House Passes Legislation to Protect Lunar Heritage Sites – UPDATED

House Passes Legislation to Protect Lunar Heritage Sites – UPDATED

The House passed a bill today (December 16) to protect heritage sites on the Moon like the Apollo 11 landing site. The version passed today apparently incorporates changes made after it passed the Senate, so will have to go back there for passage before being sent to the President for signature.  The House also passed a bill to rename an Ohio NASA facility in honor of Neil Armstrong. [UPDATE: The Senate concurred in the House-passed lunar heritage sites bill, S. 1694, by voice vote on December 19, 2020. The President signed it into law on December 31, 2020.]

The One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act, S. 1694, passed the Senate in 2019.  Sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), as passed by the Senate it required any federal agency that issues a license to conduct a lunar activity to require the applicant to agree to abide by recommendations in the 2011 NASA report “NASA’s Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities: How to Protect and Preserve the Historic and Scientific Value of U.S. Government Artifacts” and any successor recommendations, guidelines or principles issued by NASA.

The text of the revised version that passed the House today is not publicly available yet, but based on a statement from Peters and Cruz it now incorporates provisions in the House version, H.R. 3766, recognizing contributions to the Apollo program made by African American “Hidden Figures.” [As signed into law the bill is quite different from what passed the Senate last year. It applies only to NASA and its partnership arrangements with companies to conduct lunar activities, not to agencies that issue licenses.]

In a joint statement, they praised the bill not only for protecting lunar heritage sites, but honoring the 400,000 people who made the Apollo missions possible, including Hidden Figures.

“I was proud to author this bipartisan legislation to preserve for all of humanity the incredible achievements of the Apollo astronauts on the Moon—and also to honor the 400,000 people around the world who made it possible—including the now famous African American “Hidden Figures” who were crucial in calculating trajectories that got astronauts to and from the Moon.” — Sen. Gary Peters

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), chairwoman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, said in a joint statement with Republican colleagues that she “long advocated for the preservation of the Apollo artifacts” and it is “important that NASA and the United States lead the way in guiding responsible behavior in space, and this legislation to preserve our human heritage in space is, itself, one small step in practicing that leadership.”

The top Republican on the committee, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), said the “Apollo landing sites mark one of humanity’s greatest achievements: the first time we were able to do more than look up at the sky, but actually leave our planet and visit another world,” and he looks forward to America’s return to the Moon.

Separately, the House passed S. 2472 to rename NASA Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook station in Sandusky, Ohio in honor of Neil Armstrong, an Ohio native. It passed the Senate last year.

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