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  H.R. 2167: Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act

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Author Topic:   H.R. 2167: Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act
Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-10-2013 07:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
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Lawmakers call for National Park on moon to protect Apollo artifacts

As NASA turns away from the moon and towards sending astronauts to Mars (by way of an asteroid or two), two members of Congress have put forth a plan to protect the United States' lunar leftovers.

Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) introduced on Monday (July 8) the "Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act" to create a new National Park on the moon.

According to the bill, which has been referred to the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the Committee for Natural Resources for further consideration, the proposed national park would encompass the artifacts left on the moon by the six Apollo missions that landed there between 1969 and 1972.

The "Historical Park" would also cover the remains of the Saturn V rocket stages that propelled the missions to the moon and were purposely impacted with the lunar surface, including the S-IVB third stage that launched the Apollo 13 aborted lunar landing mission.

David C
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posted 07-10-2013 07:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mmmm. A very worthy objective. However a really bad implementation.

This would be perceived as implying that Congress thinks the USA "owns" the moon. The very name "National Historical Park" is breathtakingly arrogant and would probably do more long term harm than it may prevent.

Controlling access on the moon! With what and what right? Better ask the Chinese. Give me a break.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-10-2013 08:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The bill seeks to establish the National Park to control access to the artifacts, not the moon itself (the latter would be a violation of the Outer Space Treaty).

The National Park would also clear the way for submitting Tranquility Base for World Heritage Site status with UNESCO, which would then not only protect the artifacts, but where they sit, too.

If it did nothing else though, the bill would provide a legal framework for the U.S. to regulate U.S. companies from accessing the lunar landing sites. Right now, nothing prevents a U.S. Google Lunar X Prize team, for example, from driving their robotic rover around Tranquility Base, leaving tracks where bootprints once were.

Gonzo
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posted 07-10-2013 09:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I understand the intent of the bill, and even agree with the intent, but as David said, where does the US Congress get the authority to stake claim on acreage on the moon? It would be no different than saying that the boosters that fell into the Indian Ocean (in international waters) was now laying in a US National Park. Sorry, but the landing sites are not under US jurisdiction. We don't own the land, it's not within our borders or prefectures. In fact, if I recall correctly, the space agreement Robert cited clearly states that no nation can claim ownership of land on the moon.

That being said, as I said, I agree with the intent of the bill. And I believe anyone with he ability to put a rover on the moon within range of the landing sites would also be liable to world review if they were to disturb them. Point being, anyone with the ability to do so would also have enough respect for the site, forced or inherent, not to disturb them.

Really, where does this go next? Are we going to pass a(n unenforceable) law requiring aliens to not disturb it as well or face imprisonment in US jails for doing so?

chet
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posted 07-11-2013 03:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
By extension, why not forge ahead now with similar protections for the tracks on Mars left by U.S. rovers still making their way there?

This seems to me to be just more political posturing, not unlike the renaming of Dryden to "honor" the late Neil Armstrong; the Apollo landing sites need regulatory protection now, at taxpayer expense mind you, like fish need bicycles.

cspg
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posted 07-11-2013 03:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by chet:
By extension, why not forge ahead now with similar protections for the tracks on Mars left by U.S. rovers still making their way there?

Or better, the Viking and Phoenix landers, and the place where the Spirit rover stopped roving.

Gonzo
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posted 07-11-2013 07:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Or how about his one? The US claims the entire solar system because Voyager took pictures of all of it? But wait, we can't do that. Both Voyagers are still operational and still sending pics back (be it ever so VERY, VERY slowly...)

gliderpilotuk
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posted 07-11-2013 08:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
The National Park would also clear the way for submitting Tranquility Base for World Heritage Site status with UNESCO...
Shouldn't that be OFF-World Heritage site status? (Sounds like Blade Runner!)

garymilgrom
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posted 07-11-2013 08:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good idea. Thanks Congress. Now how about some ideas that look forward 40 years and the funding to achieve them?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2013 08:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On the same day that Rep. Edwards put forth this bill, she also introduced an authorization bill for NASA that set a specific 2030 goal for sending humans to Mars. The bill was defeated.

