As the wealthy entrepreneurs Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk continue to funnel large portions of their personal fortunes into new technology for space exploration, interest in the possibility of humans return to the Moon as a stepping stone to eventual travel to Mars continues to grow. With the prospect of private spaceflight approaching reality, discussion of a continuous human presence on the Moon raises the issue of history and the legacy of the pioneers who conducted the first surface-based exploration of the Moon.
At the close of 2020, the United States Congress passed the “One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act”, which requires any individual or business applying to conduct activity on the Moon to agree to follow the guidelines issued by NASA for protecting and preserving lunar artifacts. These guidelines are intended to preserve important historical artifacts that remain on the lunar surface, such as the Apollo 11 lunar lander and even the delicate footprints of the first humans to walk on the Moon’s surface.
The Act protects the most important sites of early exploration from any disturbance from humans who return to the Moon, and also registers these sites as “no-fly zones” to prevent any possible disturbance or damage by rocket exhaust.
The conditions on the Moon will ensure that the majority of these important artifacts remain intact for centuries. Therefore, this Act adds a further layer of protection to ensure that humanity itself does not damage its own history.
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