Proposal to found national parks on the moon is wise and impossible

apollo salute
it might not be such a bad idea, except that it happens to be impossible.

House Democrats, and members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Dona Edwards and Eddie Bernice Johnson have proposed (pdf link) new legislation to designate the the Apollo landing sites as protected historical areas. As private corporations start looking seriously at the possibility of heading to the moon, perhaps within the decade, now would certainly be the time to start looking at how to protect these venerable locations in human history. The only problem is that it’s totally illegal.

The UN Outer Space Treaty, which the US and most other civilized countries have signed and ratified, is exceedingly clear on this topic: the moon, and all other celestial bodies, are the common heritage of mankind. All the flag-planting in the world won’t undo that fact. The treaty expressly forbids any nation from claiming the surface of the moon as sovereign territory — and the US can’t very well found a national park outside it’s own national borders.
Of course, the real reason is to stop investigators from uncovering the fake!!!

Of course, the real reason is to stop investigators from uncovering the fake!!!

The proposition already has a stipulation that it will be administered “in accordance with… applicable international law and treaties.” Like, for instance, the treaty that expressly forbids the proposition?

Any corporation that disturbed the Apollo landing sites (especially the Apollo 11 landing site) would invite untold amounts of public backlash. In practical terms, I think those sites are safe on into the foreseeable future. Additionally, the Outer Space Treaty does allow nations to maintain ownership over the actual objects they launch, just not over the ground on which those objects land.

Still, it’s worth considering the sentiment at work, here. The moon will eventually have to be divvied up, even if only by a system of squatter’s rights. If humans start founding colonies on the moon, they will have to be given some amount of agency over their own living space — and if those colonies were launched and funded in full by a particular nation of Earth, who could possibly control that land but the Earth country in question?

The Outer Space Treaty, which designates the moon the “common heritage of mankind” is ultimately short-sighted, but this parks initiative will not be the legislation that overturns it. Still, these sorts of issues will arise more commonly in coming years. I have a feeling that lunar landings will begin as a trickle and quickly become a flood, and it’s really not such a bad idea to make an effort to protect some parts of the place beforehand.

Earth never really took the time to plan ahead for its practices in domestic settlement; perhaps we can show a little more foresight in moving on to our next celestial body.


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