensure that deep space, the Moon and other celestial bodies, remains free for the exploration and use by all. We know that the current situation in Earth’s orbit is problematic so we want to take steps to avoid that issue in the Moon’s orbit or on the surface of the Moon or other planetary bodies.
This commitment is very broad and we know it will impact all stages of deep-space missions. We need to better understand how this obligation should be implemented for government and commercial actors. We also need to know how to address intellectual property, salvage rights and other such issues on the lunar surface or other celestial bodies.
Extracting and utilizing space resources is key to safe and sustainable exploration and the Artemis Accords signatories agree that such activities should be conducted in full compliance with the Outer Space Treaty. This is an important area of space law and policy because the Outer Space Treaty allows us to use space while prohibiting national appropriation.
Because of its importance for space exploration and the number of questions it raises, we are now going to take an in-depth look at space resource utilisation.
Key resources are needed for space exploration missions including water, oxygen, propellant, and materials for life support and infrastructure. As the international community plans missions to more distant destinations such as the lunar surface and beyond, supplying these necessary resources from Earth becomes increasingly complex, costly, and risky.
Enabling the extraction and use of these resources in space, also known as “space resource utilization”, rather than transporting material from Earth could address this issue.
There is also interest in the commercial potential of space resource utilization, both as a means of supplying needed resources for space exploration and to sell such resources on Earth. Some estimates have placed the value of these prospective activities and resources in the billions of dollars.
In addition to the importance of space resource utilization to long-term space exploration activities and its identification in the 2019 Space Strategy, the New Frontiers area for action under the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan recognizes the potential space resource utilization can play in addressing shared challenges, clean growth opportunities, and driving investment opportunities for Canada’s economy.
As the Canadian mining sector looks to address key operational challenges, there is the potential for collaboration with parallel efforts in the space sector. The safe and sustainable utilization of space resources is critical for deep space exploration, representing significant potential for accelerating technological advancements on Earth.
The technologies that will one day make these activities a reality, will need to be developed, de-risked, and demonstrated on Earth. This can, in turn, stimulate technologies and processes used in Canadian resource-based industries to achieve greater efficiency and sustainability in areas of shared challenges. These range from reducing environmental impacts and waste, to the development of new energy sources, remote and autonomous technologies, and more.
The development of capabilities, to support space resource utilization, represents a strategic opportunity to demonstrate Canadian leadership in science, technology and innovation. Realizing this reality means organized collaboration across various sectors, including mining, space, energy, manufacturing and more. Leveraging Canada’s strengths and potential for cross-sectoral collaboration could position Canadian firms and innovators to lead in the development of the cleaner and safer mines of tomorrow.
The Artemis Accords outlines that space resource utilisation should be conducted in a manner that complies with the Outer Space Treaty and that the extraction of resources does not inherently constitute national appropriation – which is prohibited.
While the Accords indicate that space resource extraction is permissible under the Outer Space Treaty, this does not mean that all SRU activities would be compliant with the Outer Space Treaty.
The Accords also do not directly address some of the key policy and legal issues around the subject. These issues can be framed into 3 broad categories: property rights; jurisdiction and control; and international consultation and cooperation.
Some of the issues around property rights include:
How do we undertake space resource utilisation activities in a context where “use” is permitted but “national appropriation” is not?
Can extracted resources be owned? Can they be sold?
Would salvage rights apply to the resources, and if so, how?
How do Outer Space Treaty obligations related to the sharing of scientifically relevant data apply to commercial space resource utilization activities?
If space exploration and use is to be carried out “for the benefit and in the interest of all countries,” should that be applied to the benefits of extracted space resources?
Should commercial activities be treated differently than State space resource utilization activities?
The Outer Space Treaty is very clear that States are responsible for their nationals’ activities and have a duty to authorize and continually supervise those activities. How do we accomplish this for private sector activities on the Moon or other celestial bodies?
How do we address liability issues, such as indemnification, when the State is responsible for the activities of its citizens?
How do we avoid harmful contamination of the Earth from extracted resources and how do we avoid harmful interference to space (to include other celestial bodies) from Earth?
How do we avoid harmful interference with other States’ activities?
How should safety zones be implemented with respect to ensuring freedom of exploration and use (e.g. space resource activities or structures on the Moon)?
The Artemis Accords identify the need for notification and cooperation with signatories to avoid harmful interference and miscommunication.
How should the need for notification and cooperation with non-signatories to the Artemis Accords be addressed?
How can processes for notification and cooperation be developed within the multilateral context?
The Artemis Accords represent a significant step towards operationalizing the space treaties to ensure space exploration is conducted safely and sustainably in the new space reality. However, more work needs to be done, both nationally and internationally.
Canada, along with the other Artemis Accords signatories, is committed to working within the UN structure to ensure space exploration continues to be for the benefit and in the interest of all humankind.
Your input, as part of these consultations, will help inform the next steps for building on the existing rules.
The deadline for submitting inputs for this consultation on “rules” for space exploration activities has been extended to March 31st, 2021. This webinar was designed to provide background as well as considerations for your input.
As mentioned at the start of this session, when providing feedback on “rules” for space exploration, you may want to consider which issues are most important to you? What you would like to know more about? What do you think of the existing “rules” and what considerations are necessary for future rules?
Please provide your input in written form, to the consultation email on this slide (firstname.lastname@example.org). We may reach out to you for further clarification upon receipt of your input, if needed. You are also welcome to request a meeting with government representatives.
You can stay informed on this effort through the consultation website. You may also ask to be added to our mailing list by sending your request to the email address just mentioned.
At the core of this work is the commitment to ensure that we undertake space exploration safely, sustainably, and in full compliance with our international obligations. We want to hear your views and we are now open for questions.