Right now, there’s no legal framework preventing people from destroying or selling culturally-important landmarks in space.
For instance, as space travel becomes more common, an opportunistic someone could find a way to steal and auction off the first bootprints left on the moon by Neil Armstrong, warns University of Mississippi Air and Space Law professor Michelle Hanlon in an essay published Friday in The Conversation.
Hanlon cites damage to landmarks like the Pyramids of Gaza or Terracotta Army by tourists who break off pieces to take home as evidence that people can’t be trusted to preserve landmarks of their own volition.
“There is no law against running over the first bootprints imprinted on the moon,” Hanlon wrote. “Or erasing them. Or carving them out of the moon’s regolith and selling them to the highest bidder.”