Yosemite on the moon? That’s just what Representatives Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) are proposing, according to USA Today. With their House bill (HR 2617), they hope to create a national historic park on the moon.
While the U.S. hasn’t sent a man to the moon for decades, nor does it have any plans to do so in the future, some members of Congress hope to take action. It may sound crazy and may not have international standing, but Congresswoman Edwards (ranking member of the House Space Subcommittee) hopes to protect the artifacts that were left behind by U.S. astronauts years ago.
She and others are worried that with the increasing amount of private space travel, it’s only a matter of time before someone decides to claim those artifacts for their own. As a result, she is introducing the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act and trying to pass it into law.
According to Representative Edwards, “That history, as preserved on the lunar surface, is now in danger as space-faring commercial entities and foreign nations begin to achieve technical capabilities necessary to land spacecraft on the surface of the moon.” And, according to the LA Times, Edwards hopes to preserve “the Apollo lunar landing sites for posterity.”
What the legislation would protect
Among the artifacts that Edwards and others are hoping to preserve in place are the lunar landing ladder, from which Neil Armstrong made the unforgettable quote, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” At that site, there is also a plaque that the voyagers left behind, which reads, “Here Men From The Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon The Moon, July 1969 AD, We Came In Peace For All Mankind.”
These items linger on the Sea of Tranquility, left behind by Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Then there are the artifacts left behind by Astronauts David Scott and Jim Irwin near the Sea of Rains. These are the lunar rovers (or “moon buggies”) used to explore the moon‘s surface.
Finally, there are the three golf balls Alan Shepard hit into the hilly region of Frau Muro on the moonscape. Even having “a sightseer accidentally scuff out an Apollo 11’s astronaut’s iconic bootprint” would be tragic, notes the LA Times. In sum, the things left behind from Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972 make up part of the indelible memories of lunar travel for all Americans and space lovers worldwide.
Would the bill pass international muster?
There’s just one problem, and it’s not a small one either. Back in 1967, more than 100 countries who are members of the United Nations (U.N.), the U.S. included, passed an international accord named the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that guaranteed that no country would lay claim to the moon or any other planet.
According to USA Today, the treaty reads in part, “Outer space is not subject to international appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” As a result, any U.S. National Historical Park based on the moon would be null and void.