House passes bill that attempts to protect Apollo Moon sites

The House today passed a bill that would require any American business planning a Moon mission to agree to not disturb the Apollo lunar landing sites.

[The bill] requires any federal agency that issues a license to conduct a lunar activity to require the applicant to agree to abide by recommendations in the 2011 NASA report “NASA’s Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities: How to Protect and Preserve the Historic and Scientific Value of U.S. Government Artifacts” and any successor recommendations, guidelines or principles issued by NASA.

All well and good, but this does nothing to stop other nations from touching those sites. Moreover, making all of those sites and whatever the astronauts did there totally sacrosanct is not reasonable. On the later Apollo landings the astronauts used a rover to travel considerable distances. Should every spot the astronauts visited by now considered holy? If anything, scientists will wish to return and gather more data at these locations to better understand the initial Apollo results.

Not that any of this really matters. In the long run the decision on how much these sites should be protected will be made by the people who live on the Moon. I suspect, as pioneers living on the edge of survival, they will have less interest in making memorials to past achievements and be more focused on getting things done, now.

New data confirms and localizes uplifted lunar dust as seen by Apollo astronauts

The uncertainty of science: In a paper released today, scientists reveal the detection of electrostatic dust events on the Moon similar to those observed by Apollo astronauts, and find that these events might not be global but instead confined to craters during twilight. From the abstract:

Lunar horizon glows observed by the Apollo missions suggested a dense dust exosphere near the lunar terminator. But later missions failed to see such a high‐density dust exosphere. Why the Apollo missions could observe so large number of dust grains remains a mystery. For the first time, we report five dust enhancement events observed by the Lunar Dust Experiment on board Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer [LADEE] mission, which happen near a twilight crater with dust densities comparable to the Apollo measurements. Moreover, the dust densities are larger on the downstream side of the crater and favor a higher solar wind temperature, consistent with an electrostatic dust lofting from the negatively charged crater floor. We also check the Apollo observations and find similar twilight craters, suggesting that the so‐called dust exosphere is not a global phenomenon but just a local electrified dust fountain near twilight craters.

The dust clouds the astronauts thought they saw near the horizon have been theorized to be dust uplifted by static electricity. However, all later missions had so far failed to detect this phenomenon, until now. That the result also pinpoints the location and ties it to twilight is important for future missions to the Moon. Astronauts can thus minimize any damage by this dust by shutting down operations during lunar twilight periods.

Woman sues NASA to keep possession of moon dust

A Tennessee woman is proactively suing NASA in order to guarantee the agency will not try to steal a vial of moon dust that Neil Armstrong gave to her in the early 1970s.

Murray Cicco received the small glass vial full of gray moon dust in the early 1970s. The vial came with a note: “To Laura Ann Murray — Best of luck — Neil Armstron Apollo 11.” …Armstrong’s note and signature have been verified and testing has confirmed the contents in the vial he gifted her do include dust from the moon.

Decades after receiving the glass vial of moon dust, Murray Cicco is moving forward with her federal court case in Wichita, even though she lives in Tennessee. The reason for filing the case in Kansas goes back to a previous case in 2016 where a U.S. District Court judge in Wichita ruled in favor of a collector who bought a bag containing moon dust that was mistakenly placed in an online government auction. In that case, the bag was then sold at auction last year for $1.8 million.

While NASA hasn’t demanded Murray Cicco give up the vial of moon dust, Murray Cicco’s attorney has requested a jury trial in Wichita to stay ahead. “There is no law against private persons owning lunar material. Lunar material is not contraband. It is not illegal to own or possess,” the court document detailing the case says. “Therefore, she requests judgment declaring her the rightful and legal owner of the vial and its contents, and vesting title in her name.”

This is a very wise move on her part. NASA has for years made it clear that it thinks it owns all moon material brought back by the Apollo missions, and has had the arrogant policy of demanding the return of any moon dust or rocks that it discovered was in the possession of any private citizen, no matter how small, or how well documented the ownership. This court case acts to block such actions, before NASA can even think of them.

