January 30, 2010

Moon Junk Listed As Historical Resource

A California state panel on Friday registered a collection of 106 artifacts left on the moon by the Apollo 11 mission as historical resources, according to a recent Reuters report.

The goal is to preserve the site where humans first landed on the moon, and create the first designation for cultural artifacts located elsewhere than the Earth.

The Historical Resources Commission hopes that recognizing the moon objects on California's registry of historic landmarks and resources will lead to designation of the Tranquility Base, on the lunar surface, as a United Nations World Heritage Site.

"We are elevating the profile of this resource, and instilling upon the public, which could include space travelers at some point, a sense of site stewardship and the importance of preservation," Lisa Westwood, an archaeologist with Chico State University, and, one of the scholars who applied for the listing, told Reuters.

The collection includes an American flag planted on the moon's surface, data monitors, the bottom section of the lunar lander and various other objects. Also recorded was the junk that the astronauts cast off to lighten their load on their return trip to Earth. These include space boots, tools, empty food containers, etc. In all, about 5,000 pounds of "Ëœmoon junk' was registered, all within a 330 foot area.

The item inventory took several years to document, and was made possible by independent researcher by Ralph Gibson, a program manager for Placer County Museums near Sacramento. NASA provided grant funding in the amount of $22,000.

The listing comes with some careful planning. It makes sure to only include the objects on the lunar surface and not the site itself or the footprints of astronauts that were imprinted for eternity. Jay Correia, a state historian who oversees the registry, said that there is an international law in place that prohibits any country or state from making claim to the lunar surface.

Correia said that the basis for California to make the recognition theirs was due to aerospace firms and institutions that are located in the state that paved the road for "researching, developing and manufacturing the machinery that got men to the moon."

Other states that played a major role in the space program -- New Mexico, Texas, Alabama and Florida -- will hopefully make significant historic designations as well, in an attempt to get Tranquility Base listed as a national historic landmark and a heritage site for the UN, said Westwood.


Image Caption: Aldrin stands next to the Passive Seismic Experiment Package with the Lunar Module in the background. Credit: NASA


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