WTF Fun Fact 12665 – The Initials On the Moon

Eugene Cernan walked on the moon twice, during the Apollo 10 and Apollo 17 missions. The Apollo 17 mission, which took place from December 7–19, 1972 was NASA’s final Apollo mission and the last time a human was on the moon. Cernan boarded last, making him the last man to set foot on the moon’s surface.

During Apollo 17, Cernan and his fellow astronaut, Harrison Schmitt spent 22 hours and 6 minutes outside, and they still hold the record for the longest extravehicular activity on the moon.

Cernan then drove the lunar rover about a mile away from the takeoff site so it could photograph the ship’s take-off the following day. Before he walked back to the lunar lander, he wrote in his autobiography that he knelt by the rover and drew his daughter Tracy’s initials into the moon dust.

Cernan spoke these words as he climbed into the lunar lander and left the moon:

As I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just (say) what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

The crew returned safely to Earth on Dec. 19, 1972. –  WTF fun fact

Source: “Eugene Cernan: Last Man on the Moon” — Space.com

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WTF Fun Fact 12639 – Prosecuting Space Crime

Pretty soon, it may be illegal for Canadian astronauts to go on crime sprees in space.

Now, we’re pretty sure that’s not why Canadians become astronauts in the first place, but apparently, you can never be too careful.

So, what’s this all about? Well, Canada just proposed an amendment to the country’s Criminal Code in their no-doubt riveting 443-page Budget Implementation Act in the House of Commons. It basically states that any crime committed in space by Canadians will be considered to have been committed on Canadian territory and punished accordingly. In other words, if you commit moon murder as a Canadian, you better not come back.

Interestingly, Canada has been preparing for space crime for a while now. Their Criminal Code already lays out prohibitions on crimes Canadian astronauts may commit during space flight to the International Space Station. accounts for astronauts who may commit crimes during space flights to the International Space Station.

Canada is part of the Lunar Gateway Project, a NASA-backed orbiting space platform. Part of that plan includes a trip to the moon, and apparently, the government wants to make sure Canadians maintain their reputation for being polite even among extraterrestrials.

The proposed code change reads:

“A Canadian crew member who, during a space flight, commits an act or omission outside Canada that if committed in Canada would constitute an indictable offense is deemed to have committed that act or omission in Canada.”

There are two interesting questions at play here – 1) who controls space justice, and 2) what gives a country the right to say space in their territory for prosecutorial purposes?

If you think space crime is absurd, there have already been accusations that have raised questions (however, no crime actually occurred). In 2019, astronaut Anne McClain was accused by her estranged spouse, Summer Worden, of improperly accessing bank records from the International Space Station. But McClain was later cleared after her spouse admitted to lying.

Still, it made people wonder how we might prosecute crimes in space, where no one technically owns territory (yet) and no one has jurisdiction.

Now, we already have some guidelines for international space law, believe it or not. According to CBC News:

“‘There are five international treaties governing activities in space but the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, ratified by Canada and more than 100 other countries, is the most relevant when it comes to dealing with alleged crimes in space, wrote Danielle Ireland-Piper, an associate professor of constitutional and international law at Australia’s Bond University. ‘As for the question of who prosecutes space crimes, the short answer is that a spacefaring criminal would generally be subject to the law of the country of which they are a citizen, or the country aboard whose registered spacecraft the crime was committed.'”

But things might be different if the astronaut-on-astronaut crime occurs between two different nations. In that case, there might be some disagreement about which country is able to prosecute the space offender. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Crimes on the moon could soon be added to Canada’s Criminal Code” — CBC News

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WTF Fun Fact 12451 – The Bishop of the Moon

Archbishop William D. Borders was the founding bishop of the Diocese of Orlando, established in 1968. It covered 13 counties and nearly 10,000 square miles of central Florida. And possibly the moon.

Now, the Catholic Church has made no claim at all to the moon, but Borders’ territory happened to include Brevard, Florida, home to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that is where the U.S. launches its space missions.

At the time of the moon landing in July of 1969, many religious leaders praised the space program, seeing it as proof that God’s creation was neverending.

But for Borders, the moon landing was a little more personal. According to the 1917 Code of Canon Law (aka The Pio-Benedictine Code), which was in effect until 1983, any newly discovered territory was to be placed under the jurisdiction of the diocese from which the expedition that discovered that territory originated.

In other words, since the Apollo 11 mission launched from Cape Canaveral and that was in Borders’ territory, it was technically under his jurisdiction. A couple of other bishops joked that they might have dibs, but it was all in good fun.

In fact, to keep the joke going, Bishop Borders mentioned this to Pope Paul VI on a visit to the Vatican in late 1969. The pope had watched the moon landing with great interest (the Vatican has one of the best observatories in the world), but we’re not quite sure what he thought of the claim.

The story of their meeting comes to us via Renae Bennett, Orlando’s diocesan archivist, who wrote:

During his visit, Bishop Borders mentioned to the pope that he was the ‘bishop of the moon.’ Responding to the pontiff’s perplexed reaction, Bishop Borders explained that according to the 1917 Code of Canon Law (in effect at that time), any newly discovered territory was placed under the jurisdiction of the diocese from which the expedition that discovered that territory originated. Since Cape Canaveral, launching site for the Apollo moon missions, was in Brevard County and part of the Diocese of Orlando, then in addition to being bishop of 13 counties, he was also bishop of the moon,” Bennett wrote. That would add more than 14.6 million square miles to the Diocese of Orlando, making that diocese the largest in the known universe.”

Of course, it all means very little, but that’s what makes it a fun fact.

Another fun fact: This would all make the current Bishop of Orlando, John G. Noonan, not only bishop of the moon but also of the International Space Station, which launched from Kennedy Space Center. – WTF fun facts

Source: “A Catholic bishop of the moon?” — The Catholic Weekly

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