July 10, 2013
Congresswomen Propose New National Park – On The Moon
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Two congresswomen have proposed legislation that would establish a US national park about 240,000 miles outside of America's borders - on the moon.
Representatives Donna Edwards of Maryland and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas have co-authored the bill HR 2617, or the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, that would essentially establish a national park around American landing sites on the moon.
According to a statement released by Edwards, the legislation "would ensure that the scientific data and cultural significance of the Apollo artifacts remain unharmed by future lunar landings."
"As commercial enterprises and foreign nations acquire the ability to land on the moon it is necessary to protect the Apollo landing sites for posterity," the legislation said, "and 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."
However noble their intentions may be, the bill in its current form both conflicts with and duplicates parts of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Initially signed by the US, the UK and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War's "space race," the treaty was eventually joined by the Russian Federation and 100 other counties. It declares that all extraterrestrial objects are property of the nation that launched them. It also bans nations from claiming sovereignty over any lunar territory.
The Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act does limit the proposed park's components to landing sites and NASA equipment still on the moon. However, it defines landing sites as "all areas of the Moon where astronauts and instruments connected to the Apollo program between 1969 and 1972 touched the lunar surface."
The bill does make concessions to the international community, requiring that the United States apply to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for designation of the first landing site as a World Heritage Site. The bill also addressed how the Interior Secretary could make agreements with other nations "to provide visitor services and administrative facilities within reasonable proximity to the Historical Park."
Even if the bill was to be passed and a national park - complete with a gift shop - were to be established, it would most likely have a difficult time getting funding. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama said many federal agencies would be hit by the sequestration budget cuts, particularly the National Parks Service, which it projected to lose $100 million in funding. The loss is expected to be a massive blow for the parks service, which manages everything from Civil War battlefields to conservation issues within its jurisdiction.
The federal agency just oversaw an event honoring the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. The bloody Civil War battle that raged from July 1 to 3, 1863 was commemorated with a historical-themed festivities and a complete reenactment that included the infamous Pickett's Charge.
In Alaska, National Parks Service scientists are working with local partners to assess any potential impacts of climate change. They are particularly focused on monitoring the status of the parks' permafrost, which experts say could release tons of sequestered carbon if widespread melting were to occur across the Arctic.