Since the launch of human exploration to the moon, preservation of cultural heritage on the moon becomes an important project. This article aims at discussing the legal framework of how to preserve cultural heritage on the moon.
I will first discuss what constitutes “cultural heritage” in the legal language. On an international level, relevant clauses under the Outer Space Treaty (OST) and the Moon Treaty will be examined. Under Article II of the OST, outer space, including the moon “is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” Article 4 of the Moon Treaty emphasizes that “due regard shall be paid to the interests of present and future generations.” In a domestic setting, in certain jurisdictions such as the United States, the White House and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has made plans on how to protect cultural heritage on the moon.
Meanwhile, we can learn from two historical lessons. One is the experience of protection of cultural heritage on earth by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). However, under the current legal framework of United Nations World Heritage Convention, no state can claim sovereignty over the moon while states can only nominate sites within their territory. I will discuss the possibility of claiming the moon as whole as a cultural heritage site. The other is protection of resources in the Antarctic under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. Article 11 creates a Committee for Environmental Protection for the continent. In addition, there are concrete efforts made by NGOs such as For All Moonkind.
In conclusion, the preservation of cultural heritage on the moon requires a systematic legal framework, and the concerted efforts of all parties on different levels including States, international organisations and NGOs.