President Obama to designate the landers as national monuments.
This July 20th marks an important anniversary. Sadly many will allow the day to pass without so much as an understanding of the importance of this date in world history. It marks the date of what many of described as the greatest technological achievement in world history. I'd drop the qualifier technological and call it humanities greatest moment, the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Why is this landing so important? Aside from the obvious engineering and technological achievements, for me its the political and societal hurdles that had to be overcome that are more impressive.
In 1961, President Kennedy challenged the United States to land a human on the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the decade. To us today this seems like a simple goal, easily attainable. Yet it should be remembered that at the time Kennedy made this challenge America had only launched one person into space and only for 15 minutes. That's like someone climbing a local hill and saying within nine years, they would be the first to climb Mount Everest. It's almost laughable. In fact, going to the moon was as difficult as America's construction of the Panama Canal or it's building the atomic bomb.
And yet, with a clear goal, deadline, and political will the impossible happened, America landed not one but 12 people on the moon.
In the 47 years since America's landing on the moon, the United States' space program has languished. In fact, the nation's ability to launch astronauts into space is totally dependent upon the Russians. Meanwhile, private companies like Space X and countries such as China are ramping up their space efforts. It's likely people will soon return to the moon.
When that happens, the Apollo lander sites may be at risk of salvage, vandalism, or looting. Moreover, these sites are as important to human history as the prehistoric footprints found at Laetoli in Tanzania. As such, they Apollo sites are worthy of federal protection.
In 1906 Congress passed the Antiquities Act which authorizes the President to designate federal property or territory as National Monuments. This property must be of historic or scientific significance. The Apollo landers meet all three of these criteria.
In 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to use the Antiquities Act when he made Devil's Tower in Northeaster Wyoming at national monument. Since then nearly every president has used the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments, many of which later were elevated to national parks.
President Obama has a unique opportunity before him. He can be the first president to designate a national monument on another heavenly body. This would set the precedent of conserving human history, scientific advancement, and the environment off planet earth. With a simple stroke of the pen Obama would be able to place his conservation record among those such as T.R., Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter. Moreover, this designation will commemorate and send the hopeful message that humanity can make great leaps in progress, it just takes clear goals, set deadlines, and political will.
Mr. President please take this opportunity to designate the physical equipment of the six Apollo lander sites as national monuments. These sites should be added to the list of national park sites and jointly managed by the National Park Service and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Please visit the following link and add your name to the growing list who support making the landers national monuments!
Sean Smith is a former Yellowstone Ranger, and an award winning conservationist, TEDx speaker, and author. He writes national park thrillers from his home in the shadow of Mount Rainier National Park. To learn more about his thrillers click here or follow him on twitter: @parkthrillers