garyd2831
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posted 07-11-2013 09:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garyd2831   Click Here to Email garyd2831     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Personally the artifacts (equipment) left behind on the moon is for anyone to claim. To establish a law to preserve them is just plain dumb. What is to stop anyone from landing there and recovering some "souvenirs" from the "trash" we left? Is this how our elected officials are working... really? We can't put our own astronauts in space, but we can make an attempt to establish a law that states our moon property is ours and is now a historical landmark.

kosmo
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posted 07-11-2013 09:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kosmo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Even if you could find a way to retrieve them, wouldn't NASA lay claim to them just like the recently retrieved F-1 engines?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2013 09:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by garyd2831:
Personally the artifacts (equipment) left behind on the moon is for anyone to claim.
No, they are not. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 establishes that spacecraft and other space hardware remains the property of its owner, regardless of where the artifacts are, until explicitly relinquished.

This is why, 34 years ago today (July 11), the remains of Skylab that were raining down on Australia were U.S. property up and until the point that NASA declared it didn't want any of the debris.

(On edit: And why NASA owns the F-1 engines that were raised from the ocean floor, as mentioned.)

There is no question that the Apollo artifacts on the moon belong to the United States. If someone were to go up there and retrieve any of the spent hardware, the U.S. could legally confiscate it upon its return to Earth.

What isn't protected is the location where those artifacts now lie or the access to those sites. Legally, without any penalty, any visitor to the moon could move the artifacts aside, or otherwise disturb them.

Whether through this legislation or some other means, a legal framework is needed to establish the penalties for disturbing the landing sites, if to provide nothing more than steep fines to discourage U.S.-based companies from committing (purposeful or unintentional) acts of vandalism.

garyd2831
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posted 07-11-2013 09:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garyd2831   Click Here to Email garyd2831     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Are they going to send the FBI to China to try and recover them if it was to happen? I don't think so.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2013 09:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
China, as a party to the Outer Space Treaty, would face international penalties were it to retrieve and retain any U.S. artifacts.

That is not the concern. The concern is creating a legal framework for dissuading commercial activities, such as the "Heritage Prize" offered by the Google Lunar X Prize, from disturbing the landing sites.

garyd2831
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posted 07-11-2013 09:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garyd2831   Click Here to Email garyd2831     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert, how would one create a law that states that the Apollo hardware left behind is not to be disturbed, but at the same time we can't claim the land in which they are currently on? In a sense, aren't these items now in "theory" part of the land which would fall under the "no ownership" portion of the 67 Space Treaty?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2013 09:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
These are questions that need to be addressed, and one way of doing so is to start trying to address them.

Consider Antarctica, where a legal framework exists to regulate objects found on land not owned by the United States.

The U.S. does not own the land but any meteorite that is found there by a U.S. citizen (regardless if s/he is a federally-funded scientist or private citizen) becomes the property of the United States.

chet
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posted 07-11-2013 10:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
The concern is creating a legal framework for dissuading commercial activities, such as the "Heritage Prize" offered by the Google Lunar X Prize, from disturbing the landing sites.
My qualm is not so much with the aims of the legislation introduced, but the timing. The Congresswomen seeking Apollo artifact protections now may have just as well introduced a bill to regulate the safe handling of helium-3 supplies brought back to Earth for energy processing. (Only that would have been seen as more glaringly ill-timed and unnecessary now than what they were actually pushing for. Why does it seem our elected representatives spend more of their time wasting our tax dollars than anything else they actually accomplish?)

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2013 10:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by chet:
My qualm is not so much with the aims of the legislation introduced, but the timing.
The deadline for claiming the Google Lunar X Prize is Dec. 31, 2015 and there are several teams in the running that are likely to attempt launches, if not also a robotic lunar landing.

There is also a crowd-funding campaign currently to deploy thousands of paper-thin wafer spacecraft over the surface of the moon.