International group forms to get UN protection of Apollo sites

An international group of lawyers, academics, and business people has formed an organization called “For All Moonkind,” aimed specifically at getting UN protections for the six lunar Apollo sites.

They are going to the UN because, based on the Outer Space Treaty, this is the only place that has jurisdiction. Unfortunately. This quote illustrates why:

“Though we are based in the US, we are an international organization,” said Michelle Hanlon, US space lawyer and Co-Founder of For All Moonkind. “Humaid Alshamsi [the UAE participant] brings tremendous experience in public and private aviation and space law to our team. We are thrilled that he has agreed to join our effort.”

For All Moonkind was critical of the auction by Sotheby’s of the Apollo 11 Contingency Lunar Sample Return Bag used by astronaut Neil Armstrong. “The astronauts of the Apollo project represented all of us here on Earth,” explained aviation and space lawyer and Advisory Council Member Humaid Alshamsi, “they went to the Moon in peace for all, and the relics of their historic achievement should be shared by all. The loss of this artifact to a private collector is a loss for humanity.”

The Outer Space Treaty forbids any nation from claiming territory in space, thus leaving it under the control of the UN and the international community, a community that — as demonstrated by this quote — is hostile to capitalism and private enterprise. While I laud this group’s desire to protect these historic sites, I fear their actions are going to place limits on the freedoms and property rights of future space colonists.

The difficult task of legally preserving the Apollo lunar sites

Link here.

While I heartily agree that these historic sites should be preserved, if you read the article you will notice how the focus with these people is not the future, but preserving relics of the past. I say we don’t need more memorials. The best memorial for Apollo 11 would be thriving city on the Moon, even if it trampled on Tranquility Base.

Note also that the restrictions imposed by the Outer Space Treaty once again make things worse. Under the treaty, there is no way for the U.S. to reasonably preserve these American historical sites, without first getting the approval of the UN. The result? I guarantee that any arrangement we manage to work out will almost certainly restrict the freedoms of future space colonists. This not a good thing, and it certainly isn’t something we here on Earth should be doing to the brave people who will someday want to build new civilizations on other worlds.

Auction of silver medals flown on Apollo brings in $800K

Coins in space: An auction in May of silver medals carried by astronauts on a variety of Apollo missions has brought in nearly $800,000.

Robbins medallions were minted by the Robbins Co. of Attleboro, Mass. These .925 fine silver medals have been produced for every manned U.S. mission since Apollo 7. The medals were paid for by the crews and available for purchase only by NASA astronauts at the time. Medals that were actually flown on missions are especially coveted.

Bras in space: How a bra company made the spacesuits the astronauts wore on the Moon.

Bras in space: How a bra company made the spacesuits the astronauts wore on the Moon.

Fascinating interview, though I find it humorous how it is considered absurd and unlikely for a private company that makes bras to make these spacesuits. In truth, when the Apollo missions happened, Americans had no doubt that ordinary private businesses were the best places to go to get something novel and creative done.

New analysis of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images suggests that most of the American flags planted at the Apollo landing sites are still standing.

New analysis of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images appears to prove that most of the American flags planted at the Apollo landing sites are still standing.

Sadly, the analysis also seems to prove what Buzz Aldrin reported, that the Apollo 11 American flag was blown over by the exhaust from the ascent stage when the astronauts took off.

I wonder if anyone from the United States will ever have a chance to pick it up?

What is the current state of the six American flags planted on the Moon by Apollo astronauts? One NASA engineer takes a look.

What is the current state of the six American flags planted on the Moon by Apollo astronauts? One NASA engineer takes a look.

James Fincannon has been an important contributor here at Behind the Black, sending me some interesting tips from time to time that have resulted in some good posts, such as this one about caves on the Moon.

Apollo astronaut has been forced to return camera to NASA

Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell has been forced to return to NASA the camera he used on the Moon.

[He had been allowed to keep the camera after his return in accordance with] a practice within the 1970’s astronaut office that allowed the Apollo astronauts to keep equipment that hadn’t been intended to return from the moon so long as the items did not exceed weight limitations and were approved by management.