Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Space archaeology

Space archaeology

Ask a question about 'Space archaeology'
Start a new discussion about 'Space archaeology'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
In archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

, space archaeology refers to the study of various human-made items found in space, their interpretation as clues to the adventures mankind has experienced in space, and their preservation as cultural heritage.

It includes launch complexes on Earth, orbital debris, satellites, and objects and structures on other celestial bodies such as Mars. It also includes the applied field of Cultural Resource or Heritage Management which evaluates the significance of space sites and objects in terms of national and international preservation laws. Cultural Resource or Heritage Management looks at what, how and why these artifacts of our recent history should be preserved for future generations.

Cultural heritage

Space tourism could affect archaeological artifacts, for example, on the Moon. The notion that cultural heritage is at stake and requires action to prevent deterioration or destruction is gaining ground. Perhaps artifacts (say, antiquated space stations) could be preserved in "museum orbit". Many such artifacts have been lost because they were not recognized and assessed. Experts assert that continuity and connection to the past are vital elements of survival in the modern world. A model has been suggested for international cooperation based upon Antarctica. Implications for cooperation interest anthropologists as well.

An unexpected ramification of this work is the development of techniques for detecting signs of life or technology on other planets, or extraterrestrial visitation on Earth. One facet of this work is the use of satellites for identifying structures of archeological significance.

Legal matters

The complexities and ambiguities of international legal structures to deal with these sites as cultural resources leave them vulnerable to impacts in the near future by many varieties of space travel. An outline of the legal situation was made by Schmitt and Armstrong. The governing law on the Moon and other celestial bodies is the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 based upon guidelines from experience in the Antarctic. Another source of ideas is the Law of the Sea. The Outer Space Treaty contains language stating that space objects remain under the jurisdiction of the originating state, and the civil and criminal laws of that state govern private parties both on the Moon and events leading up to such activity. State parties are to inform the public about the nature and result of their activities.

The later Moon Agreement of 1979 was signed but not ratified by many spacefaring nations. Schmitt and Armstrong believe this lack of ratification relates to disagreement over wording such as "the Moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind
Common heritage of mankind
Common heritage of mankind is a principle of international law which holds that defined territorial areas and elements of humanity's common heritage should be held in trust for future generations and be protected from exploitation by individual...

", which is taken as possibly excluding private activity, and objections to wording concerning the disruption of the existing environment.

For an extensive discussion see Schmitt and Armstrong. For the treaty text see UN treaty on outer space of 1967. For additional discussion of the legal documents look at the see also links below.

Background and history

During a graduate seminar at New Mexico State University in 1999, Ralph Gibson asked: "Does federal preservation law apply on the moon?" That question led to Gibson's thesis "Lunar Archaeology: The Application of Federal Historic Preservation Law to the Site where Humans first set foot upon the Moon", to a grant from the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium, and to creation of the Lunar Legacy Project.

In 2006, Dr. O‚ÄôLeary with New Mexico State Historic Preservation Officer Katherine Slick and the New Mexico Museum of Space History (NMMSH), documented the Apollo 11
Apollo 11
In early 1969, Bill Anders accepted a job with the National Space Council effective in August 1969 and announced his retirement as an astronaut. At that point Ken Mattingly was moved from the support crew into parallel training with Anders as backup Command Module Pilot in case Apollo 11 was...

 Tranquility Base archaeological site on the Moon. Some legal aspects of this work already have surfaced.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
The Lunar Precursor Robotic Program is a program of robotic spacecraft missions which NASA will use to prepare for future human spaceflight missions to the Moon. Two LPRP missions, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite , were launched in June 2009...

 has imaged all of the Apollo landing sites, as well as rediscovering the location of the first Lunokhod 1
Lunokhod 1
Lunokhod 1 was the first of two unmanned lunar rovers landed on the Moon by the Soviet Union as part of its Lunokhod program. The spacecraft which carried Lunokhod 1 was named Luna 17...

 rover, lost since 1971.

See also

  • Space colonization
    Space colonization
    Space colonization is the concept of permanent human habitation outside of Earth. Although hypothetical at the present time, there are many proposals and speculations about the first space colony...

  • Space station
    Space station
    A space station is a spacecraft capable of supporting a crew which is designed to remain in space for an extended period of time, and to which other spacecraft can dock. A space station is distinguished from other spacecraft used for human spaceflight by its lack of major propulsion or landing...

  • Mir
    Mir was a space station operated in low Earth orbit from 1986 to 2001, at first by the Soviet Union and then by Russia. Assembled in orbit from 1986 to 1996, Mir was the first modular space station and had a greater mass than that of any previous spacecraft, holding the record for the...

  • International Space Station
    International Space Station
    The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...

  • Space debris
    Space debris
    Space debris, also known as orbital debris, space junk, and space waste, is the collection of objects in orbit around Earth that were created by humans but no longer serve any useful purpose. These objects consist of everything from spent rocket stages and defunct satellites to erosion, explosion...

  • Robotic spacecraft
    Robotic spacecraft
    A robotic spacecraft is a spacecraft with no humans on board, that is usually under telerobotic control. A robotic spacecraft designed to make scientific research measurements is often called a space probe. Many space missions are more suited to telerobotic rather than crewed operation, due to...

  • Space exploration
    Space exploration
    Space exploration is the use of space technology to explore outer space. Physical exploration of space is conducted both by human spaceflights and by robotic spacecraft....

  • Tranquility Base
    Tranquility Base
    Tranquility Base was the name given by American astronaut Neil Armstrong to the landing site on the moon where the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle made the first moon landing....

  • Space architecture
    Space architecture
    Space architecture, in its simplest definition, is the theory and practice of designing and building inhabited environments in outer space. The architectural approach to spacecraft design addresses the total built environment, drawing from diverse disciplines including physiology, psychology, and...

  • List of Solar System probes

  • Cultural heritage management
    Cultural Heritage Management
    Cultural heritage management is the vocation and practice of managing cultural heritage. It is a branch of cultural resources management , although it also draws on the practices of conservation, restoration, museology, archaeology, history and architecture...

  • Historic preservation
    Historic preservation
    Historic preservation is an endeavor that seeks to preserve, conserve and protect buildings, objects, landscapes or other artifacts of historical significance...

Legal documents
  • Rescue Agreement
    Rescue Agreement
    The Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space, also referred to as the Rescue Agreement is an international agreement setting forth rights and obligations of states concerning the rescue of persons in space...

  • Outer Space Treaty
    Outer Space Treaty
    The Outer Space Treaty, formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law...

  • Registration Convention
    Registration Convention
    The Convention on Registration of Launched Objects into Outer Space was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1974 and went into force in 1976....

  • Moon Treaty
    Moon Treaty
    The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, better known as the Moon Treaty or Moon Agreement, is an international treaty that turns jurisdiction of all celestial bodies over to the international community...

  • Historic Preservation Act
    National Historic Preservation Act of 1966
    The National Historic Preservation Act is legislation intended to preserve historical and archaeological sites in the United States of America...

  • Law of the Sea
    United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
    The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea , also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, is the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea , which took place from 1973 through 1982...

  • Antarctic Treaty System
    Antarctic Treaty System
    The Antarctic Treaty and related agreements, collectively called the Antarctic Treaty System or ATS, regulate international relations with respect to Antarctica, Earth's only continent without a native human population. For the purposes of the treaty system, Antarctica is defined as all of the land...

Further reading

External links