With the race for space tourism now in a heated battle between different commercial agencies, NASA has had a sudden awareness. And that awareness is that sometime in the future tourists on the Moon may be trampling all over Neil Armstrong’s first giant leaps for mankind, literally.
The Google Lunar X-Prize will give $30 million to the first commercial flight to the Moon to send a robotic explorer. Doing figure 8’s and wheelies around where the Apollo astronauts once walked or left some valuable souvenirs is something that NASA doesn’t want to deal with anytime soon.
According to USA Today, “NASA isn’t expecting the sites to generate the kind of traffic we see at national parks on Earth, but the prospect of future tourists could affect plans to inspect the sites and artifacts in the future. So, the space agency released guidelines this summer on protecting lunar landing sites and artifacts. They call for a 1,200 acre ‘no-fly’ zone around the first Apollo 11 landing site, and final Apollo 17 one. Tourists could only walk within 82 yards of the Apollo 11 landing site where Neil Armstrong first took ‘One small step for man,’ on July 20, 1969, under the guidelines.”
Like a “Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone” (Elton John song), NASA doesn’t want the rocket men and women of the future trampling science, doing graffiti, leaving space garbage or any of the nasty things some tourists do here on Earth upon sacred space grounds.
Anyway, so far NASA hasn’t come out with the penalties for such a breach in space etiquette or even if they have to right to make such a no-fly zone according to the courts (does anyone actually own the Moon?). Stay tuned for future developments in regard to guarding the Moon.