Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Fly Me To The Moon

Plans are afoot in the USA to turn parts of the moon into a national park:

A Bill before Congress (The Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act) would ""endow the artifacts as a National Historic Park, thereby asserting unquestioned ownership rights over the Apollo lunar landing artifacts."  

Lots of issues arise from this:
- the motivation behind the Bill seems to be to protect US property left on the moon from future 'space tourists'.  Items left there by successive Apollo missions include moon buggies, parts of the Apollo 11 lunar lander and, of course, golf balls.
- However, the US is a signatory to the UN's 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which provides (amongst other things) that "outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claims of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means."
- We have then a familiar clash between national claims to heritage and international mechanisms for heritage protection.  Here, in most spectacular and celestial fashion, is the tension between notions of "the common heritage of mankind" and definitions by nation-states to have ownership and exclusive rights over property.

Fortunately, unlike so many heritage-protection issues back on Earth, this one seems not to be a conflict in need of urgent resolution...

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