NASA releases moon landing guidelines for Google Lunar X Prize

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., the lunar module pilot of the first lunar landing mission, stands next to a United States flag July 20, 1969, during an Apollo 11 Extravehicular Activity (EVA) on the surface of the Moon. NASA/Newsmakers

(CBS) The teams competing for Google's Lunar X Prize have agreed that if they reach the moon, they will abide by NASA's guidelines to protect historic sites on the lunar surface - like the sites of the Apollo moon landings.

The Lunar X Prize is a $30 million competition sponsored by Google that calls for a privately-funded landing of a robot rover on the moon by the end of 2015. Twenty-six teams are vying for the prize.

The guidelines, according to NASA, were put together with the cooperation of the X Prize Foundation, which is overseeing the competition, along with the teams. 

"NASA and the next generation of lunar explorers," the NASA press release says, "share a common interest in preserving humanity's first steps on another celestial body and protecting ongoing science from the potentially damaging effects of nearby landers."

The guidelines protect artifacts from the Apollo moon landings and unmanned lunar landing sites, as well as "indicators of U.S. human, human-robotic lunar presence, including footprints, rover tracks, etc."

Portions of the Lunar X Prize will be awarded based on various accomplishments, including, fittingly, photographing the protected sites: "Additional bonus prizes," the X prize Foundation says, "will be awarded for photographing a Lunar Heritage, Apollo or Surveyor spacecraft site."

Last week SpaceX, a privately-funded space exploration venture, successfully launched a capsule delivering supplies to the International Space Station.

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