NASA Prepares for Lunar Tourists
Tourists on the moon? Sacre bleu! Don’t laugh. It’s going to happen someday, maybe not in our lifetimes, but someday. And NASA is already putting policies in place to make sure space tourists don’t mess with all that Earthly “stuff” the Apollo astronauts left behind.
From 1969 to 1972, NASA sent 6 manned space missions to the moon. Each one landed in a different spot, but in each case American astronauts left behind all kinds of artifacts and other stuff they couldn’t take back with them.
Among many other things, the “lunar jetsam” includes the lunar descent stages of all six Apollo spacecraft, and several four-wheel “moon buggies” the astronauts used to explore the lunar surface.
Inevitably, that means there would be looting. Looting is the bane of archaeological sites here on Earth, so there are efforts moving forward now to designate the moon landing sites as historic preserves or national parks, to, it is hoped, head off the looting before the tourists arrive.
NASA is also developing guidelines on protecting lunar landing sites and artifacts. The guidelines include “No Fly Zones” around the sites, and limitations on how close tourists could get to the sites on foot.
What’s the rush? Google is offering a $30 million dollar prize to the first privately funded team that can land a robot on the lunar surface and several dozen teams are competing.
Visions of private spaceships landing in the middle of Apollo landing sites is causing nightmares at NASA. Since part of the competition calls for driving a remote controlled a robot rover around the lunar surface, no one wants to see Neil Armstrong’s footprints obliterated by a robot tourist.
It’s going to happen. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but it will happen, and there goes the lunar neighborhood.