LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Two congresswomen are pushing to make a national park on the moon. The idea was sparked by the research of a New Mexico State University professor.
Anthropology professor Beth O'Leary said the first footprints from the moon landing in 1969 are still there. She said it's important to preserve these and other pieces of lunar history for future generations.
"The iconic footprints left behind by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. There are technologic artifacts that are still being used like the lunar laser retro reflector," O'Leary said.
Oleary said there are more than 100 artifacts still on the moon.
"Those artifacts are priceless. They rank up there with stone tools and arrowheads and things we've preserved on Earth," O'Leary told ABC-7.
More than 10 years ago, O'Leary and some of her graduate students wondered how to protect these historical pieces. That's what a bill currently in Congress is hoping to do.
"The protection of legal artifacts falls into a gray area because no one can own the moon. By treaty in 1967, no one can own the surface of the moon, but the nations that put objects, equipment and personnel there retain ownership," O'Leary explained.
House Bill 2617 aims to make landing sites on the moon a national park within a year. O'Leary said it's the starting point for an important conversation.
"You visit historic sites here. We have many in New Mexico and in Texas. Chaco Canyon, people go there and see how people lived 1,000 years ago, so the moon is a place that we went for the first time in 1969 with people. I believe we will go back there," O'Leary said.
O'Leary and her students got the lunar landing sites listed on New Mexico's Register of Cultural Properties.
She hopes one day people will visit the moon and see these sites in person.
"We've lost a lot of archaeological sites here because we've neglected them. There hasn't been legal safeguards for them. I'd hate to think about losing those first lunar sites," O'Leary said.
The bill is being reviewed by committees in the House of Representatives.