H.R. 2617: Could the Next National Park Be On the Moon?
With a very low approval rating on Earth, the House of Representatives might have a chance to improve their standing in space, the Moon to be exact. Two House Democrats who sit on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee have introduced H.R. 2617, a bill "To establish the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park on the Moon, and for other purposes." Yes, Congress is looking into putting a national park on the Moon. While this may create polar opposite reactions ("Awesome!" and "What?"), there's the possibility that there's a bigger intent here than the next Ken Burns documentary. This is the most creative way to try and refund NASA.
NASA, like other federal agencies, has seen harsh budget cuts in recent years. The latest 2014 budget cut the planetary science division by $200 million. Infamously, the NASA space shuttle fleet program effectively ended in 2011, after 135 missions beginning in 1981. A draft bill that circulated in the House last month threatened to cut NASA's budget by another billion dollars.
Despite messages on why space needs to be explored, there is stark opposition to funding space exploration in any way. If "exploring space is" is typed into Google, the first phrase is, "a waste of time" followed by "a waste of money." Yet, there are those who are determined to revive NASA to full potential, including the House Democrats who introduced H.R. 2617, Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas).
As described before, the bill would set up a national park. The park would feature items left on the Moon, and would be managed by NASA in conjunction with the Department of Interior and the Smithsonian. Govtrack.us puts the bill's prognosis at 21% odds of getting past committee, and a 7% chance of being enacted. Perhaps 2014: A Space Odyssey won't be happening.
By itself, this seems like a silly resolution, which is why a larger plan would be more logical. H.R. 2617 notes that the creation of the park needs to happen one year after passing the resolution. It seems oddly complimentary of H.R. 2616, which establishes the agency's budget going forward.
To quote Yoda, "There is another!" Representative Edwards has also proposed a resolution "to authorize the programs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for fiscal years 2014, 2015, and 2016, and for other purposes." After all, how can we establish a national park without the shuttle funding to get up there?
Edwards and Johnson have pointed to commercial and private sector developments as a reason to establish the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park on the Moon. They're probably right. However, we're also years away from a feasible Disneyland on the Moon.
You have to hand it to them, though; this is a nice way to put pressure on the NASA funding cuts, or at least raise awareness. We're likely not going to see this park quite yet, but we're bound to see NASA revived first. That's the real first step for mankind.