Regardless of these efforts' chances of success, the time to address them is before they plan to launch.

chet
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posted 07-11-2013 11:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Regardless of these efforts' chances of success, the time to address them is before they plan to launch.
Robert, there's no greater urgency to now do what the Congresswomen have proposed than the regulatory example I made regarding helium-3. Just last week, Rep. Bernice Johnson introduced legislation to recognize the beginning of Ramadan. This is the same woman who, in a well-publicized televised clash with Neil Cavuto, could not name even ONE govt. program she would be willing to see defunded or even scaled back. I stand by my original position the proposal put forward by the two Congresswomen has more to do with political theater and grandstanding than anything else; hopefully their proposal will be given the short-shrift it deserves.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2013 12:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That any one person may personally disagree with Rep. Edwards' politics or positions has no bearing on the validity of the topic.

By the very nature that the Google Lunar X Prize exists and that there are teams building hardware and negotiating launch contracts separates this topic from the hypothetical (e.g. He3 mining).

garyd2831
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posted 07-11-2013 12:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garyd2831   Click Here to Email garyd2831     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Oh, trust me, I fully understand the Antarctica Treaty as the unit that I'm a member of, the 109th Airlift Wing is responsible for the shuttling of those scientist all of the ice cap during our seasonal Operation DEEP FREEZE (ODF).

chet
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posted 07-11-2013 04:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
That any one person may personally disagree with Rep. Edwards' politics or positions has no bearing on the validity of the topic.
What I wrote has very little to do with my opinions of Bernice Johnson's politics, per se. My point in mentioning them was that her political positions do not seem to be such that they deserve any great weightiness, or are of such import, that they need be taken seriously just by virtue of her having proposed them.

And unless the Google Lunar X Prize teams and others building hardware and negotiating launch contracts are deliberately intending to invade or disturb the Apollo landing sites, I fail to see the necessity, let alone urgency, in the regulatory/protectionist measures being proposed. Some politicians just seem prone to legislative or regulatory overreach or excess, regardless of actual need or urgency, and I simply think Rep. Bernice Johnson is one that falls in that category.

SkyMan1958
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posted 07-11-2013 06:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are plenty of US laws that overstep the bounds of it's territory. Many of these are laughed at by other countries, many of these piss off other countries, and many of these, particularly the financial ones, are reluctantly followed by international companies (from other countries) who hate the laws but love the US market, even if they don't have an official footprint here.

I agree that the US proposals put forward to protect the Apollo sites are ridiculous, but it may be worthwhile to attempt to pass something of the sort in the UN. I would think that the major spacefaring powers would be willing to support something of the sort, and right there you've got all five of the permanent members of the Security Council. You'd only need to convince 3 out of the remaining 10 countries on the Council to support the bill and then it would become international law.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2013 07:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by chet:
And unless the Google Lunar X Prize teams and others building hardware and negotiating launch contracts are deliberately intending to invade or disturb the Apollo landing sites...
Okay, a little bit of background may be in order...

In addition to its $20 million grand prize for the first team to land a rover on the moon that successfully travels more than 500 meters (1,640 feet) and transmits back high definition images and video, the Google Lunar X Prize is offering an additional $4 million "Apollo Heritage Bonus Prize" for the first team that delivers images and videos of one of the Apollo landing sites (and a $1 million "Heritage Bonus Prize for the first team that sends back imagery of a landing site of another spacecraft other than from the Apollo missions).

So there is a significant incentive for the teams to aim for an area within driving distance of one of the Apollo landing sites.

Which is why at least one of the teams, Astrobotic Technology, Inc. led by Carnegie Mellon University roboticist William "Red" Whittaker has already announced its first mission, the "Tranquility Trek," will send a four-wheeled rover to the Apollo 11 landing site to study how the Eagle's descent stage and other hardware has fared since 1969.

Astrobotic has reserved a SpaceX Falcon 9 for October 2015.

To their credit, Astrobotic has said it will take great care in and around Tranquility Base, but by whose standards should that care by judged? And what happens in the case of an accident?

chet
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posted 07-11-2013 07:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
To their credit, Astrobotic has said it will take great care in and around Tranquility Base, but by whose standards should that care by judged? And what happens in the case of an accident?
Personally, I'm comfortable with the assurances given by Astrobotic; any outfit that could pull off that goal is likely to be very mindful of the significance of the Apollo 11 site.

