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US Congress proposal: National Park will be FOUND ON MOON

Apollo landing sites to be given protected status?

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The US has National Historical Parks in 26 states, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands, but its next such park could be located as far from US shores as any explorer has ever traveled – namely, the Moon.

On Monday, Representatives Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) – both members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee – proposed new legislation that would declare the lunar landing sites of Apollo missions 11 through 17 as a National Historical Park.

The proposed park would include all areas where astronauts and their instruments touched the lunar surface, as well as all "artifacts" that were deposited there – even including a portion of the aborted Apollo 13 mission's Saturn V rocket, which was intentionally crashed on the Moon as part of an experiment.

National Historical Parks, like the related National Historic Sites, are areas deemed to deserve "special recognition and protection" by the US government, including the conservation of scenery and historic objects "to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

Not that anyone has been messing with objects on the lunar surface lately. The last human ever to set foot on the Moon was astronaut Harrison Schmitt of the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972.

But at least 17 other manmade objects have either landed or crashed on Earth's only satellite since then, and Representatives Edwards and Johnson worry that future Moon visitors might disturb the Apollo program's legacy unless something is done to safeguard it.

"As commercial enterprises and foreign nations acquire the ability to land on the Moon it is necessary to protect the Apollo lunar landing sites for posterity," the Representatives' proposed bill reads in part.

Under the terms of the bill, dubbed the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, the landing sites and related artifacts of all seven manned Apollo missions would become a single "unit" of the US National Park System, which would henceforth be known as the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park.

The park would be jointly managed by the Department of the Interior and NASA, which together would monitor the Apollo landing sites, catalog the items found there, and coordinate with other "spacefaring nations and entities" to manage access to the sites.

The proposed bill allows both agencies to accept donations for maintenance of the lunar park, and for the Department of the Interior to "enter into cooperative agreements with foreign governments and international bodies, organizations, or individuals" to help run it and to "provide visitor services and administrative facilities within reasonable proximity to the Historical Park."

In addition, the bill would have the US government submit the landing site of Apollo 11, the first manned Moon mission, to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for designation as a World Heritage Site.

Mind you, for any of this to happen, the bill would first have to pass both houses of Congress, and given the legislature's track record of late, that's a tall order.

In fact, if Congress is to come together on any space legislation, this hack would prefer they first devote their attention to the other legislation Representative Edwards proposed on Monday. That bill would provide funding for NASA for the next three years, with a budget of $18.1bn that rises to $18.9bn in 2016, while committing the US to funding the International Space Station through 2020 and setting a manned mission to Mars as a goal. But, yeah – there's always the park. ®

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