Congress and the federal government are routinely ridiculed for not being fully tethered to the real world. And for good reason:

• The State Department recently spent $630,000 to get users to “like” their Facebook page.

• A new federal law requires hotels, restaurants and airlines to accommodate miniature horses as service animals.

Not surprisingly, loud guffaws could be heard from coast to coast this week when two members of Congress introduced a bill to establish a national park on the moon. “Spaced Out” and “Lunar Lugnuts” were two of the kinder remarks.

Behind the bill, however, is a serious concern about preserving historic artifacts produced by lunar landings that began in 1969 with Neil Armstrong’s “One Giant Leap for Mankind.” There are abundant scientific and historical reasons to protect the Sea of Tranquility as much as Gettysburg or the Liberty Bell.

The surface of the moon contains several Apollo landing zones where space equipment and moon-walking gear remain. Nearly two dozen other sites hold robotic artifacts from Ranger and other lunar probes. Preserving these sites and artifacts for future generations is a worthy goal.

Prompting the legislation are plans by commercial space companies to bring space tourists to the moon within the next decade. More urgently, Google has offered a prize of $20 million to any private team that lands a robot on the moon. Another $4 million goes to a team that snaps pictures of artifacts at Apollo landing sites.

NASA, our nation’s space department, is concerned enough to have issued a 93-page report to the “next generation of lunar explorers.” It recommends flight paths and exclusion zones to preserve the historic and scientific value of past moon expeditions.

The lunar national parks bill, HR 2617, will be reviewed by two House committees: Science, Space & Technology and Natural Resources. Two Oregon legislators are members: Suzanne Bonamici and Peter DeFazio.

Whether this bill is the proper approach to protecting U.S. heritage on an international globe circling the earth is questionable. But protecting that history deserves serious consideration by government, private industry and other nations.

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