The whole Earth-side of the Moon should be protected forever

Apollo 12 landing site, taken from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2011

Earlier this year, the New York Times had an interesting piece about museums seeking to protect small areas of the Moon around the Apollo landing sites. And a good thing too: “…the next generation of people visiting the moon might carelessly obliterate the site of one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments.”

More recently, NASA has released draft guidelines around protecting the landing sites from damage.

But isn’t that a bit like how Cairo almost swallows the Pyramids?

Surely we need to go further? Much further?

For thousands of years, all of Earth-bound humanity will gaze up on the Earth side of the Moon. And it’s exactly the same view looked upon by all of humanity throughout history.

Surely that whole view is worthy of protection? After all, any changes made that are visible from Earth will be visible forever. There’s no atmosphere or weather to sweep away our transgressions over time. What is done on the Moon stays done…

I raised these concerns with a NASA engineer a couple of years ago after his presentation at the Questacon national science museum about the (now ill-fated) Constellation project to return to the Moon.

It seemed to me that the American disposable society mantra was writ large in their plans, with leftover bits free to crashland wherever once done with. It’s that sort of mentality that’s got us into a spacejunk problem in Earth orbit.

I have no doubt that there will come a day – possibly while I’m still alive – that we are strip-mining parts of the Moon for minerals to build spaceships and Moonbase buildings and to fuel them.

But surely there should be a commitment from all nations for this sort of permanent scarring to be limited to the far side (the incorrectly named dark side!) of the Moon only. And for communications facilities and potentially colonies to be positioned around the Earthside perimeter for minimal visual impact, while maintaining direct communications.

There should also be strict controls on escape of artificial light. Surely the sort of light pollution that we spew pointlessly upwards from our Earth should not be shining back at us one day from the Moon?

We owe our future generations that much, I believe.

And while looking back – enjoy this handheld footage of the Earthrise, from Apollo 10, right out at the Moon, to very fitting music: