The “One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act” became law on Dec. 31. It requires American companies and other entities working with NASA on new missions to the moon to avoid disturbing the U.S. hardware that was left there 50 years ago, preserving the historic sites where humans first landed on the moon. “I have long advocated for the preservation of the Apollo artifacts, which hold deep cultural, historical and scientific value for not only the United States, but for all of humanity,” Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, said in a statement.
The recommendations in the law address the paths that spacecraft should follow when descending to the lunar surface and define “keep-out zones” to avoid the purposeful or inadvertent disturbance of the Apollo landing sites. The law requires NASA inform other relevant U.S. federal agencies of the preservation recommendations and encourage their use. At the same time, it allows the NASA Administrator to waive restrictions on accessing the Apollo landing sites if the reasons for doing so are legitimate and have significant historical, archaeological, anthropological, scientific or engineering value.