Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) want to see the country open a national park on the surface of the moon. They hope the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act will protect gears left by there by astronauts from visitors.
WASHINGTON – Houston, we have a gift shop.
A pair of lawmakers are pushing a plan to establish a new national park that would be quite literally out of this world — a full 250,000 miles away from this world.
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) want the country to open its next national park on the surface of the moon.
The Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act would establish a national park on the surface of the moon.
The Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act establishing the galactic getaway “would ensure that the scientific data and cultural significance of the Apollo artifacts remain unharmed by future lunar landings,” Edwards said in a statement Tuesday.
The pair hope that a lunar national park would protect historical artifacts like gear left on the moon by seven lunar missions – six of which landed a dozen Americans on the moon between 1969 and 1972 — from an onslaught of foreign and private visitors in the years and decades to come.
Astronaut Eugene Cernan walks around the Apollo 17 landing site in 1972.
Experts, however, say the bill may both duplicate and conflict with elements of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which the U.S. and Soviet Union signed off on at the height of the space race.
The treaty – joined by the Russian Federation and 100 other counties – establishes that all space objects remain property of the nation that launched them.
Astronaut and Lunar Module pilot Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin conducts Apollo 11 extravehicular activity in 1969.
The treaty also bars any claim of national sovereignty on lunar territory – for park space or otherwise.
In a nod to the treaty, Edwards’ bill limits the park’s components to the NASA equipment itself, but also defines the landing sites as “all areas of the Moon where astronauts and instruments connected to the Apollo program between 1969 and 1972 touched the lunar surface.”
Astronaut Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin beside the U.S. flag planted on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.
That invokes astronauts’ precious lunar footprints, which may be tough to protect under the treaty.
James Dunstan, a veteran space lawyer and a fellow with the think tank TechFreedom noted that the last three Apollo missions deployed lunar rovers that covered “significant amounts of real estate.”
Joanne Gabrynowicz a Brooklyn native and director of the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi, said that under the treaty, “the fact that a lunar rover or other object has traversed lunar territory does not constitute a claim.”
Edwards’ bill would also require that the U.S, apply to the United Nations for designation of the Apollo 11 landing site – where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first set foot on the moon July 20, 1969 – be designated a world heritage site.
Dunstan said that legislation simply asserting U.S. ownership of its equipment, and requiring the UN application “would receive a much warmer international reception.”