Congress

Gordon: lunar base offers “promise”

Saturday’s issue of The Tennessean features a number of editorials and op-eds on NASA’s plans to establish a lunar base, including an essay by Rep. Bart Gordon, incoming chairman of the House Science Committee. Gordon likens a lunar base to existing bases in Antarctica in terms of scientific and strategic importance:

Like our bases in Antarctica, a moon base appears to offer the promise of a research facility that could advance our knowledge, prepare the nation for future exploration and promote international cooperation in science and technology. And like our presence in Antarctica, it’s strategically important for us to be on the moon, given other nations will eventually be there, too.

However, Gordon said he and others in Congress need more details about the base from NASA, and signs from the administration that they’re serious about the project by requesting the appropriate amount of funding for the overall exploration program: “If a return to the moon is really the president’s priority, he needs to come up with the funds required, not simply take money from NASA’s other core missions and programs.”

An editorial in the same issue endorses, to some degree, the lunar base plans, although not on its scientific merits so much as for national spirit: “…inherent in the debate over the choices the United States makes over space exploration is the nice realization that in terms of discovery, America has a can-do spirit again.”

42 comments to Gordon: lunar base offers “promise”

  • I think that it’s very dangerous to draw analogies with Antarctica, because many will be inclined to take them too far, in that it will be viewed as primarily for science, and that the local resources will be off limits…

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Rand is certainly correct. There is going to be a big fight in about twenty or so years over making the Moon a science park, like Antarctica, keeping those grubby businessfolk out. No need to encourage that crowd.

  • Mark,
    The best way to prevent that from happening would be to actually try encouraging commercial lunar development, instead of going about things the normal NASA way. If commercial industry beats everyone else back to the moon, people will be hard pressed trying to screw them. If big government programs end up paving the way (as you seem to prefer), it’ll be a lot easier for them to pull an Antartica on us.

    ~Jon

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Jon, two problems with your argument (three, actually, since “government paving the way” is not so much “what I prefer” as what is going to be.

    First, it doesn’t matter if NASA or Blue Sky Space Company is the first on the Moon. The environmental lobby will try to sue in court to stop private development of the Moon. The one thing that is needed is some sort of authority respecting and defending the rights of property on the Moon to help prevent that.

    Second, even if one were to disband NASA tomorrow, the new age of private lunar development would not be assured. Some other government (the Chinese most likely) will be first on the Moon and any private company will operate on the Moon on their sufference. I would rather have the United States, which at least gives lip service to free market capitalism, leading the way than a Communist tyranny.

  • Bill White

    One way to circumvent the environmental lobby is for a private sector lunar mining operation to be situated in a foreign (Anglosphere friendly) jurisdiction such as Singapore.

    Just make sure pro-American people are running that show. Supportive elements within the US government can also help clear roadblocks and offer quiet support.

  • Adrasteia

    Mark, the only tyrannical communists left in the world are in Cuba. I don’t see Castro’s younger brother starting a space program any time soon.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Adrasteis – That would come as a surprise to people being tortured and killed not only in China, but North Korea.

    By the way, I would not be surprised if post Castro Cuba becomes a prime launch site for some quick thinking entrepeneurs.

  • Adrasteia

    I wouldn’t be too worried about the North Korean space program either. Ofcourse, I also don’t live in Japan. ;)

    Back to the topic, I don’t believe that any of these state funded efforts are going to open up space to any useful economic activity at any time in the foreseeable future. They’re simply overfunded and ludicrously inefficient glamour projects. Now, perhaps the almighty USA! USA! USA! needs a ludicrously inefficient glamour project to defend ourselves against those godless commies. I suspect not.

  • Drew

    Interesting recent essay on lunar development in the Antarctic model at the link below.

    http://www.mises.org/story/2421

  • Thomas Matula

    Jon,

    Folks forget that commercial interests got to Antarctica long before scientists or government. Antarctica was discovered by Nathaniel B. Palmer a sealer out of New England hunting seals. Until the 1950’s sealing and whaling were major commercial activities (and BIG money) in Antarctica waters. Commercial outposts that served the industry, like South Georgia, where major staging grounds for Antarctic explorers, many of whom bought used ships originally designed for commercial activities in Antarctica. Scientists would go there once every few years. The sealers and whalers were there quietly making money every year. The current model of placing the Antarctic off limits for resource development was a result of U.S. policy in the late 1950’s and ignored the history of commerce there for over 130 years.

    BTW there is still major economic activities going on in Antarctica. Last year over 25,000 tourists visited it, and tourist companies probably take more scientists to Antarctica as eco-guides then the NSF sends for research. The firms that take tourists there even have their own trade association. http://www.iaato.org/

    Commercial interests getting to the Moon first won’t prevent it being point off limits. Key is to leverage the amendment process of the Moon Treaty by creating a lunar authority favorable to western business interests. It was done with the Law of the Sea Treaty in 1992, creating a new authority which makes mining the sea floor easier then opening a new mine in the U.S. Only reason there is no rush to mine is that the market prices for the sea floor minerals makes it uneconomical to do so. Second option is to create a U.S. based lunar development authority to protect and promote U.S. commercial interests on the moon.

