Apollo 11: Tranquility base should get special heritage status, says space agency boss


Tranquility base, where humans first set foot on the Moon, should be given special heritage status to protect it from future damange, according to the European Space Agency’s chief.

The desolate site reached by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin 50 years ago this week deserves special protection because of its unique place in human history, Jan Worner, the director general of ESA, told The Guardian.

“The Apollo 11 landing site is world heritage for humanity,” he told the British publication. “This was humans, as they had in the past, going beyond what they had done before. When humans came out of their caves, they were going beyond. And this was another dimension of going beyond, to another body in our universe.”

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Astronaut Neil Armstrong's right foot leaves a footprint in lunar soil

Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s right foot leaves a footprint in lunar soil
(AFP/Getty Images)

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A wide range of items, including an astronaut badge, an olive branch, a “defecation collection device,” six flags and a disc of goodwill messages, were left behind on the Moon. Their fate is unknown.

Protecting this amazing site might be more complicated than one would assume.

“The UN’s outer space treaty, a keystone of space law, states that all countries are free to explore and use space, but warns it ‘is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty.’ In other words, space is for all and owned by none,” The Guardian reports.

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A panoramic view of Little West Crater, with the Eagle Lunar Module in the distance. This photograph was taken by Neil Armstrong.

A panoramic view of Little West Crater, with the Eagle Lunar Module in the distance. This photograph was taken by Neil Armstrong.
(NASA)

Even so, Worner told the British newspaper that the designation is necessary.

“My hope is that humanity is smart enough not to go back to this type of earthly protection. Just protect it. That’s enough. Just protect it and have everybody agree,” he said, adding that a no-go zone of 50 meters around Tranquility base should do the trick.

As humans make plans for further space exploration, the possibility that some will suggest mining the Moon for potential sources of energy makes Worner’s suggestion more pertinent.

In May, NASA selected three companies to ferry science and technology payloads to the lunar surface in the coming years.

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