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NASA asks Lunar X Prize contestants to keep a safe distance

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NASA has published a set of guidelines intended to protect the impact sites of the Apollo and Ranger missions.

lunar rectangle
lunar rectangle

NASA may not be planning any more lunar missions, but it is looking to preserve the historic Apollo and Ranger impact sites. As Wired reports, the Google Lunar X Prize — a $20 million competition of 26 teams attempting to send robots to the Moon — has NASA worried that the original landing sites could be permanently damaged.

As they are now, the sites are preserved by the Moon's low gravity and non-existent atmosphere, but could be damaged if the X Prize robots kick up highly abrasive Moon dust in their wake. To prevent this, NASA suggests that robot operators stay at least 1.2 miles from Apollo and 1,600 feet from the Ranger site. Despite this, NASA is asking that any team that makes it to the Moon travel to the limit of these sites and take pictures. NASA is hoping to gain scientific insight as to how its lunar instruments have aged over the last 40 years. We're eager to see what they bring back: new photos would seriously fly in the face of our favorite Moon landing conspiracy theories.