“Historic preservationists are hoping that the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing this summer will persuade the United Nations to do something to protect Neil Armstrong’s footprints in the lunar dust.
Some of his boot marks are still up there, after all, along with other precious artifacts from humanity’s first steps on another world. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left behind tools and science equipment, a plaque that read, “We came in peace for all mankind” and the U.S. flag, which has likely been bleached white by five decades of harsh ultraviolet light.
Other than a dusting of lunar soil or the random micrometeorite impact, Tranquility Base has been an untouched time capsule since the astronauts departed — though that could change as more nations and even commercial companies start to explore the moon.
“There has never been historic preservation off our planet. It’s a really difficult subject,” says Michelle Hanlon, a law professor and space law expert at the University of Mississippi who co-founded For All Moonkind, a nonprofit group devoted to protecting historic sites in space.”