A national park on the moon?

While we worry over the future of the United States, Democratic Reps. Donna Edwards and Eddie Bernice Johnson are somehow able to keep their eye on the big picture. The Hill reports that they have proposed a bill to establish a national historical park on the surface of the moon to mark where the Apollo missions landed between 1969 and 1972.

The Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park is to be made up exclusively of the artifacts left on the surface of the moon from the Apollo 11 through 17 missions. The bill does not purport to assert ownership of lunar real estate for the park, although it also also charges federal agencies with managing access to the lunar landing sites (“including through coordination with other spacefaring nations and entities”), on which the national park is presumably to be situated.

I can’t quite figure out how the pieces fit together. Perhaps that is because the details are to be worked out by the Interior Department and NASA within a year of enactment. The agencies would also jointly run the park.

A certain optimism underlies the bill. The bill seeks protection of the artifacts because of the anticipated increase in commercial moon landings in the future. “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,” according to the text of the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act.

The authors of the bill apparently think the jurisdiction of the United Nations extends to the moon. The bill requires the agencies to submit the Apollo 11 lunar landing site to UNESCO as a world heritage site within a year of enactment. I would have thought a “world” heritage site had to be on planet earth, but I’m sure the UN would find outer space a tremendous growth opportunity, if it hasn’t done so already.

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