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  NASA guidelines to protect U.S. lunar sites

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Author Topic:   NASA guidelines to protect U.S. lunar sites
Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-21-2011 11:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On July 20, 2011, NASA released Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities: How to Protect and Preserve the Historic and Scientific Value of U.S. Government Lunar Artifacts (PDF) in response to representatives of commercial entities contacting the space agency to seek guidance for approaching U.S. Government (USG) space assets on the lunar surface.
Because there is no precedent for this situation throughout nearly 50 years of spaceflight, there are no USG guidelines or requirements for spacecraft visiting the areas of existing USG-owned lunar hardware regardless of condition or location.

Fortunately, there are several lunar experts across NASA and the scientific, historical, legal, materials, and flight-planning communities who can provide some initial guidance for these lunar endeavors. NASA has performed recent propellant/plume and lunar regolith impingement analyses and initiated a science evaluation that examined the risks and concerns of damage to the heritage Apollo landing sites resulting from future spacecraft descent/landing and associated surface and low-altitude flight mobility. From a scientific perspective, many sites are still active (e.g., Apollo retro-reflectors), and continue to produce material, biological, and physical scientific data associated with long-term exposure of human-created systems (e.g., witness plates) to the lunar environment. NASA has also considered impacts to non-Apollo USG lunar artifacts.

Until more formal USG guidance is developed and perhaps a multilateral approach is developed to reflect various nations' views on lunar hardware of scientific and historic value, NASA has assembled this document that contains the collected technical knowledge of its personnel – with advice from external experts and potential space-faring entities – and provides interim recommendations for lunar vehicle design and mission planning teams. As such, this document does not represent mandatory USG or international requirements; rather, it is offered to inform lunar spacecraft mission planners interested in helping preserve and protect lunar historic artifacts and potential science opportunities for future missions.

These recommendations are intended to apply to USG artifacts on the lunar surface – these artifacts include:

  1. Apollo lunar surface landing and roving hardware;
  2. Unmanned lunar surface landing sites (e.g.,Surveyor sites);
  3. Impact sites (e.g.,Ranger, S-IVB, LCROSS, lunar module [LM] ascent stage);
  4. USG experiments left on the lunar surface, tools, equipment, miscellaneous EVA hardware; and
  5. Specific indicators of U.S. human, human-robotic lunar presence, including footprints, rover tracks, etc., although not all anthropogenic indicators are protected as identified in the recommendations.
Because of the relevance of these recommendations to current and future lunar elements deposited by other space-faring entities, NASA has begun engaging in dialogue with foreign space agencies, as appropriate.
Robert Kelso, NASA's director of lunar commercial services at Johnson Space Center, who authored the recommendations, spoke about them this week at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS), as SPACE.com's Leonard David reports.

ilbasso
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From: Greensboro, NC USA
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posted 10-21-2011 12:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The SPACE.com article which discussed protecting the Apollo and unmanned lunar landing and impact sites quoted Beth O'Leary:
"There is a need for more archaeological input into the process of protecting what is certainly humanity's most extraordinary series of events that led us off the Earth and onto the Moon."
I know we've discussed protecting the moon sites before. But O'Leary's comment struck me: we haven't done a very good job of protecting the Earth-bound side of that series of events, viz the dismantled launch pads and all of the other hardware that enabled the landings to happen. Percentage-wise, very little of the Apollo infrastructure remains, except for bits and pieces. And that's even more true for Surveyor and Ranger.

Blackarrow
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From: Belfast, United Kingdom
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posted 10-22-2011 09:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
These guidelines are a bit too late in the case of the historic Surveyor 3 site. Almost 42 years ago, two guys in white suits turned up with tools, hacked bits off Surveyor and took them away. To add insult to injury, they were heard laughing and joking while doing it. Outrageous!

ilbasso
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From: Greensboro, NC USA
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posted 10-22-2011 11:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Trying to find the "Like" button for your comment!!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-29-2012 09:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
collectSPACE
Private moon race to follow NASA rules to preserve historic lunar landing sites

A multi-million dollar private race to land robotic rovers on the moon will abide by recommendations released by NASA to protect the historic landing sites on the lunar surface, space agency and contest officials have said.

NASA and the X PRIZE Foundation of Playa Vista, Calif., announced recently that the Google Lunar X PRIZE will recognize the guidelines established by NASA to protect historic sites and preserve ongoing and future science on the moon. The foundation will take the recommendations into account as it judges the plans submitted by 26 teams vying to be the first privately-funded organization to visit the moon.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-29-2012 02:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
collectSPACE/SPACE.com
Neil Armstrong's death may spur Apollo 11 landing site preservation

The passing of famed astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon and the commander of Apollo 11, may strengthen the movement to designate Tranquility Base, his 1969 lunar landing site, as a National Historic Landmark.

The relatively new field of space heritage preservation is gaining momentum, and a recently authored bill aims to protect the Apollo 11's "Eagle" lunar lander touchdown site and all the artifacts that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left behind on the lunar surface.

SpaceAholic
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From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
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posted 08-29-2012 04:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The relatively new field of space heritage preservation...
Private collectors have been participants in this activity for years.

Apollo Redux
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From: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Registered: Sep 2006

posted 08-30-2012 12:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Apollo Redux   Click Here to Email Apollo Redux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
First double or triple NASA's budget. Secondly, build a base, and put security personnel there.

