≡ Menu

Going to the Moon? Don’t Touch the Historical Artifacts, NASA Says

NASA recommends an artifact boundary extending 75 m from the Apollo 11 lunar module descent stage. Photo credit: NASA

Don’t say you haven’t been warned. NASA put out an official document today specifying how close any future spacecraft and astronauts visiting the Moon can come to the artifacts left on the lunar surface by all US space missions, including the Apollo landing sites, any robotic landing sites like Surveyor and impact sites like LCROSS.

While these recommendations are not mandatory (there’s obviously no way to enforce this yet) the document states, “rather, it is offered to inform lunar spacecraft mission planners interested in helping preserve and protect lunar historic artifacts and potential science opportunities for future missions.”

For example, NASA recommends an artifact boundary extending 75 m from the Apollo 11 lunar module descent stage.

NASA isn’t expecting a rush of astro-looters to descend upon the Moon, but with China discussing a Moon landing, and with several Google Lunar X PRIZE teams hoping to send robotic landers, they want to make sure nothing from previous missions is disturbed.

“In the 50 years since the first lunar missions, the spaceflight community has not formally provided recommendations to the next generation of lunar explorers on how to preserve the original artifacts and protect ongoing science from the potentially damaging effects of nearby landers,” NASA said in an accompanying press release, saying that they recognize the steadily increasing technical capabilities of space-faring commercial entities and nations throughout the world that may be on the verge of landing spacecraft on the surface of the Moon.

The document specifies how close another spacecraft can hover, flyover, hop or touchdown near landing sites or spacecraft.

And not just hardware is included in the “don’t touch” areas: “U.S. human, human-robotic lunar presence, including footprints, rover tracks, etc., although not all anthropogenic indicators are protected as identified in the recommendations,” the document says.

NASA’s decisions on proximity boundaries were made from recommendations from external experts from the historic, scientific and flight-planning communities and apply to US government artifacts on the lunar surface.

NASA says they released this document to open discussions with commercial and international space agencies, and seek any improvements to the recommendations.

Read the full document here (pdf file).

Source: NASA

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Marcos Heidemann May 24, 2012, 3:46 PM

    Conspiracy Theorists in 3, 2, 1…

  • Jon Souter May 24, 2012, 4:52 PM

    @Marcos

    NASA are right to protect their lunar (‘Flag Flutter’) wind machine and special in-photo cross-hair and star removal technology from prying eyes, aren’t they?

    ;-)

  • M Peter Selman May 24, 2012, 7:39 PM

    You can still land and rove toward the perimeter and watch from a distance.

  • Mike Oviatt May 24, 2012, 8:07 PM

    There goes my vacation plans!

  • Victor S. Magalhães May 24, 2012, 9:37 PM

    I believe lunokhods and other non-american hardware should be included…

    • Skipdallas1 May 25, 2012, 2:37 PM

      All human artifacts left on the moon should be included in this directive! You are so correct! Also the artifacts from the up-coming second wave of lunar exploration will need to be preserved as well, from whatever country that sends them: (Russia, China, India, The USA.)

      • David Krauss May 26, 2012, 4:17 PM

        Those other countries would probably not like NASA issuing directives or recommendations on their behalf, though.

        • Skipdallas1 May 26, 2012, 4:21 PM

          This is true. But maybe an agreement or treaty between the nations that plan to, or are capable of landing on the moon is possible.

  • ???????? ???????????? May 24, 2012, 10:13 PM

    Of course NASA is right about protecting the historical artifacts on the Moon!

    Haven’t we all gone to museums where everything has the ‘Please Do Not Touch (or take any photos)’ on the side? The same precautions should be taken with places of high historical importance like the Apollo landing sites.

  • Shootist May 24, 2012, 10:25 PM

    “Going to the Moon? Don’t Touch the Historical Artifacts, NASA Says”

    Rubbish. We humans are just too full of ourselves.

    Rather like telling the citizens of Troy not to build new buildings upon the ruins of the old.

  • Dampe May 24, 2012, 11:35 PM

    I wouldn’t mind getting myself a Lunar Rover. It’s all tax payer money so I say, “finders keepers”

  • ygtgo May 25, 2012, 9:49 AM

    It will be as effective as a ‘ WET PAINT ‘ sign

  • Slugsie May 25, 2012, 10:00 AM

    I can already imagine a Futurama style amusement park built around the Apollo 11 landing site with a largely ignored exhibit of the descent stage and flag in the middle of the park.

    • ITSRUF May 25, 2012, 6:48 PM

      “We’re whalers on the Moon,
      We carry a harpoon.”

  • ritwiksundar May 25, 2012, 10:49 AM

    MOON BELONGS TO USG ,GO FIND ANOTHER PLACE TO EXPLORE

    hope this haughtiness trigger a belligerent competition :0

  • Jeff Osborn May 25, 2012, 12:30 PM

    They left all of that there as trash. Too heavy or did not have the technology to bring it back. Now they claim they are historical artifacts. Morons..

    • Skipdallas1 May 25, 2012, 2:27 PM

      Actually there are some artifacts that are still being used: i.e. the laser reflector etc. But from a purely historical standpoint these sites are invaluable to us now and to future generations, and should be protected for that reason. Today here on Earth, one of the most sought after sites for archaeologists are the waste dumps of long gone Peoples. These places tell us volumes about what these people ate, how they worked, the level of their technological sophistication, etc. etc. Far from being “Morons” this effort to preserve these sites by NASA is a forward looking directive and in our best interests as a Nation, even as a species.

  • David Landon May 25, 2012, 1:36 PM

    I can understand why NASA would issue such a directive, but how the heck would they enforce it?

  • Ron Angel May 25, 2012, 4:50 PM
  • Ron Angel May 25, 2012, 4:51 PM
  • ITSRUF May 25, 2012, 6:50 PM

    And I was hoping to actually see Apollo 15’s Lunar Rover in a Chinese museum some time in the next twenty years…

  • Tom June 3, 2012, 6:45 PM

    The Apollo moon missions were faked in a studio. Here’s a link to some of the proof.
    spurstalk (dot) com/forums/showthread (dot) php?t=144487

hide