The Spectacle Blog

Latest Idea from House Democrats: A National Park on the Moon

By on 7.10.13 | 12:56PM

Think Democrats are out of new ideas? Think again. Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) have proposed legislation that would create a national park on the moon to mark the landing of the Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972. According to their bill, the sites must be protected to prepare for an expected increase in moon landings.

“As commercial enterprises and foreign nations acquire the ability to land on the moon, it is necessary to protect the Apollo lunar landing sites for posterity,” the proposal states. “Establishing the Historical Park under this Act will expand and enhance the protection and preservation of the Apollo lunar landing sites and provide for greater recognition and public understanding of this singular achievement in American history.”

Edwards and Bernice Johnson are members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Bernice Johnson serves as the panel’s ranking member.

If the bill is approved, the park will be established no later than a year after the date of its enactment as part of the National Park Service. The Department of the Interior and NASA would share joint responsibility for the preservation of artifacts on the moon’s surface from Apollo missions 11 to 17. The Smithsonian Institute would be in charge of cataloging items such as flags, a moon car, lunar landers, and a memorial to fallen astronauts. The Apollo 11 lunar landing site would also need to be submitted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for recognition as a World Heritage site.

According to the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, the Secretary of the Interior would be able to enter into agreements with foreign governments or international bodies to advance an interagency agreement or “provide visitor services and adminstrative facilities within reasonable proximity to the Historic Park.”

However, the legality of the park under international law remains in question. According to the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty, “Outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” The treaty also states that space artifacts belong to the country that launched them. The Democrats’ bill states that only the artifacts, not the land itself, would be part of the park.

Edwards also proposed legislation on Monday to reauthorize NASA for three years. The bill authorizes $18.1 billion for NASA in 2014 and an increase to $18.9 billion in 2016. It also makes a human mission to Mars a goal, as well as continuing funding for International Space Station operations until 2020.

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