America, You Do Not Own The Moon

21:06Ciaran McCormick

A lot of bills, of varying absurdity and significance, get put into the two Houses of Congress. The recent Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act proposed by two Democrats has raised a few more eyebrows than usual. It has been read in the media as the creation of a US national park on the moon to protect the landing sites where they tread in a bygone era. It could be thought of as a simple and unrealistic statement to protect historical sites and artefacts. But it is also a symptom of the American superiority complex.


The project is ridiculous of course, since the time frame of a year clashes with the NASA long-term strategy. The suggestion that they should apply to UNESCO for its recognition as a World Heritage Site and the donations they would need from all parts of the world and business are over-ambitious.
However, the real reason why I think this is important is because it shows that the last parts of the world that are uncolonised by people are under threat. There are few such places remaining. On our planet, there are a small number of wildernesses, such as the oceans, the deserts and Antarctica. The moon and the bountiful resources in our solar system and beyond are the greatest wilderness. We are already polluting beyond our planet. Conservative estimates of space junk suggest that there are almost 30,000 objects larger than 10cm. We run the risk of repeating the problems of the inhabited world in the uninhabited. America already tries to project its supremacy around the world in foreign countries. The stars and stripes fly on the moon and it is this type of symbolic presence that concerns me about American control beyond the planet. If they begin to claim parts of the moon as a sovereign space, we risk repeating the problems of states again.

The main problem with sovereign claims to uninhabited land is that it becomes exclusionary. Other states cannot enjoy the benefits of the land and the resources. This has happened throughout history but only recently have we recognised internationally the value of public goods like the moon. Some public goods such as the prevention of pollution are delivered by the state, but others need to be free of it. The light from the sun and the water of international waters are good examples. The scientific research and human possibilities for the moon need to be safeguarded beyond the interests of one particular state. Though the artefacts and site of the Apollo landings need to be preserved, the USA is not the best guarantor.

A useful comparison can be made with Antarctica. This shows both the best and worst ways of carving up new territory. The Antarctic Treaty System governs the use of the land and protects it against exploitation. It is a largely scientific agreement which enables research to be carried out. All of the people that visit are citizens of other nations, meaning it is a sovereignty free zone. Claims made by countries to the land are made redundant by the lack of recognition by other states. This is the main positive of the current arrangement and would be ideal for the moon. It would allow any human of any state with the required resources to use the moon or other land mass in space responsibly.

However, when we look to other wildernesses, from the moon to the oceans and deserts, there are some negative lessons to learn from Antarctica. The United States stations law enforcement officials in Antarctica to govern the territory based on American laws against the mistreatment of the land and its natural habitats. Whilst this is for a good cause, the fact that this is an American, rather than a human justice procedure concerns me. It is the same as having an American national park on the moon rather than a human global park. Finally, we must make sure that we do not apply current international inequalities beyond our planet. Out of all of Africa, only South Africa is a signatory of the Antarctic Treaty. The progress of humanity beyond our planet must escape the legacy of our imperfect history.  We need to keep it free of pollution, war, crime and national parks, the by products of human society. America, you do not own the moon.

You Might Also Like

5 comments

recent posts

Contact Form