    Tom

  • Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, the Australian Antarctic Division is in the process of building a 4200m runway near Casey station. If they’re sensible, they’ll allow tourist traffic.

    It’d be a hell of a task to de-ice it though. ;)

  • Ferris Valyn

    Tom,
    Using the Moon Treaty is probably a bad idea. For one thing, the Moon treaty outlaws private ownership. Also it was only ratified by a few countries.
    Now, the outer space treaty would make more sense, since many countries ratified it, and it doesn’t explicitly outlaw private ownership (although it could be argued that it does).

  • I can’t see how the environmental lobby will be very concerned about development on the moon. It’s outside the Earth’s biosphere and wouldn’t affect life here much from an environmental point of view.

    However, if people set up solar power facilities on the lunar surface and beamed power back here, then there will be perfectly legitimate concerns about the impacts of large amounts of microwave energy passing through the atmosphere. It will be incumbent upon supporters of such ideas to demonstrate that the impacts would be minimal and preferable to other forms of energy.

    The lunar treaty will be an obstacle, but I would doubt it would be a major problem. How many countries actually signed it. If the current U.S. government has shown anything, it’s that you can easily withdraw from international treaties, or at least “clarify” them in a way that renders them more or less useless.

  • Drew wrote:

    >Interesting recent essay on lunar development in the Antarctic model at the link below.

    >http://www.mises.org/story/2421

    Interesting story by a geologist about developing Antarctica for habitation while extracting mining, gas and oil resources. Apparently he foresees people living in vast underground caverns, not just for financial gain but also for the “freedom” that residing under permafrost will afford them. (I guess he sees it as a refuge from the highly developed democracies from which he hopes the settlers would hail.)

    It doesn’t seem to take much into account the environmental damage that could be done to the continent. That needs to be carefully thought through. The author doesn’t even seem to consider it, so I don’t imagine any arguments on this will sway him.

  • Thomas Matula

    Ferris,

    As much as space advocates may wish, the Moon Treaty is not going away. The number of nations that have ratified it is up to 12 now, including Australia and Mexico. France and India have signed, but not ratified it. NASA’s plans for a lunar base has renewed interest in it, like it ot not.

    Rather then waiting for some future liberal president and Congress wanting to look good to the UN to make the Moon Treaty into law (imagine Carter had won in 1980, not Reagan…) its better to deal with it now.

    Article 18 provides for a review and rewrite of the treaty, if 1/3 of signatories request and a majority approve. That would allow Article 11 to be completely rewritten in a way beneficial to private interests. This would have been a lot easier to done a decade ago when only 5 nations had ratified it. It will be a lot harder to do when the number creeps up to 100 or so, as is likely now attention is once again drawn to the Moon’s resources and emerging nations want to get into the game. Something to think about…

    Tom

  • al Fansome

    MARK WHITTINGTON said: Some other government (the Chinese most likely) will be first on the Moon and any private company will operate on the Moon on their sufference. I would rather have the United States, which at least gives lip service to free market capitalism, leading the way than a Communist tyranny.

    Mark,

    I believe that you mistated your point. I can make a good case that that the Chinese communist tyrants are, in some ways, more “free market capitalists” than the U.S.

    I believe that you meant to say that you would like the U.S., which is a champion and advocate of *DEMOCRACY, to lead the way.

    If this is what you meant, I agree with you. Spreading (and expanding) human freedom on the new frontier is one of the most compelling reasons (at least for me) to open the space frontier.

    - Al

  • al Fansome

    TOM MATULA said: Key is to leverage the amendment process of the Moon Treaty by creating a lunar authority favorable to western business interests. It was done with the Law of the Sea Treaty in 1992, creating a new authority which makes mining the sea floor easier then opening a new mine in the U.S. Only reason there is no rush to mine is that the market prices for the sea floor minerals makes it uneconomical to do so.

    Dr. Matula,

    You have some interesting ideas, but Jon’s point stands. The existing Moon Treaty is completely unacceptable. Our goal/objective must be to expand property rights and commercial activity on the Moon (and other celestial bodies).

    What you have proposed is one possible *TACTIC* that might support this strategic objective.

    I won’t rule out your proposed tactic — but (again) the Moon Treaty as it currently exists is completely unacceptable. Your proposal is the equivalent to writing a completely new treaty, and then substituting it, in its entirety, for the old treaty as “an amendment”. This might work as an end game tactic, but we should not design our strategy around it. To do so would be completely defensive, and create a weak negotiating position, as we would need to get those who hate free markets to agree.

