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  • Tales of the Red Tape #20: The Outer Limits of Regulation

    The Obama Administration has issued a record number of costly rules and regulations compared to its predecessors. But one set of new guidelines, in particular, takes government authority to new heights.

    The moon, actually.

    NASA has instituted “no-fly zones” and other limits on lunar liberty to ensure that future “space-faring entities” steer clear of the sites of previous U.S. missions, where there’s no shortage of “artifacts” to be found—including 30 “defecation collection devices” ditched by astronauts in favor of more valuable cargo.

    The agency has also declared “no parking” for moon rovers at any of the Apollo sites.

    Not that conditions on the lunar surface are all that hospitable to preservation: Moon temperatures swing from +250° F to –300° F, while ultraviolet and other forms of radiation are abundant.

    Whether the U.S. government wields regulatory jurisdiction on the moon could be a subject of some debate among other countries. The U.N. Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (overseen by the U.N. Office of Outer Space Affairs) declares the cosmos to be “the province of all mankind.”

    Still, the prospect of hordes disturbing the golf ball launched by Alan Shepherd’s six iron or the set of red towels abandoned by Apollo 12 prompted NASA to draft the guidance, which includes a prohibition on visits—human or robotic—to any part of the Apollo 11 and 17 sites.

    Of particular concern to the agency is the Google Lunar XPrize, with $30 million in prizes to the first privately funded team to land a robot on the moon, propel it 500 meters, and transmit video images and data to Earth. There are currently 26 teams around the world in contention.

    One can’t help but notice the contrast. Google, as a private entity, offers riches for innovation, while NASA, the government agency, issues rules.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Tales of the Red Tape #20: The Outer Limits of Regulation

    1. msmii says:

      There are a large number of governmental agencies which are run by presidential appointees. These appointees must be approved of by congress. What happens when the Congress and the President are all on the same party line is that the vast bureaucratic ship of state turns towards a direction that looks a lot like a centralization of power and a primary dominion. These are things which the founders of America sought to avoid. http://msmignoresit.blogspot.com/2011/09/appointe

    2. Slick says:

      Well, it is quite apparent to me that once this POTHUS conquers this world, he plans on regulating the MOON into oblivion!!!! Why are we worrying about something that does NOT belong to us!!!!!

      • Justin Walsh says:

        The US retains title to any and all objects it puts into space, including the artifacts of Apollo missions still on the Moon. You are correct, however, that the US cannot hold sovereignty over any territory in space — this is why in 2010 California and New Mexico listed only the objects at Tranquility Base as protected historic resources, not the site itself.

    3. Justin Walsh says:

      Um, so what exactly does the "heritage" in "Heritage Foundation" stand for, if not protecting America's historic legacy?

    4. Moon Express says:

      Although largely interpreted as a negative and/or long reach of government all the way to the Moon… NASA is in fact very supportive of commercial lunar activity and the document referenced also includes 'desirements' and guidelines for close approach to US lunar hardware/artifacts.

      Perpetual ownership of private or government assets in space or on other bodies is a well defined, documented and practiced aspect of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Although by that agreement no sovereign can stake a property claim on the Moon or other extraterrestrial body, assets delivered to space or other planetary bodies remain the property of the original owner, and like fishing in international waters, any materials removed become the property of the party doing the removing (e.g. Apollo or Russian moonrocks are and remain the property of those governments). The same is true for non-government entities like people and companies.

      The continued assertion of government interest in its extraterrestrial assets is in fact important precedent for private sector commercial lunar activity like Moon Express who plan to explore, identify and liberate lunar materials of value to life on Earth and human expansion into space.

      Moon Express, Inc.

    5. You'd think that would be a job for the Lunar Historical society, whenever such a body comes to be formed

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