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New Mexico State University

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NMSU professor part of group that spurred Hawaii legislation to protect moon artifacts

Hawaii is the third state in the country to recognize the significance of the Apollo 11 landing site on the moon and call for preserving its artifacts. A resolution urging the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to include Tranquility Base and associated artifacts on its prestigious World Heritage List was passed in April by the Hawaii Legislature.


Woman head and shoulders
NMSU anthropology professor Beth O?Leary was among a group who worked with Hawaii legislators on a resolution passed recently urging Unesco to add Tranquility Base to the World Heritage List. The legislation also designates ?Tranquility Base Day? in Hawaii this year on July 20, the 45th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

?It?s one more step toward our goal of getting every state on board,? said New Mexico State University professor Beth O?Leary. ?Hawaii?s resolution also includes the establishment of ?Tranquility Base Day,? which will be celebrated this year on July 20, the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.?

O?Leary, an anthropology professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, joined Rob Kelso, former NASA director of lunar commercial services and current executive director of Hawaii?s Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems and Lisa Westwood, archaeology professor at California State University, Chico, in meetings with Hawaii legislators last summer.

Hawaii?s role in the Apollo program includes the Kokee Tracking Station, which provided voice relay and telemetry data communications between the Apollo 11 astronauts and NASA?s mission control in Houston. The state was also instrumental in the splashdown and recovery of the Apollo 11 astronauts and their command module spacecraft when they returned from the moon.

New Mexico and California were the first two states to place the moon artifacts on their respective state?s historic registers in 2010. Last summer, two Texas Congresswomen consulted with O?Leary and filed the ?Apollo Lunar Legacy Act? which sought to establish a national park on the moon and also to urge UNESCO to add the landing sites to the World Heritage List.

?China just landed on the moon a few months ago. As the competition for the Google X Prize heats up and commercial space tourism moves closer to reality, the danger that artifacts from first moon landings could be impacted becomes more likely,? O?Leary said. ?We need to think ahead about preserving these artifacts before it?s too late.?

O?Leary was among a team of experts who developed NASA guidelines issued in 2011 to help protect artifacts on the lunar surface and the Apollo 11 and 17 landing sites. However, according to international treaty, no one owns the surface of the moon so the guidelines are not binding.

Efforts are continuing in the U.S. Congress with O?Leary, Westwood and Kelso in discussions with the Committee on Natural Resources and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, in the U.S. House of Representatives. O?Leary will visit Washington, D.C. later this month to meet with colleagues at NASA and the Smithsonian.

Although retiring from NMSU in June, O?Leary as professor emerita, will continue her drive to protect artifacts on the moon, which began more than 12 years ago. Her latest edited volume, ?The Archaeology and Heritage of the Human Movement into Space,? with P.J. Capelotti (Penn State) is in press with Springer. She is co-authoring ?In the Shadows of Saturn V: Apollo?s Hidden History? for University Press of Florida due to be completed next year.