NMSU professor emerita and co-authors launch space preservation book

New Mexico State University anthropology professor emerita Beth O’Leary will join co-authors Lisa Westwood and Milford Wayne Donaldson for a panel discussion and a book signing for “The Final Mission: Preserving NASA’s Apollo Sites” at 5-7 p.m. on Monday, April 10th at Kent Hall Museum on the NMSU campus. NMSU History professor Jon Hunner will be the moderator. Barnes & Noble will have books available. The event is free and open to the public.

NMSU professor emerita and co-authors launch space preservation book
Photo from the book “The Final Mission.” Section of the Daisy Test Track previously at Holloman Air Force Base and currently at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo. The Daisy Test Track allowed researchers to test g-forces on human subjects in the 1950s. (photo by Beth O’Leary)

“There is over 190 metric tons of cultural material on the moon—not just a few random artifacts and golf balls,” O’Leary said. “The landing of Apollo 11 at Tranquility Base was a pivotal event not just in U.S. history, but also in the history of space exploration. The lunar landing sites and key sites here on Earth linked to the Apollo program should be protected.”

O’Leary has become a nationally recognized expert in the emerging field of space heritage and archaeology as the founder of the New Mexico Space Grant Lunar Legacy Project. Westwood is director of cultural resources at ECORP Consulting, Inc. and a professional archaeologist and Donaldson is chairman of the national Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

NMSU professor emerita and co-authors launch space preservation book
NMSU professor emerita Beth O’Leary, Lisa Westwood and Milford Wayne Donaldson, co-authors of “The Final Mission: Preserving NASA’s Apollo Sites,” will participate in a panel discussion moderated by NMSU History professor Jon Hunner from 5-7 p.m. on Monday, April 10th at NMSU’s Kent Hall.

In “The Final Mission,” the authors trace the history of the Space Race and many locations that contributed to lunar exploration including training and manufacturing centers across the country. The High Speed Test Track at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico and Santa Susana Field Laboratory in California are just a few described. Many are unrecognized and have fallen into ruin or disappeared completely. The book details key locations as well as footprints and items left on the moon as cultural resources, calling for the urgent preservation of space heritage.

While a professor in NMSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, O’Leary in 2000 began advocating that the Apollo 11 moon landing site at Tranquility Base be recognized as a National Historic Landmark. This is her third book on the subject of space heritage preservation. O’Leary, Westwood and Donaldson, along with others have continued a push to protect all cultural heritage sites related to space exploration, particularly the Apollo lunar landing sites. The book contains more than 70 photos and illustrations.

In 2010 with help from NMSU anthropology students, Tranquility Base was placed on the State Register of Cultural Properties. So far, three states — California, New Mexico, and Hawaii — have added the artifacts on the moon to their state registers. The next step is to gain federal recognition. Based on international law, NASA still owns what it left on the moon but the Outer Space Treaty prevents any country from making claims on the lunar surface. One proposal would add Tranquility Base to the United Nations’ list of World Heritage Sites but right now nations may only nominate sites in their own territory.

“It would be a tragedy to lose something like Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin’s footprints or the American flag they planted. These lunar landing sites are not just part of our American heritage but are part of an extraordinary cultural landscape that documents our human heritage in space.”
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