On Thursday, December 31, 2020, the President signed into law:

S 1694, the “One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act,” which requires NASA to add recommendations and inform other relevant Federal agencies of information relating to the principle of due regard and the limitation of harmful interference with historic Apollo lunar landing site artifacts.

This bill requires a federal agency that issues a license for the conduct of a lunar activity to require that each license applicant agree to abide by recommendations, guidelines, or principles issued by NASA Related to the protection and preservation of U.S. government lunar artifacts.

Apollo 11 moonwalkers, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
Credit: NASA

A federal agency may exempt specific activities from such an agreement if the activities have legitimate and significant historical, archaeological, anthropological, scientific, or engineering value; assess a penalty fee for violations of such an agreement.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has used its LROC system to provide looks at the Apollo 11 landing site. The remnants of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic first steps on the surface are seen as dark paths around the Lunar Module (LM), Lunar Ranging RetroReflector (LRRR) and Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP), as well as leading to and from Little West crater.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Sense of Congress

The Act establishes the sense of Congress that the Apollo 11 landing site, other historical sites, and artifacts should be preserved. The bill accomplishes this goal by requiring companies seeking U.S. licenses to operate in space to agree to avoid disturbing U.S. Government artifacts and landing sites, including the Apollo 11 landing site, by adhering to NASA guidance on the protection of lunar artifacts. It defines “lunar activity” in the context of this licensing requirement and allows for the assessment of penalties for noncompliance.

On December 16, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) to permanently protect the Apollo landing sites on the moon. The One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act, which Peters introduced with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), would enact first-of-its-kind legal protections for the Apollo sites by making NASA’s preservation recommendations a requirement for future activities on the Moon.

Credit: For All Moonkind

Safeguard history

“As a child, I watched the achievements of the Apollo missions with excitement about what is possible when we come together with a common goal,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “I was proud to author this bipartisan legislation to preserve for all of humanity the incredible achievements of the Apollo astronauts on the Moon—and also to honor the 400,000 people around the world who made it possible—including the now famous African American “Hidden Figures” who were crucial in calculating trajectories that got astronauts to and from the Moon.

Credit: For All Moonkind

Senator Cruz stated: “As we look forward to new expeditions to the moon and placing American boots where they have never gone before on Mars, it is crucial to safeguard the history of American exceptionalism and ingenuity in space, from Apollo 11 to the upcoming Artemis program missions.”

Chairman of the Aviation and Space subcommittee, Cruz added, “I am honored to help preserve these historic human heritage sites, while continuing to maintain a dominant presence in low-Earth orbit and beyond.”

Credit: NASA

Artemis Accords

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine added his voice to the passing of the bill last month.

“As we go forward to the Moon with the Artemis Program, NASA has been clear that we must do so sustainably,” the NASA leader said. “As part of the Artemis Accords agreements signed with partner nations, NASA has emphasized that protecting historically significant sites is critical, and I applaud the leaders of this legislation for their commitment to ensuring that future lunar science and exploration is done in a safe and transparent manner.”

“I am pleased that the House passed the ‘One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage In Space Act’ today,” added Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX30).

Credit: NASA

“Apollo remains a beacon of inspiration and a symbol of what we, as a nation, can accomplish. I have long advocated for the preservation of the Apollo artifacts,” Johnson explained, “which hold deep cultural, historical, and scientific value for not only the United States, but for all of humanity. It is important that NASA and the United States lead the way in guiding responsible behavior in space, and this legislation to preserve our human heritage in space is, itself, one small step in practicing that leadership.”

Moon – a busier place

Should the location of the first humans to set foot on the Moon be preserved, or risk being lost?

According to GovTrack.us, since Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon in July 1969, it’s becoming a busier place.

Credit: Blue Origin/Blue Moon

Multiple nations are investigating the Moon. So too are private companies — most notably Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin — are also taking more active roles in outer space, currently aiming to land spacecraft on the Moon by 2021.

“Everything from the original Apollo 11 landing site that first put humans on the Moon in 1969 is still preserved, because the Moon has no weather. That includes footprints, the American flag planted down, and even three ‘buggies’ that the astronauts left behind to drive across the lunar surface,” GovTrack.us observes.

“Tourist” photograph of Apollo 17’s Jack Schmitt prior to beginning exploration during EVA-3.
Credit: NASA/Gene Cernan

What the legislation does

The bipartisan One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act would require all U.S. government licenses related to space include requirements preserving the Apollo landing sites.

The Senate version was introduced as bill number S. 1694, by Sen. Gary Peters. The House version was introduced as bill number H.R. 3766, by Rep. Eddie Bernie Johnson.

Credit: NASA

Powerful strides

“This is truly the best way to step into 2021,” said Michelle L.D. Hanlon, co-founder of For All Moonkind, a non-profit organization that seeks to protect each of the six human lunar landing and similar sites in outer space as part of our common human heritage.

“The One Small Step Act is the first law in the world to recognize the need to protect human heritage in outer space,” Hanlon told Inside Outer Space. “Combined with the parallel commitment in Section 9 of the Artemis Accords, which calls on signatories to develop practices to preserve such heritage, we are taking powerful strides into a successful and sustainable future for humans in space.”

For more details on this Act, go to:




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