WASHINGTON — To visit the new national park proposed by a Maryland congresswoman would require a 239,000-mile journey and an oxygen tank.
On the plus side: There would be plenty of parking.
Rep. Donna Edwards, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Space Subcommittee, has introduced legislation that would establish a national park on the surface of the moon to commemorate NASA's Apollo program.
The Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act directs the federal government to endow the artifacts left on the moon's surface as a park — protected from future landings or commercial mining.
The legislation would also require the government to pursue nominating the Apollo 11 landing zone as a United Nations World Heritage Site.
"In 1969, led by the late Apollo Astronaut Neil Armstrong, American ingenuity changed history as humanity took a giant leap forward on the surface of the moon," Edwards said on the House floor Tuesday.
"That history, as preserved on the lunar surface, is now in danger, as spacefaring commercial entities and foreign nations begin to achieve the technical capabilities necessary to land spacecraft on the surface of the moon," the Prince George's County lawmaker said.
Artifacts on the moon's surface include U.S. flags, a memorial to fallen astronauts and cosmonauts left by the Apollo 15 mission — not to mention the golf balls struck by Apollo 14 commander Alan Shepard in 1971.
The proposal is partly a response to a 2011 NASA report that explored the potential impact of commercial lunar visits on the landing sites and artifacts — which, despite their far-flung location, remain U.S. government property.
The report notes that several commercial firms have contacted NASA seeking guidance on how to approach the "space assets."
A NASA spokesman could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Edwards, who also introduced broader legislation to authorize increased spending on NASA over the next three years, has 11 co-sponsors on the lunar park bill. All of them are Democrats.
"The Apollo lunar program was one of the greatest achievements in American history," the legislation reads. "As commercial enterprises and foreign nations acquire the ability to land on the moon it is necessary to protect the Apollo lunar landing sites for posterity."