Bill Would Establish National Park At Apollo Landing Sites

Apollo 11

If two Congresswomen get their way, the site where Apollo 11 landed on the Moon would become a National Park:

(CNN) - Yorktown. Independence Hall. The moon?

The site of man’s first lunar landing could join battlefields, presidential birthplaces and other major American historical sites on a roster of protected places if two Democrats have their way.

U.S. Reps. Donna Edwards of Maryland and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas have proposed legislation that would designate artifacts at the site of American moon landings as comprising a National Historical Park, citing potential commercial traffic on the moon that could damage the areas.

Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first to walk on the Lunar surface in July 1969.

Subsequent moon flights landed in other areas and equipment from all of the space missions, which ended in 1973, remain on the moon’s surface. These include the spidery bottom halves of lunar landers, flags and even a moon car.

“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 legislation reads.

The bill apparently only applies to the American equipment left behind on the Moon, and not the lunar surface because, under the terms of  a treaty adopted in 1979 to which the U.S. is a signatory, no nation can lay claim to the Moon as national territory of any kind. Practically, of course, this doesn’t mean much of anything until the U.S. Park Police establish an Astronaut Corps.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Quick Takes, Science & Technology, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    The bill apparently only applies to the American equipment left behind on the Moon, and not the lunar surface because, under the terms of a treaty adopted in 1979 to which the U.S. is a signatory, no nation can lay claim to the Moon as national territory of any kind.

    I don’t really care what treaties we have signed–did we not plant a flag there? I believe a few hundred years of human history indicates that planting a flag claims all lands for that flag’s nation.

  2. anjin-san says:

    House Republicans to demand offsets in 3… 2… 1…

  3. Tyrell says:

    One way to finance space missions would be to sell real estate to individuals and corporations.
    Think how much land there could be worth 100 years in the future, especially if it is sitting on a load of platinum or gold!

  4. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Neil Hudelson: I don’t really care what treaties we have signed–did we not plant a flag there? I believe a few hundred years of human history indicates that planting a flag claims all lands for that flag’s nation.

    Yeah, but the flag was planted in 1969, while the treaty was signed in 1979. So it could be argued that, by signing the treaty, we chose to forfeit any claims we might have made.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Well, at least somebody has their eyes on the ball and doing something about jobs in this country. Construction of the visitors center and staff buildings, maintenance sheds and the walkways as well as roads. And then there will be the staffing for the cafeteria and tour guides. Limited opportunity for volunteers though.

  6. Tillman says:

    Clicking the link, my first thought was, “On the moon?!”

    They don’t realize just what the country would have to do to make that site a national park, do they? Or they do, and this is some weird-ass way of getting it through the House without the Tea Party realizing this is a giant increase in funding for NASA.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tyrell:

    One way to finance space missions would be to sell real estate to individuals and corporations.

    In order for something to be sold, it has to first be owned. By treaty, nobody owns any of the moon. But I like the idea, the ultimate location for a vacation home, what a gift for the man who has everything.

  8. anjin-san says:

    getting it through the House without the Tea Party realizing this is a giant increase in funding for NASA.

    They are already hard at work making sure we have no way to defend ourselves from asteroids and undermining the commercial crew program.

  9. Craigo says:

    @Jenos Idanian: The US and Soviet Union signed the Outer Space Treaty in 1967 as well, preemptively renouncing any claims. Not to mention that you can’t claim territory after you’ve voluntarily abandoned it.

  10. Craigo says:

    @Tyrell: The cheapest rocketry available can send one pound to orbit for about $10,000. That’s not including the costs of travel to the Moon, landing, extraction, liftoff, and return, which would conservatively triple the costs. Frankly, neither gold nor platinum is valuable enough to justify that. Lunar colonies (or at least exploration) will need some other Macguffinite.

  11. Is Newt Gingrich gonna be the first Head Ranger?

  12. rudderpedals says:

    @Stormy Dragon: That sounds like a job for Mrs. Gingrich III

  13. anjin-san says:

    This video of the latest Space X Grasshopper test is worth seeing.

    The public/private partnership for space exploration is making great strides.

  14. @Craigo: When we run out of liquid helium, we might have to start making trips to the moon. Or if we want Helium-3 for power generation.

  15. Tyrell says:

    @Craigo:Who was crazy enough to sign away US rights to the moon? We got there first, that gives us first dibs.
    “Manifest Destiny, manifest destiny!!”

  16. anjin-san says:

    liquid helium,

    Helium-3

    A very interesting topic that does not get much attention. Is underfunding of our space program going to jeopardize national security & our economic future? China has made it clear that they are serious about space exploration in general and the moon in particular, and they don’t seem to be timid about spending the money to get the job done.

  17. al-Ameda says:

    Well, funding is no problem – we can transfer federal funding that goes to Mississippi to the new National Park on the Moon. Also, I suggest appointing Newt Gingrich Assistant Secretary of the Interior In Charge of Lunar Affairs, and moving him to the Moon until further notice.

  18. Matt says:

    @anjin-san: I’ve been involved with SpaceX down here and I can tell you that they are serious about about space travel. They have the brainpower and financing to do it too.

  19. anjin-san says:

    @ Matt

    SpaceX is a very impressive operation. I’m bummed they don’t have NorCal operations, would love to work there.

  20. anjin-san says:

    @ Matt

    Are you going to be at next year’s ISDC conference?

  21. Craigo says:

    @anjin-san: Helium-3 is a commonly cited reason to go to the moon, but there are three major problems with that idea:

    1. The technology it is intended for – tokamak fusion reactors – do not exist, and may not ever exist. Scientists have been predicting working fusion power “in the next forty years” since the 1950s – and lo and behold the current projection is for the first plant to come online “by 2050.”

    It’s also not clear why helium-3 would be such a boost. The physics are complicated, but a fusion reaction utilizing helium-3 needs to be much, much hotter than a traditional deuterium-tritium reaction. It would be more efficient, but more difficult to engineer, washing out any proposed benefit.

    2. Helium-3 exists much closer to home – on Earth, to be precise. It’s a natural byproduct of tritium decay, and can be easily manufactured once you have the precursor. Now it’s true that tritium is rare, and as such the production of helium-3 is expensive. But not as expensive as flying to the moon and mining it.

    3. There’s not actually a lot of helium-3 on the Moon. The concentration is extremely low, such that one kilogram of helium-3 would require 150 million kilograms of regolith. Meanwhile, even mines with notoriously poor grades like copper and nickel typically extract at no less than 1 part in 5 or 10 million.

    The bottom line is that we don’t need helium-3 now, we may never need it, and if we do, we won’t be getting it from the Moon.

  22. rachel says:
  23. Michael J. Listner says:

    The United States is not a party to the Moon Treaty of 1979. It is a party to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which prohibits a sovereign claim of territory on the Moon, but allows continued ownership over the artifacts left on the Moon by the Apollo missions.