“NASA Prepares for Moon Tourism” -- Physorg.com, November 15, 2011
Tourists on the Moon! Where do I sign up? Oh, here.
Companies like Virgin Galactic, with their burgeoning space program, are prompting NASA to consider declaring moon landing sites as historic preserves or national parks to protect them from future space tourists.
“Looting, that would be pretty bad,” says archaeologists Beth O’Leary of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces
Looting is the bane of archaeological sites, and O’Leary has spearheaded efforts to protect the moon landing sites before tourists leave Earth. “I put landing people on the moon up there with creating fire as a technological achievement.”
From Apollo 11 to Apollo 17 (Remember Apollo 13? They didn’t land on the moon) six manned missions landed on the moon and left behind artifacts. Each landed in a different spot. The lunar rover is up there too.
Under NASA’s guidelines they call for a 1,200-acre “no-fly” zone around the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 sites. Tourists would be able to walk withing 82 yards of the Apollo 11 site where the first steps on the moon took place on July 20, 1969.
What is prompting this action from NASA? Google’s $30 million Lunar X Prize will be awarded to the “first privately funded teams to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon.” At least two dozen teams are currently aspiring to reach that goal. Part of the prize involves driving a robot rover a third of a mile on the moon. NASA doesn’t want tracks running across Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong’s footprints.
How much debris, and potential artifacts, are on the moon? At present, over 187 tons of trash and other debris is currently scattered about the surface. Eventually, some sort of regulations will have to be set down as to what makes a historical site on the moon.
First, who owns the moon? No one has decided that yet. There are people studying that, though. So, the laws in the United States do not necessarily apply. For example, by the time we land people there again there is a good chance that everything currently on the moon will be greater than 50 years old. That would make those sites and artifacts historic by U.S. standards.
It looks like we have a ways to go before we can decide what to do about historical sites on the moon. I’m just wondering how we are going to get the lunar regolith to go through the quarter-inch mesh in our screens! We’ll have to develop some sort of enclosed pressure screen. But, that is for a different time.