NASA today gently reminded any future Moon explorers that any relics of its Apollo missions or other US lunar artifacts should be off limits and are considered historic sites.
NASA issued the reminder in conjunction with the X Prize Foundation and its Google Lunar X Prize competition which will use NASA's Moon sites guidelines as it sifts through the 26 team currently developing systems and spacecraft to land on the Moon.
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The $30 million Google Lunar X Prize is aiming to get at least one company to blast a robot to the moon by 2015. To win the money, a privately-funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon's surface that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high definition video and images back to Earth. The first team to do so will claim a $20 million Grand Prize, while the second team will earn a $5 million.
Russia, Japan India and others also have all talked about landing on the Moon in the next 10-20 years.
NASA came up with guidelines - none of which are particularly enforceable -- on how others should treat its myriad Moon sites quite a while back. NASA says it "assembled the guidelines using data from previous lunar studies and analysis of the unmanned lander Surveyor 3's samples after Apollo 12 landed nearby in 1969. Experts from the historic, scientific and flight-planning communities also contributed to the technical recommendations. The guidelines do not represent mandatory U.S. or international requirements. NASA provided them to help lunar mission planners preserve and protect historic lunar artifacts and potential science opportunities for future missions."
NASA's recommendations are intended to protect US artifacts on the lunar surface and that in a nutshell includes:
- Apollo lunar surface landing and roving hardware;
- Unmanned lunar surface landing sites (e.g., Surveyor sites);
- Impact sites (e.g., Ranger, S-IVB, LCROSS, lunar module [LM] ascent stage);
- US experiments left on the lunar surface, tools, equipment, miscellaneous EVA hardware; and
- Specific indicators of US human, human-robotic lunar presence, including footprints, rover tracks, etc., although not all anthropogenic indicators are protected as identified in the recommendations.
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NASA said recognizes that many spacefaring nations and commercial entities are on the verge of landing spacecraft on the Moon. NASA and the next generation of lunar explorers share a common interest in preserving humanity's first steps on another celestial body and protecting ongoing science from the potentially damaging effects of nearby landers.
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