New U.S. law protects vital human artifacts such as Neil Armstrong’s bootprint, Apollo landers, and other human artifacts left on the moon.

Newly passed U.S. law protects vital human artifacts such as Neil Armstrong’s bootprint, Apollo landers, and other human artifacts left on the moon.

Preserving Our Lunar History

It’s hard for most to care about a few bootprints left on the lunar soil 238,900 miles away. However, how we treat the historic lunar landing sites speak about who humans are and what we strive to be.

On December 31, 2020, the One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act was passed. The act requires companies to work and coordinate with NASA on lunar missions to agree to unenforceable guidelines intended to protect American lunar landing sites. Despite the minuscule scale of those covered by the act, this is the first law enacted by any nation recognizing human heritage in space.

The Moon is Quickly Getting Crowded

With the current advancements and plans set for lunar missions, it’s no surprise that there will be a continuous human presence on the moon in the next decades or year.

The NASA Artemis Projects, which includes sending the first woman to the Moon in 2024, is one of the most ambitious missions set. On the other hand, Russia has revived its Luna program, aiming to put cosmonauts on the moon by the 2030s.

The race that used to only be participated by superpowers now includes a multitude of nations and private companies that want to pursue lunar and space exploration.

India has set plans to send a lunar rover within the year. While China implemented the first successful lunar return mission since the 1970s, it announced multiple moon landings in the coming years. Japan and South Korea are also establishing lunar probes and landers.

Private companies like Astrobotic, Intuitive Machins, and Masten Space Systems are coordinating with NASA missions. On the other hand, SpaceX and Blue Moon, while supporting NASA, are preparing for the dawn of private lunar missions and tourism in the following years.

In 1967 the Outer Space Treaty, ratified by 110 spacefaring nations, offers guiding principles that support space as a province of humankind. The treaty explicitly states that all countries and their nationals have the freedom to freely explore and access all areas of the moon.

Hence, everyone has the freedom to roam and explore the moon whenever they want over existing human artifacts such as Neil Armstrong’s footprints. That is why the recently passed law is an important safeguard to protecting the first interactions between Earthlings and the moon.

The act also encourages nations to develop best practices that protect human heritage in space by evolving the concepts. As small a step as the act may be, it is a strong statement of recognizing and protecting historic sites.

The One Small Step law gives humans hope for the future of space exploration.

Originally published at The Science Times