The New York Times has an interesting read about Beth O'Leary, an anthropology professor at New Mexico State University, who along with her students has fought to have humanity's (specifically America's) presence on the moon protected. A "please don't disturb the footprints" sign isn't going to cut it.
Getting back to the moon was one of the targets the Bush administration set for NASA, but after delays and budgetary problems, President Obama told NASA to skip the moon and set its eyes on Mars and beyond instead. In a sense, pressure to get to the moon has only increased, as now our humble satellite is once again a prime target for other nations and corporations. And why not? Space travel is a global game now.
The point is, the six Apollo landing sites with their landing stages and leftover equipment and astronaut footprints may be hallowed ground to NASA and the U.S., but other moon-bound visitors may not feel the same. What's more, giving the moon, or even just portions of it legal protection is pretty tough. There's the Outer Space Treaty for one, signed by the U.S. and over 100 other nations, which says that no Earthly authority can lay claim to it as a territory. That also means none of these nations can really protect it as a territory, which makes the moon today's wild west.
(Even faced with obstacles like this and more, O'Leary has made some progress — see the New York Times piece linked below. Worth the read.)
But our question to you, as we stand here in line for yet another press conference at CES 2012, is this: Is it fair to carve out a piece of the moon and declare it sacred, or is the moon still largely up for grabs? On the one hand, the Apollo missions are a crucial part of space history, and are a testament to humanity's engineering faculties. On the other, the moon is an important stepping stone to the rest of the universe around us, and the equipment left at the sites may teach us — or whoever gets there first in a major way — important lessons with further study.
Does it makes sense to be so sentimental when all we've taken is one small step toward the rest of the stars?