A Park That’s Out of This World
Congress considers creating a national park in outer space
You may have heard of Yellowstone, Yosemite, or Acadia, three of the 59 national parks (areas protected and maintained by a national government) dotting the U.S. The country could gain yet another national park—on the moon!
On July 8, U.S. Representatives Donna Edwards of Maryland and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas introduced a bill in Congress that would establish the Apollo lunar landing sites as a national park. These are the sites where six Apollo flights landed on the moon from 1969 to 1972. During the first lunar landing—Apollo 11—U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon.
“[Creating a national park would] provide for greater recognition and public understanding of this [remarkable] achievement in American history,” the bill states.
The astronauts who walked on the moon during the Apollo landings left behind an array of items that remain there. There’s a part of Apollo 11’s lunar (moon) lander. There, Neil Armstrong left a plaque that reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon, July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”
Three golf balls can be found on a hilly part of the moon: Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shepard hit them after he landed.
Moon buggies were left behind by Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 astronauts. And even the astronauts’ footprints remain in the areas where they walked!
Representatives Edwards and Johnson are worried that in the future, astronauts from other countries will take these artifacts. China, Japan, Russia, and India have all spoken about going to the moon sometime in the next 10 to 15 years. The Representatives’ bill, called the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, would give the U.S. official ownership rights over the artifacts.
But if the bill were to be signed into law, it could face a big obstacle. Nearly 50 years ago, the U.S. and about 100 other nations signed the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits any country from claiming property in outer space. The agreement, however, does not specifically mention parts of the moon—so the U.S. could possibly get around it.
“[The Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act] addresses an increasingly important aspect of our cultural heritage,” Representative Edwards said in a speech, “that I want to be available for future generations.”