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#SpaceWatchGL Op’ed: My 2019 in a review – by Michelle Hanlon

SpaceWatch.Global asked its staff and contributors to review 2019 and provide an outlook into 2020. These personal reviews are being published during the holiday season. This is Michelle Hanlon, Co-Founder of For All Moonkind.

by Michelle Hanlon

2019 – the year which marked the 50th anniversary of humankind’s first offworld footsteps was filled with milestones for For All Moonkind.  We proudly participated formally as a Permanent Observer to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and took the opportunity to deliver multiple presentations highlighting the significance of our cultural heritage in outer space – and the folly it would be to allow historic sites to remain unrecognized or unprotected.

But as the golden anniversary of the singular Apollo 11 mission attracted enormous media attention, one glaring detail became apparent: people just assume that Tranquility Base and all the historic lunar landing sites on the Moon are protected.  But the opposite is true.  These sites enjoy no international protection or even recognition.  There is nothing stopping anyone from running over humanity’s first footsteps on the Moon, steps which memorialize human ingenuity and innovation – and which mark the cradle of our spacefaring civilization.

So we redoubled our efforts to raise awareness and gain support for our mission to develop an international framework to assure our history in space is not lost.

For All Moonkind made significant contributions to the development and drafting of the US Senate Bill 1694, the One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act which was passed by unanimous vote in the US Senate in July 2019.

The One Small Step Act requires a US federal agency that issues a license for the conduct of a lunar activity to require that each license applicant agree to abide by recommendations, guidelines, or principles issued by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) related to the protection and preservation of certain lunar sites.

The legislation recognizes that it is national legislation, applicable only to US-based lunar activities and therefore has limited efficacy for protecting historic sites against disturbances caused by space-faring entities based outside the US.

Thus, the Act indicates that it is the sense of the US Congress that the US President should work with other countries to develop best practices to ensure the protection of historic sites.

The parallel bill, HR 3766 is currently awaiting a vote by the US House of Representatives.  Should it pass, it will then need to be signed by the US President before it becomes law.

It is indeed, one small step.  But it is the first legislation of its kind promulgated by any nation, and thus symbolically a giant leap.  We look forward to seeing this bill land on the US President’s desk in 2020.

Thankfully we still have time on our side.  But not for long.  In 2020, we want to see development go hand-in-hand with preservation.  As we plan multiple robotic landings on the Moon, we need also to plan strategies to mitigate the plume effect and protect equipment from the invidious and destructive lunar dust.  As we explore our lunar neighbour for water and minerals, we need also to assure we are acting sustainably.  As humans across nations compete to achieve lunar and other space-related milestones, we need also to work better at collaboration and cooperation.  As we protect our history, let’s remember to learn from it.  It is the diversity of humanity that leads to innovation, to our success.

Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong took one small step.  It remains still, humankind’s greatest technological achievement.  Forty-seven years ago, Gene Cernan expressed the wish that humans would return “with peace and hope for all [hu]mankind.”

Finally, our return is imminent.

Image courtesy of For All Moonkind, Inc.

As a result, in 2020, I believe we will see more and more tourist-related lunar projects emerge – from sending mementos to the Moon to returning regolith for art purposes to concepts for lunar hotels and tourist sites.  We are excited to see what ideas emerge – we humans can be pretty creative!  And we hope that increased commercialization will be the catalyst the international community needs to establish heritage protection guidelines for human’s newest realm of explorations: space.

Michelle L.D. Hanlon is a Co-Founder of For All Moonkind, Inc. and a founding partner of ABH Aerospace.  A business attorney with more than 25 years of experience, she earned her J.D. magna cum laude from the Georgetown University Law Center and her B.A. in Political Science from Yale College.  She received her Master of Laws in Air and Space Law from McGill University where the focus of her research was on commercial space and the intersection of commerce and public law. 

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