Proposals seem to constantly surface for additions to the National Park System here in the United States, but have you ever thought about establishing parks elsewhere in the universe? The folks at Space.com have.
And really, what better way to preserve a landscape than to set it aside as a park even before humans reach the planet where it's located?
"It's a wilderness out there in outer space. And as robotic surrogates set the stage for human footprints on Mars and other planetary bodies, just how much respect for other worlds should we have?," writes Leonard David, Space.com's Space Insider columnist. "One suggested response would establish planetary parks for the solar system, an answer that ties together space science and exploration, ethics, law, policy, diplomacy and communications."
What sort of landscapes might such parks preserve? Well, Mars certainly has some interesting landscapes: extinct shield volcanoes, polar ice caps, deep canyons, deserts, mountain ranges. And maybe a historic park where the Mars rovers landed and surveyed the Red Planet.
Part of the idea of setting aside unique landscapes as parks would be to protect them from human space exploration. And not just government-sponsored exploration, but that of private companies.
What rules might govern such planetary parks? Well, Mr. David, former director of research for the National Commission on Space and a past editor-in-chief of the National Space Society's Ad Astra and Space World magazines, offers the following suggestions for parks on Mars:
* No spacecraft or vehicle parts to be left within the park
* No landing of unmanned spacecraft within the park
* No waste to be left within the park
* Access only on foot or via surface vehicle along predefined routes, or by landing in a rocket-powered vehicle in predefined landing areas
* All suits, vehicles and other machines used in the park to be sterilized on their external surfaces to prevent microbial shedding