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article imageUS legislators propose bill for national park on Moon

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jul 10, 2013 in World
Two US lawmakers, Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), have proposed a bill to establish a national historical park on the Moon comprising of all artifacts left on the lunar surface by Apollo 11 through 17 missions (1969-1973).
According to the Hill, the two Democratic lawmakers, both members of the House Committee on Science and Technology, filed the bill on July 8 to establish the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park protecting the lunar landing sites, equipment and artifacts, including lunar modules left behind on the Moon by all US space missions.
The move according to the lawmakers is in anticipation of future commercial lunar landings, commercial development activities and landings on the Moon by foreign nations.
The proposed legislation, the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, H.R. 2617 (PDF), reads: "As commercial enterprises and foreign nations acquire the ability to land on the moon it is necessary to protect the Apollo landing sites for posterity; and establishing the Historical Park under this Act will expand and enhance the protection and preservation of the Apollo lunar landing sites and provide for greater recognition and public understanding of this singular achievement in American history."
The proposed legislation recommends that the park be established not later than a year after the bill has passed and that it should be run jointly by the Department of Interior and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The bill also requires NASA and the US Department of the Interior to reach an agreement within 18 months after the bill is passed on how to manage the site, monitor it, regulate access and catalog the items in the park.
The Department of the Interior would be responsible for "ensuring proper monitoring of the Apollo lunar landing sites; managing access to the sites, including through coordination with other spacefaring nations and entities; and in conjunction with the Director of the Smithsonian Institution, ensuring an accurate cataloguing of items in the Historical Park."
The bill, which calls for corporate bodies and foreign governments for contributions and donations, states that only the artifacts and equipment left by NASA missions would be part of the park, that is, the lunar surface will not be part of the park because it does not belong to the US or any other nation. The donations and contributions, according to the bill, will "provide visitor services and administrative facilities within reasonable proximity to the Historical Park."
The bill requires the Department of the Interior to apply to UNESCO to designate the spot where Neil Armstrong first stepped on the Moon, the Apollo 11 landing site, as a World Heritage Site.
The bill, which has been referred to the Committee on Natural Resources and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology in the House of Representatives, anticipates that approval of the site as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO will make the park the first World Heritage Site to be located outside the Earth.
However, with the private company GoldenSpike having estimated the cost of a commercial moon travel at $1.5 billion, it is unlikely that the site will be having visitors in a long time.
However, some analysts have pointed to some issues that may arise as problems under the proposed "Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act," which include the fact that it appears to require that NASA take orders from the Interior Department, contrary to the present arrangement in which NASA's administrators report directly to the White House.
Also, enforcing punishment under the same laws as those in force in national parks in the US will prove difficult. Johnson acknowledges the problems, but insists that formal legal protection in anticipation of future developments is essential.
The Dallas News reports she said: "I don’t think that there is anything far-fetched about protecting and preserving such irreplaceable items and such a hallowed place." She noted that the head of the Russian space agency Vladimir Popovkin had similarly called for protection of the relics from the first manned missions on the Moon.
Foreign Policy also notes that enforcing the legislation outside the borders of the US would be difficult under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty to which the US is a party. The treaty states that "Outer space and celestial bodies are not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means."
Legal experts have also noted that although signatory states could avoid compliance with the treaty by withdrawing from its terms with only a year's notice, there are no international laws restricting where any other state or organization may fly or land a spacecraft. That is, even if the US decides, unilaterally, to annex lunar territory for the purpose of a national park, no international laws in force stop the Chinese or Russians from landing a spacecraft right on top of the Neil Armstrong's first boot print on the Moon. estimates that the bill for a national historical park on the Moon has only a seven percent chance of passing and a 21 percent chance of winning committee approval vote.
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