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Apollo, Neil Armstrong’s landing and other human artifacts on the moon, officially protected by the new US law

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These prints of the astronauts on the moon are not yet protected. NASA

It is difficult to care for the footprints of boots sunk into the ground 238,900 miles away, as humanity suffers from the combined weight of the irreconcilable virus and political unrest. But how people relate to these imprints and the historic landing sites they find will say a lot about who we humans are and who we strive to become.

On December 31, the Law “A Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space” became law. As for the laws, it’s pretty benign. It requires companies working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on lunar missions to agree to be bound by otherwise unenforceable guidelines designed to protect US landing sites on the moon. This is a fairly small set of affected individuals. However, this is also the first law passed by any nation that recognizes the existence of human heritage in space. This is important because it reaffirms our human commitment to protecting our history – as we do on Earth with objects such as the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary, which is protected by instruments such as the World Heritage Convention – while acknowledging that the human species is expanding in space.

I am a lawyer who focuses on space issues, which seek to ensure the peaceful and sustainable exploration and use of space. I believe that people can achieve world peace through space. To do this, we must recognize the landing sites of the moon and other celestial bodies as universal human achievements, which are built on the research and dreams of scientists and engineers spanning centuries of this world. I believe that the One Small Step Act, adopted in a divisive political environment, shows that space and conservation are indeed non-partisan, even unifying principles.

The moon becomes crowded, fast

It is a matter of decades, perhaps only years, to see a constant human presence on the moon.

While it would be nice to think that the human community on the moon would be a shared, multinational utopia – albeit located in what Buzz Aldrin known as the “magnificent wasteland” – the fact is that humans are once again vying for each other’s lunar neighbors.

The American Artemis project, which includes the goal of sending the first woman to the moon in 2024, is the most ambitious mission. Russia has resumed its Moon program, beginning the deployment of astronauts to the moon in the 2030s. However, in the race, once reserved for superpowers, there are now many countries and many private companies with a stake.

India plans to send a rover to the moon this year. China, which completed its first successful lunar return mission in 1976, announced a number of lunar landings in the following years, with Chinese media reporting plans for a manned mission to the moon in a decade. South Korea and Japan are also building lunar landings and probes.

Private companies such as Astrobotic, Masten Space Systems and Intuitive Machines work to support NASA missions. Other companies, such as ispace, Blue Moon and SpaceX, while supporting NASA missions, are preparing to offer private missions, including for tourism. How will all these different actors work around each other?

The cosmos is not lawless. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which has now been ratified by 110 countries, including all current space states, offers guidelines supporting the concept of space as a province of all mankind. The treaty explicitly states that all states and, by default, their citizens have the freedom to explore and free access to all areas of the moon.

This is true. Everyone has the freedom to go around wherever they want – according to the initial imprint of Neil Armstrong, close to sensitive scientific experiments or even a mining operation. There is no concept of ownership of the moon. The only restriction on this freedom is the objection set out in Article IX of the Treaty that all activities of the Moon must be carried out with due regard to the “relevant interests” of all others and the requirement to consult others if it could cause “harmful interference”. “.

What does this mean? From a legal point of view, no one knows.

Exceptional universal value

It can reasonably be argued that interfering in an experiment or lunar mining operation would be harmful, would cause quantifiable damage and thus breach the contract.

But how about an abandoned spaceship, like the Eagle, the Apollo 11 lunar landing? Do we really want to rely on “due diligence” to prevent the deliberate or unintentional destruction of this inspiring piece of history? This object remembers the work of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who worked to place man on the moon, the astronauts and astronauts who gave their lives in their quest to reach the stars, and the quiet heroes like Catherine Johnson who nurtured the mathematics that do so.

Landing sites on the Moon – from Moon 2, the first man-made object to the Moon, to each of Apollo’s missions to the crew, to Chang-e 4, which deployed the first rover in the far side of the Moon – in particular testify to the greatest technological achievement of mankind so far. They symbolize everything we have achieved as a species and promise us for the future.

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The law of one small step is true to its name. This is a small step. Applies only to companies working with NASA; it applies only to lunar landing sites in the United States; it implements outdated and untested recommendations for the protection of historic lunar objects, implemented by NASA in 2011. However, it offers significant breakthroughs. This is the first legislation from any nation to recognize the alien place as an “exceptional universal value” for humanity, a language taken by the unanimously ratified World Heritage Convention.

The law also encourages the development of best practices for the protection of human heritage in space by developing the concepts of due diligence and harmful intervention – an evolution that will also guide how nations and companies work around themselves. No matter how small the step, the recognition and protection of historical sites is the first step towards developing a peaceful, sustainable and successful model of moon management.

Load fingerprints are not yet protected. There is a long way to go to an enforceable multilateral / universal agreement to manage the protection, preservation or preservation of all human heritage in space, but the One Little Step law must give us all hope for the future in space and here on Earth.

This article was republished by The Conversation, a non-profit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. Written by: Michelle LD Hanlon, University of Mississippi.

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Michelle LD Hanlon is affiliated with For All Moonkind, a non-profit organization under 501 (c) (3) that seeks to protect each of the six lunar landings and similar objects in space as part of our common human heritage.

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