The United States becomes the first country to pass a law that aims to protect human artifacts in space.
Under the law, 'One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act' that was passed by the Congress on December 31, early remnants of human exploration in the space including Neil Armstrong's boot-print on the lunar surface, will be now protected.
The bill was first introduced in the Congress in 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon exploration. The Act will officially establish it's perimeter around the Tranquility base, which was the landing site of Apollo 11 in 1969 and many other Moon ventures undertaken by the US space agencies between 1969 and 1972.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, who was responsible for introducing the Bill in the House said that it aims to 'protect and preserve the historic and scientific value of US government lunar artifacts' at a time when the lunar surface is increasingly growing crowded with multiple space missions competing over each other. He also stated that that the law is an example of NASA and the United States "guiding responsible behaviour in space," reports UNILAD.
Speaking further about the law, another lawyer focusing on space explorations said that the Act is very similar to how international organistaions protect the heritage on human history on Earth. "That’s important because it reaffirms our human commitment to protecting our history – as we do on Earth with sites like the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, which is protected through instruments like the World Heritage Convention – while also acknowledging that the human species is expanding into space," he said in an interview with Astronomy.com.
Various objects covered by the new law include artifacts in six 'keep out zones', such as remnants of experiments, vehicles and equipment, and traces of human and robotic presence etc.
Although the law was signed by former US President Donald Trump in December 2020, lawmakers are calling for an agreement to enshrine and protect the Act in the international law.
"The Act, however, applies only to companies that are working with NASA; it pertains only to U.S. lunar landing sites; it implements outdated and untested recommendations to protect historic lunar sites implemented by NASA in 2011," reports the Astronomy.
The US is planning to send the first woman to Moon by 20254 through it's ambitious NASA's project the Artemis Project.
"We must preserve these sites for the historical, archaeological, and the inspirational value they hold," said Eddie Bernice Johnson.