Human Heritage in Space

For All Moonkind believes the United Nations should act formally to protect and preserve the Apollo Landing Sites.  Such an act would not be unprecedented.  In 1972, the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) introduced the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.  The World Heritage Convention, now boasting 193 State Parties, recognizes “that deterioration or disappearance of any item of the cultural or natural heritage constitutes a harmful impoverishment of the heritage of all the nations of the world.” Regardless of sovereignty, the Convention emphasizes “the importance, for all the peoples of the world, of safeguarding this unique and irreplaceable property, to whatever people it may belong,”

The UNESCO World Heritage Convention has been a great success, helping preserve natural and cultural landmarks around the world.  From the Tsodilo in Botswana to the Taj Mahal in India, the achievements of humankind have been recognized and conserved.  But as humankind stretches its reach into space, so must the United Nations.

Just as we revere fossilized footprints of a long-forgotten hominin species in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area as evidence of the development of human bipedalism, we must preserve our first footprints on the Moon.  Each of the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites is evidence of humanity’s first tentative steps off our planet Earth and to the stars.  They mark an achievement unparalleled in human history, and one that is common to all humankind.  And they embrace, and poignantly echo, our continued efforts to achieve peace.

But the Moon is not of this “World,” nor is it subject to territorial claim by any State.

With this in mind, For All Moonkind seeks to work with the United Nations to develop a convention to protect our human heritage in space based in part upon the successful World Heritage model.

We must start to recognize that we are together one species, with a shared goal, too often obscured, of preservation, peace and goodwill.  If we cannot achieve peace on Earth, certainly we can work together to preserve peace in the heavens.  And conserving the Apollo Landing Sites as human accomplishments, protected by United Nations decree, is a first step toward affirming the universality of our shared posterity under a unified regime.  Today, this may feel an overly symbolic gesture, as the days of potential monument desecration seem a distant horizon.  However symbolic it may seem, it will assure that the base of a new generation of competitive space exploration will be founded in our shared humanity.  At a time when the increased militarization of space seems inevitable, it is a reminder that we are in this together.  And it, importantly, it awakens international cooperation and collaboration in space under the umbrella of the United Nations.   A symbolic gesture, perhaps, but one of harmony for a terrestrial world that feels stuck in discord.