NASA Drawing Up Guidelines to Protect Historic Lunar Sites

Some interesting news coming out of the NASA Lunar Science Forum today.

NASA officials are creating the first set of guidelines designed to protect historic sites on the moon, including the Apollo landing areas and the Surveyor landers.

The guidelines are designed to help preserve and protect sites as new rovers begin to explore the lunar surface. Officials said they expect Google Lunar X Prize team competitors to begin landing vehicles beginning in 2013.

Officials want to protect the historical artifacts from dust, debris and damage that visiting rovers might produce. They are also eager to use the capabilities of the rovers to study how the lunar environment has affected vehicles and equipment on the surface.

My notes follow after the break.

Guidelines Cover 3 Categories

  1. Human missions — Apollo (6)
  2. Unmanned landing sites (Surveyor)
  3. Impact/crash sites (Saturn IVB boosters, Ranger spacecraft)


  1. Guidelines only focused on U.S. government assets on the moon
  2. Only technical recommendations – no legal requirements
  3. U.S. government legally owns all this flight hardware
  4. A living document – plan to amend as they get more information about the sites and as rover capabilities evolve
  5. Briefed the 28 Google Lunar X Prize teams during the recent team summit in Mountain View — awaiting feedback from the teams
  6. Will incorporate feedback, finalize rules and announce the rules during a future press conference in Washington, DC

Guidelines Cover 3 Areas

  1. Descent and landing
  2. Mobility
  3. Contamination

No-Fly Zones

  • Heritage Lander Sites (Apollo, Surveyor): no flights within 2 km radial distance
    Impact/Crash Sites (Saturn IV-B, Ranger): no flights within 0.5 km radial distance
  • Each lunar spacecraft should have an onboard reference system to identify the physical location relative to boundaries.
  • No overflight associated with landing….trajectory should be tangential to the D/L boundary
  • Designed to protect vehicles from dust being kicked up and possible failures of landers
  • Landings should be targeted to no less than 2 km away
  • Puts the lander over the horizon to keep the descent out of the line of sight from the historic site
  • Deorbit braking stages should be targeted for impact points 2.0 km from landing sites and .5 km from crash/impact sites
  • No physical contacts with any U.S. lunar hardware

Apollo Sites

Apollo 11 and 17

  • Recommend that Apollos 11 and 17 are treated as unique with no visits
  • Apollo 11 – 75 radial meters away from descent stage
  • Apollo 17 – 225 radial meters away from descent stage
  • Protects all human activities at those sites

Apollo 12, 14, 15 and 16

  • Open for scientific investigation
  • Must stay 1 meter and 3 meters away from objects (depending upon type)
  • No restrictions on footprints and lunar rover tracks outside of specified areas
  • Laser ranging retro-reflectors (LRRRs) need to be carefully preserved because they are still being used for experiments today

Crash/Impact Sites

  • Surveyor – 1 meter buffer zone
  • Apollo 14 S-IVB – rovers can drive to rim of crater and observe. Entry into crater needs to be coordinated with NASA.

Rovers and Hoppers

  • Rovers – can drive within designated Apollo sites and around keep-out zones
  • Can’t stay overnight – if the rover dies, should be outside the exclusion zone
  • Landers of the hopper configuration are not allowed to land within the 2 km radius
  • Hoppers can do low altitude tangential flybys of lunar heritage sites.