Archeological lunacy

California’s budget has gone to the moon, now their legal jurisdiction is headed there:

California has named the remains of the Apollo 11 mission a state historical resource — to the delight of the young profession of space archaeologists. They fear that the trash and equipment left behind by the United States’ journeys to the moon could someday wind up for sale on eBay if they aren’t protected….
California has now embarked on a campaign to change that. Its preservationists are not overly concerned about the fact that the site is about 380,000 kilometers (236,121 miles) beyond the state’s borders. After all, they say, many Californians were involved in the Apollo mission.

New Mexico, Florida and Texas are contemplating similar steps. The moon archaeologists, for their part, hope that all of this will culminate in the Apollo 11 landing site becoming a national monument and, eventually, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.

Who Owns the Moon?

The question of who exactly owns the moon will have been raised by then, if not sooner. The somewhat vaguely worded 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty states that “space debris” remains the property of the country that shot it into space. Lunar real estate, on the other hand, can be neither government nor private property. This creates a dilemma that urgently needs to be clarified. Armstrong’s footprint clearly belongs to the United States, but what about the moon dust into which the imprint was made?

If the moon is an unowned commons, how can California law apply there? If, however, all the above artifacts are actually on some movie lot that Stanley Kubrick used, then of course they would have jurisdiction.


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