I listened to a story on NPR this week that raised one very serious question: how do you preserve history in space?
Why Preserve History in Space?
The most important thing to discuss is why Space History preservation is important. Very little damage can be done to Space Historic Sites, like the site of the Moon Landing, for instance, because of how secluded they are and because they are not subjected to erosion or other issues we face here on Earth over time. The approach up until now has been that these sites don’t need to be protected because they really don’t face obstacles that can damage them.
However, with the growing popularity of private entities taking to space and the possibility of commercial space travel on the horizon, historians are starting to worry about the possible consequences of someone destroying these historic sites by, say, stepping on top of Neil Armstrong’s foot print, for example.
It seems pretty obvious that something should be done to keep the U.S. Moon Landing site, and the sites of all the other space firsts, protected. But the execution of this process isn’t so easy.
How do we Protect History in Space?
The biggest obstacle standing in the way of historic preservation on the moon is the Outer Space Treaty from 1967 that states that no one country can claim ownership over anything in outer space. Why is this important? Because if no one owns it, no one country or entity is designated to protect it. Nor are they able to make changes to land that isn’t theirs. So it stays unprotected.
This is where the NPR story really kicks in. Their story was about a Law Professor at the University of Mississippi, Michelle Hanlon, who is trying to find a solution. While the idea of preserving the moon’s historic sites isn’t new, Hanlon is taking a new approach. She is presenting a case for the Moon to the United Nations, hoping that the Moon Landing site can be kept under their protection in the same way that the Pyramids are.
In her proposal, Hanlon is hoping that the UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) will monitor the Moon Landing site. This is unprecedented. In the past, Nations would have to nominate sites in their country for preservation consideration. Since the Moon has no owner, it also has no one to nominate it. Hanlon is hoping to change that approach, and will set the standards for generations to come.
Hanlon has a few committee meetings scheduled this Spring, with a full Space Committee meeting scheduled for June.
To get even more details, you can start by listening to the story on NPR.
For even more coverage on Historic Preservation on the moon, and to keep up-to-date on all the scheduled meetings with the United Nations, follow along with Hanlon’s organization, For All Moon Kind.