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Wed, Nov 09, 2011

No Fly Zones - On The Moon?

NASA Wants To Protect Footprints, Among Other Things

It seems incredible to be saying this, but it won't be long until private citizens are traveling in space, and NASA is suggesting there should be protections against tourists spoiling the historic landing sites of the six Apollo missions which went to the Moon between 1969 and 1972. USA Today reports NASA wants no-fly zones of 1,200 acres around the landing sites of Apollo 11 and 17, and no pedestrians allowed within 82 yards of Neil Armstrong's "one small step for man."

The Google Lunar X-Prize apparently really brought the concern to the front burner. As many as 30 teams will try to land unmanned rovers on the Moon and drive them at least 500 meters over the surface.

NASA's Robert Kelso of the Johnson Space Center was given charge of creating suggested preservation guidelines over the summer. He observes, "This really is unprecedented. We went looking at NASA for guidelines on this, and we really didn't have anything." Any guidelines developed by NAA would be voluntary under international treaty.

In September, Roger Launius of the National Air and Space Museum likened the situation to the rediscovery in 1956 of an Antarctic hut used by explorer Robert Scott in 1911. "What we don’t want to happen is what happened in Antarctica at Scott’s Hut. People took souvenirs, and nothing was done to try to preserve those until fairly late in the game."

The reasoning for the large size of the requested protection perimeters dates back to the Apollo 12 mission in 1969, when a landing 500 feet away from the earlier, unmanned Surveyor spacecraft ended up covering the probe with dust, to NASA's surprise. There is fear the same thing could happen to those first human footprints left by Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong.
Archaeologist Beth O'Leary of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces notes that the Russians also have historic sites at risk in the new space tourism era.

NASA's historic sites will never be cited as good examples of zero-footprint camping. In addition to all the hardware left behind, future visitors to the Moon can expect to encounter artifacts such as four "Defecation Collection Devices" left behind by Armstrong and Aldrin at the Apollo 11 site.

FMI: www.googlelunarxprize.org/prize-details

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