Apollo site protection is recommended by a NASA study for lunar surface operations policies.

NASA and other operators may face difficulties never previously encountered since lunar operations may be conducted in close proximity.

A recent NASA analysis concluded that the conservation and preservation of the historic Apollo landing sites remain a concern given the more than 20 missions planned to arrive on the moon by 2026. However, the report advises exercising “great prudence” while attempting to secure protection for potential future human heritage sites on the lunar surface.

After looking into some of the issues with having several missions at the moon, NASA’s Office of Technology, Policy and Strategy (OTPS) published its “Lunar Landing and Operations Policy Analysis”(opens in new tab) on Tuesday (Oct. 25). Under the supervision of NASA management, OTPS looked into the technical and political factors that go into choosing new lunar landing sites as well as what steps need to be done to safeguard American interests and lunar surface operations.

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“There will likely be at least 22 lunar surface missions during the course of the next four years alone. These missions will take place on the moon’s south polar zone for half of them. NASA and other operators will face issues they have never encountered because of the impending expansion of actors and activities at or near the lunar south pole and because of the potential for close proximity of operations “The authors of the report wrote (opens in new tab).

Only a few of the robotic and human moon missions that are raising this concern are being led by NASA, in collaboration with its international and corporate partners, as part of the Artemis programme. The policy difficulties are exacerbated by the plans of other nations and businesses to set foot on the moon.

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The OTPS analysis confirms past efforts that protective and preservation measures are required for the Surveyor and Apollo landing sites built in the 1960s and 1970s. NASA issued advice in 2011(opens in new tab) regarding “how to protect and maintain the historic and scientific significance of U.S. government lunar relics” for “space-faring entities.” The “One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act” (opens in new tab), which was enacted by Congress nine years later, instructed NASA to hold its partners and contractors to the guidelines.

In the Artemis Accords(opens in new tab), a set of bilateral agreements between the U.S. and other international nations taking part in the Artemis lunar missions, NASA includes human heritage site preservation.

Therefore, the OTPS study states, “We are in a position where we have precise internal NASA procedures for securing the Apollo and Surveyor sites that we must also apply to commercial and foreign collaborations.” Additional than the general promise in the Artemis Accords to “preserve outer space heritage,” there are no particular rules or legal requirements for other prospective heritage sites.

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The report suggests that the 2011 recommendations from NASA be put into practise for the Apollo and Surveyor sites as well as being applied to business and international collaborations in accordance with the legislation.

The OTPS report mentions the worries of the world community for future destinations, such as where NASA aims to land the first woman and the first person of colour as part of the Artemis mission. The nations signing the Artemis Accords decided that the criteria should be defined through multilateral diplomatic efforts because heritage safeguards are valuable to the global community and can also be exploited. However, this has not yet happened.

“We advise NASA to exercise extreme caution when requesting heritage protection for future locations, especially those in potentially populated places like the south pole zone, because these sites will be indefinitely protected — and hence largely off-limits for operations. Additionally, heritage protection should only be used after operations have ended; while operations are still underway, other policy tools, such safety zones, are better suited to protecting those activities “The study is cited.

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Beyond protecting lunar heritage sites, safety zones have other uses. They could shield ongoing surface operations from being hampered by adjacent missions and activities, as suggested by the Artemis Accords.

Other policy concerns about the accelerated pace of lunar exploration were addressed by the OTPS report. The research examined the difficulties brought forth by landings (and notably the effect of landing plumes), surface operations, surface transit, radio-frequency interference, places with unique characteristics, and unanticipated activities. While not all of these worries are urgent, the study revealed that some forethought may be prudent.

“For example, before they are operationally required, NASA may want to start defining the technical standards for landing standoff distances and safety zones now so that they are ready to use when needed. Policymakers may want to start this type of hybrid technical-policy design work right away “Officials with OTPS wrote.

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In order to reduce any sense of abuse, such as territorial claims or the displacement of other companies engaged in moon-related activities, the report also calls for transparency prior to and during the implementation of any new policies. The Artemis Accords signatories (or a subset of them actively involved in lunar operations) should be brought together as a first step, according to OTPS, in order to debate the policy and related measures that NASA intends to use for future lunar missions.

The OTPS analysis states, “To articulate our justifications for policy measures in order to forestall negative reactions and solidify our behaviour as a precedent to be followed rather than a threat to the space community, we recommend a full public relations strategy, as well as multiple streams of multilateral engagement.”

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