- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Spurred in part by the controversy over Thursday’s Sotheby’s auction of an Apollo mission artifact, a nonprofit group will formally call on the United Nations to declare six lunar landing sites as landmarks of international significance.

For All Moonkind co-founder Michelle Hanlon will lay out her arguments at the Starship Congress 2017 to be held in Monterey, California, from Aug. 7-9, the non-profit said in a news release Tuesday.

“We formed For All Moonkind with a mission to ensure the Apollo landing sites be recognized by the United Nations for their outstanding value to humanity and protected for posterity,” Ms. Hanlon said. “The decision by Nancy Lee Carlson and Sotheby’s to auction off an Apollo 11 Lunar Sample Return Decontamination Bag is a sobering wake-up call.

“The bag belongs in a museum, so the entire world can share in and celebrate the universal human achievement it represents,” she said.

Earlier this year, a federal judge ordered that NASA return to Ms. Carlson the lunar bag that she had obtained in good faith years earlier in a U.S. Marshals Service auction — in essence, the judge ruled that while the Marshals Service had goofed in putting the item up for sale, Ms. Carlson’s purchase was perfectly legal and she retained ownership rights to it, including putting it up for sale.

On its official website, Sotheby’s predicts the Apollo-mission artifact could be sold for as much as $4 million, an astronomical return on Ms. Carlson’s investment. She paid just $995 for it, according to Reuters.

Although the only manned missions to the moon have been made by U.S. astronauts, international law considers the moon a truly international body.

Under the terms of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, ratified by the United States two years prior to the July 20, 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, “the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law[.]”

Another provision of the treaty holds that, “[o]uter space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

As such, Ms. Hanlon argues, the United Nations is the appropriate legal entity to preserve the moon as the heritage of humanity, not the province of any nation.

“Astronauts are, per Article V of the Outer Space Treaty, envoys of all humankind. It is fitting that their contribution to science, exploration and our human heritage be recognized by a global, not just a national, body,” Ms. Hanlon told The Washington Times in an email.

“At For All Moonkind, we envision the establishment of a UNESCO World Heritage type committee structure to identify and designate sites and material in space to be protected,” Ms. Hanlon said. “No one nation or government can claim a ‘national’ interest in space, but together, the United Nations can determine where ‘humankind’s‘ interest needs to be preserved.”

• Ken Shepherd can be reached at kshepherd@washingtontimes.com.

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