No? Then don't bother.

If a decree can not be enforced, then it's not worth the oxygen the talking-heads used, when they sat around discussing it in the first place.

moorouge
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posted 08-30-2012 03:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Correct me if I'm wrong - but isn't the Moon international territory? This being the case wouldn't it be the United Nations who would have the right to declare a national heritage site and not the U.S.A.?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-30-2012 06:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the article:
Once a site is designated a National Historic Landmark, it can then be nominated for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's World Heritage List.

Westwood and O'Leary also have been working with the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the World Heritage List's advisory body, over the last three years to make the case for the Apollo sites to be added to this list.

Ross
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From: Australia
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posted 08-30-2012 09:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ross   Click Here to Email Ross     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the same article:
The objects at Tranquility Base are in a legal gray area, O'Leary said. By treaty, countries own the property they have placed on the moon, but no one can own the lunar surface.

moorouge
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posted 08-30-2012 02:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An interesting point. Since no-one owns the surface, how can the US include footprints and rover tracks in their claim to establish national heritage sites? It's a huge leap of imagination to think of these as artifacts.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-30-2012 02:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dinosaur footprints and tracks are considered artifacts.

Tykeanaut
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posted 12-31-2012 09:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tykeanaut   Click Here to Email Tykeanaut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As with a World Heritage Site, I just wondered if the Apollo moon landing sites have an official "Historic" status as a form of protection from any future possible visitors?

Editor's note: Threads merged.

p51
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From: Olympia, WA, USA
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posted 12-31-2012 11:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Three points to ponder on this subject...
  1. Eventually, an asteroid will smack right into any or all of the Apollo landing sites. Will the concept of 'site preservation' be a moot point when that eventually happens with any of these sites?

  2. What happens if, say, Chinese astronauts land on the Moon and decide to go all tourist over one of these sites? Really, what kind of penalty could there possibly be? UNESCO heritage sites have already been destroyed by people in the past, what kinds of punishments did any of them face?

  3. Conspiracy theorists must have some sort of backup once a commercial outfit flies over one of these sites and points out the footprints while going over them, right? I mean, what are they going to say when ANYONE can go up and see for themselves?

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-31-2012 11:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
  1. Acts of nature are acts of nature, whether they occur on Earth or elsewhere in the solar system. The possibility of wildfire, tornado or hurricane taking out a historic site on Earth doesn't negate the need to protect such sites from human intervention.

  2. If the nation is party to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, then any such actions would be open to sanctions by the United Nations.

  3. Why is this even worth pondering?

chet
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From: Beverly Hills, Calif.
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 01-03-2013 01:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What I don't understand is the need to ponder "protective" guidelines for sites that have no chance of being revisited for decades to come (at the soonest). Haven't we enough over-regulation on Earth that we must now over-regulate other planets as well?

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 01-03-2013 01:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The guidelines were drafted in direct response to the Google Lunar X Prize's Heritage bonus award, which encourages privately-controlled robotic rovers to visit and image the historic landing sites on the moon.

There was concern voiced by historians and others in the space history community that at least some of the lunar heritage sites needed guidelines to protect them from purposeful vandalism (e.g. rover tracks crisscrossing bootprints).

The Google Lunar X Prize has since adopted the NASA guidelines as part the rules governing their competitors.

chet
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posted 01-03-2013 11:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I suppose my post didn't emphasize enough the degree to which timing plays a part in my position.

There are many more pressing problems our politicians should be busying themselves with. Scurrying to enact laws and regulations for actions that are far in the offing seems to me a waste of legislative time and resources (at the moment).

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 01-03-2013 11:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, NASA's guidelines didn't require the input or involvement of any lawmakers. They are guidelines, not laws, to serve as a foundation if and when the legislative arm wants or needs to take action.

chet
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posted 01-03-2013 12:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
O'Leary and Chico State University archaeology professor Lisa Westwood worked with California Congressman Dan Lungren and his staff to write the bill.

schnappsicle
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posted 01-04-2013 10:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for schnappsicle   Click Here to Email schnappsicle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Personally, there are a few things I'd want to take from the moon that were left behind. First, the Apollo 12 crew left a used film magazine on the MESA. Also, the Apollo 14 crew left a magazine on the DAC camera mounted on the MET. While the chances are absolutely zero, I'd like to see what was on that film and movie magazines. I wouldn't mind visiting the site of Falcon's demise. I read in Jim Irwin's book that he and Dave left their PPK's in the LM prior to jettisoning it. I wish they'd left the unauthorized covers in the LM instead. I'd also like to see the Bible that Dave Scott left on the Rover and see if Cernan actually put a camera on the Rover seat before returning to the LM for the last time as he claims. The final TV pictures of the Rover do not show a camera on the seat. Other than those few exceptions, I'm all for preserving these sites exactly as the astronauts left them.

I asked several astronauts about preserving the lunar landing sites when I went to Spacefest back in June. What I got from them was basically that federal laws are already in place. While most of the international community has agreed to respect the lunar sites, there's nothing to prevent any of them from sending their own people or robots to the Apollo sites.

I would like to think that people the world over would have enough respect for these shrines to leave them in their current pristine state, but the power of profit and man's own curiosity is a very strong magnet.

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