US Grapples With Protecting Lunar Landing Sites As Moon Missions Increase

The US was the first country to put humans on the surface of the moon and the lunar landing sites from those early Apollo missions are a national treasure. As more countries are working on sending missions to the moon, the US is currently grappling with how it will protect the lunar landing sites from damage by other countries.

One of the countries that has sent a mission to the moon is China with its Chang'e-3 probe. The US has already worried that the Chinese lunar mission could compromise some scientific missions underway in orbit around the moon right now. One of the ways that the US is considering to protect the lunar landing sites is with a proposed "moon bill" that would qualify the Apollo landing sites as a national park.

The problem is that such a bill could be illegal under the UN Outer Space Treaty. That agreement prohibits countries from owning territory on the moon or other celestial bodies. The US, Russia, and 176 other nations ratified that treaty. Another proposal to protect historic moon landing sites for the US and other countries that want to land on the moon would be to open communications and establish ground rules for maintaining the moon legacy of countries around the world.

NASA and the US government have also taken steps to protect its moon heritage from private companies. NASA previously took steps to ensure that anyone participating with the Google Lunar X Prize contest won't damage any scientific equipment on the moon.