It’s one hell of a road trip, but sign me up!
Why battle the crowds at Yosemite, Yellowstone, or the Grand Canyon if you could take that National Park vacation on the moon? That’s what two democratic representatives are advocating. Donna Edwards of Maryland and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas (there’s another democrat in Texas besides Wendy Davis? Who knew?!) have recommended making the Apollo moon landing sites a National Historic Park.
What’s the point of turning land where no one lives and few visit into a National Park? The prospect of commercial traffic on the moon that could destroy artifacts important to America’s history. China recently announced a plan to launch a moon rover later this year, and Google Lunar X PRIZE teams will compete to send the first privately funded robot to the moon. “In light of other nations and private entities developing the ability to go to the Moon, the United States must be proactive in protecting artifacts left by the seven Apollo lunar landings,” Johnson said.
While the landing sites and artifacts wouldn’t comprise a typical park, the bill proposes that Neil Armstrong’s footprints on the moon should become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which would then protect the surrounding area. The declaration would allow the same prosecution and punishment of anyone who takes or damages artifacts from national parks here on earth.
Admittedly, it’d be tough to enforce this bill, but Johnson insists that “protecting and preserving such irreplaceable items and such a hallowed place” isn’t far-fetched. Vladmir Popovkin, head of the Russian Space Agency, agrees that we should protect artifacts from early manned moon missions.
Recently, NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts division awarded a $500,000 grant for Contour Crafting technology, a kind of 3D printing that could help build permanent structures and settlements on the moon. If a 3D-printed lunar base, settlements, or other structures do indeed come to fruition, they too would have to abide by the restrictions.
This seems to be a pretty solid idea, if nothing else because something should be done about space debris and the damage humans generally inflict upon whatever environment they visit. But when someone proposes a lunar theme park, it’ll be time to worry.