Another advantage of being in Leicester is that you don’t know who is going to drop in. On Friday it was John Campbell from JCU Cairns. He’s been working with Alice Gorman on the Space Heritage problem since WAC 5. Perhaps the biggest problem is getting people to recognise there’s a space heritage problem.
He’s a nice guy, if a little intimidating as he seems at home talking about any subject. Conversation skipped from extremophiles to the last glaciation and hunter / gatherer strategies. Along the way we talked about Mir.
Imagine we could find the spot where Columbus first stepped onto Hispaniola, or where the Vikings first landed in the new world. Now imagine it was decided to destroy. Say, the beach was to be scooped out and made into a harbour for yuppies. Would this be a problem? Mir, John says, is a similar place. It was the first successful long-term space station. It wasn’t just used by the USSR, it also hosted Americans and peoples from other nations. It was the place where serious international cooperation in space began. And it doesn’t exist anymore because it was crashed into the Pacific, somewhere between New Zealand and South America. A historic place has been destroyed more effectively than the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan.
The Russians did recognise the importance of the station and did appeal for help to boost it to a higher orbit to preserve the site, but no-one else was interested. Without the funds from a safety point of view crash-landing was the only feasible option.
John also pointed out that Tranquility Base meets more or less every criterion of being a world heritage site, except for being on this world. His opinion is that the footprints there are equal in importance to the footprints at Laetoli.
It’s interesting that in this case the future has arrived. 2001 might not have bought robots in every home, or cheap spaceflight to moon bases. However, extra-terrestrial archaeology is an issue.