Just before the new year rang in, Congress passed a law that protects the sites of the Apollo landings and the area around them. The policy also forces any company that wants to receive a contract to operate around the Moon with NASA must agree to do the same.
It might seem like the Moon is not a busy enough place and is large enough to not have to deal with this kind of issue. Things are about to get really busy, however, with countries like China having plans to launch several more lunar missions to compete with NASA’s Artemis program.
There will most likely be many missions to the Moon to get ready for the first crewed landing with Artemis III in over 50 years. Several test landings and demonstration missions are expected to take place over the coming years to certify human landing systems and commercial payload landers for operation.
Along with that, Apollo landed missions all across the lunar landscape to be able to gather science from different geological features. This causes the problem that unless you are going far away from the lunar equator, you will have to deal with making sure you don’t affect their sites.
Originally, the bill that was introduced by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) only protected the Apollo 11 landing site and had fees for violations. After review in the House, it was extended to all six landing sites and fees were removed.
“I saw Apollo bring out the best of America and the best of humanity. The efforts of Senators Peters and Cruz and Congressmen Johnson, Lucas, Horn, and Babin will help ensure the achievements of the Apollo program serve as a beacon of inspiration — not just for America but for people all over the world for generations to come.”
Thomas Stafford, Apollo 10 Astronaut
Any company that wishes to sign a contract with NASA will have to agree to follow the legislation laid out. The only time this can be broken is if the NASA Administrator allows it in cases of significant value.