And as far as accidents go, I'm not aware of ANY legislation, or anything else for that matter, that could conceivably prevent an unfortunate accident from happening. Nothing lasts forever.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2013 07:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So if an accident occurs, there should be no penalty?

If you accidentally set off a fire in a National Park (on Earth) should you not be held responsible?

chet
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posted 07-11-2013 08:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Do you believe there SHOULD be a penalty for an accident taking place where great care is taken to avoid one?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2013 08:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, I do believe there should be a penalty, defined ahead of time, to add an incentive to take as great of care as possible.

I also would prefer there be rules for access to Tranquility Base (in particular) that are agreed upon for all parties, and not left to individual lunar visitors to decide for themselves.

Some, for example, may feel that only the bootprints near Eagle's ladder should be preserved; others may feel that all bootprints at Tranquility Base be protected.

chet
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posted 07-11-2013 08:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Yes, I do believe there should be a penalty, defined ahead of time, if for no other reason than to add an incentive to take as great of care as possible.
Really? Should there have been a prescribed penalty for the near loss of signal experienced by the dish at Parkes during Apollo 11, or the misplacing of the original tapes of Armstrong's first steps? What about a prison sentence for the guy that made the mistake of installing a faulty heater on Apollo 13?

Accidents happen. Gross negligence is one thing, but there doesn't have to be a proscribed flogging for every event where a human mistake is made. (Not to mention that repercussions from an accident can be devastating to the individuals responsible in and of themselves, and oftentimes quite punishment enough).

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2013 09:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, really. If you accidentally kill someone, you can still be charged with manslaughter. If you speed accidentally (e.g. you didn't know the speed limit), you still may have to pay a fine.

If you accidentally destroy the site of the first lunar landing (or for that matter, any Apollo landing site), there should at least be the option of a penalty should the circumstances warrant.

(And incidentally, no one accidentally misplaced the original tapes of Armstrong's first steps. The telemetry tapes were sought for a reason never anticipated at the time of the landing.)

jtheoret
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posted 07-11-2013 11:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jtheoret   Click Here to Email jtheoret     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While I agree that the bill at issue itself may be a bit presumptuous, Robert raises some good points about the need to think about protecting significant space sites and assets prior to those sites being altered or destroyed - it's true nothing lasts forever, but for the same reasons I don't leave my autographs outside in the sun and rain, and the Mona Lisa is behind glass, we can reasonably try to protect significant objects for the future to enjoy as well. Its not too early to talk about protecting the Apollo sites.

fredtrav
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posted 07-11-2013 11:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I almost hesitate to post this, but since no country may claim the moon or territory on it, should this not fall under the UN's purview.

If China were to have an accident over or on one of the lunar landing sites. the US would have a hard time charging them with a crime or violation. The UN would be the appropriate body to level any sanctions. Yes I know they have no power to back what they say, that is why I hesitated to post this in the first place.

If a team from outside the US were to disturb a site, I doubt there would be much we could do. This legislation is silly when we face far greater problems. Now if it was legislation to direct the the president and our ambassador to the UN to push for that body to provide the protection OK, even though it would be symbolic at best.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2013 11:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
National (Historical) Park status is needed before the lunar landing site(s) can be nominated for World Heritage Site status, as administered by the United Nations' Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The bill directs Apollo 11's Tranquility Base to be submitted to UNESCO within a year of the National Park being established.

To quote the National Park Service:

The Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service, is responsible for identifying and nominating U.S. sites to the World Heritage List. Proposed U.S. sites must be either federal property, such as national parks, or sites already designated as national historic landmarks or national natural landmarks. Properties not owned by the federal government are nominated only if their owners wish to do so and pledge to protect their property in perpetuity.

Most U.S. World Heritage Sites are administered by the National Park Service. The others are managed by states, private foundations, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and an Indian tribe.

All times are CT (US)

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