    I doubt that any U.S. President (Democrat or Republican) would paint themselves into such a position if they did not have to.

    In my opinion, starting out by negotiating with the current signatories of the Moon Treaty — who happen to represent and ardent anti-capitalist socialist viewpoint — increases the likelihood of failure. Without knowing much more about the REAL positions of the major spacefaring nations (and I would have to work in the part of the State Department that deals with this issue to really understand what some of the countries believed on this issue), my instinct tells me to do something a little different, such as:

    1) Write our own “capitalist” version of the Moon Treaty.

    2) Talk first to other nations who support free market approaches in space (and persuade them to sign on). Conduct the initial negotiations on basic principals among a small set of countries who share similar values, and who are willing to put “skin in the game”.

    3) After this smaller group agrees, we then offer it to other nations to sign on (independent of the existing treaty).

    It would change the entire political dynamic if the U.S. and Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, South Korea, Australia, and Russia announced that they had agreed to basic principals that would be encapsulated in a new capitalist moon treaty. And then invited other nations to sign their new treaty. (At this point, if it makes sense, we might propose it as an amendment in the nature of substitute for the old Moon treaty. But at this point I don’t know why we would want to do this, as opposed to just signing a new treaty.)

    Negotiating a new framework, for activity on the space frontier, is totally achievable with a small bit of political leadership by the U.S.

    Let’s not hand cuff ourselves before we start.

    - Al

  • Tom,
    The moon treaty isn’t going away, but I don’t think we actually need to worry about it.

    As far as Carter winning the 80 election, we’d have been better off IMHO. Much better off.

    Finally, as more countries enter into space, I suspect more and more will regaurd it as a failure

    Finally, you ignore the quick and dirty way around it – A group of people setting their own country up on the moon

    If your concern is about treaties, frankly the outerspace treaty is a larger issue.

  • Thomas Matula

    Al,

    [[[anti-capitalist socialist]]] Gee, that is the first time I heard someone refer that way to Australia, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands… All nations who have Ratified it. France – maybe :-) But India is becoming more capitalist then the U.S. And both have signed it, but not yet ratified it.

    A new treaty is nice, but you need to get it out of COPUS which requires a majority of the 160 plus nations which belong, much harder to do. Very unlikely.

    And don’t forget the Moon Treaty was negoiated by U.S. Representatives under the Carter Administration, who likely would have signed it. It was the Reagan Administration that marked the shift away from agreements like the Moon Treaty and the Law of the Sea.

    BTW you do know that the U.S. used a similar strategy to address the problem of Article 11 of the Law of the Sea Treaty, and that there has been a campaign underway the last couple of years for the U.S. to sign the Law of the Sea Treaty now that Article 11 has been revised?

    http://www.brook.edu/comm/policybriefs/pb137.htm

    [[[On February 25, 2004, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously recommended that the United States accede to the Law of the Sea Convention, which sets forth a comprehensive framework of rules for governing the oceans. The recommendation followed two hearings in which the committee heard testimony supporting the Convention from the Bush administration, the armed services, ocean industries, and environmental groups, among others. Following the favorable report from Foreign Relations, other congressional committees held hearings at which several lawmakers raised concerns about the treaty.]]]

    It was stopped by the Republican majority in the Senate, which dosen’t exist anymore…

    So don’t be too sure the Moon Treaty is history. Its only been side-lined because NO ONE was interested in the Moon. That is now changing as China, India, Russian, and U.S. all have lunar plans…

    Its better to change it now, when you have only a handful of countries to deal with, and many of which want favors from the U.S. like Mexico, Philippines, Peru and Chile, then wait until dozens of nations have signed it, far too many for the U.S. to influence.

    I don’t know about you, but I would trade a fence with Mexico, which won’t work, or letting Chile join NAFTA in exchange for a free enterprise friendly revision of the Moon Treaty.

    Then you have International law in your favor, instead of needing to fight it.

    Oh, and don’t forget. If you are launching an lunar mining mission, don’t launch from “anti-capitalist socialist” Australia or your mission will be govern by its laws, including the Moon Treaty.

    Tom

  • Thomas Matula

    Ferris,

    The Carter Administration negotiated it, why do you think they wouldn’t have signed it? And the Democratic Congress ratified it? It was the Reagan Administration which stopped it.

    The problem with the Outer Space Treaty is that you would need two-thirds of the 98 countries that have ratified it to agree to any amendment. Much more difficult to do.

    A lunar revolution, a la Hienlien, sound nice, but would be a long long way in the future and may never happen if there is no commerce on the moon for settlers.

    Tom

  • Tom
    I still regaurd Carter as a better president than reagen, and think as a society, we would’ve been better off.

    As far as choosing the Moon Treaty vs the Outer Space Treaty, IMHO the OST has to be dealt with as well as the Moon Treaty, so it would make more sense to write off the Moon Treaty as failed, and modify the OST.

    And I don’t think its as far as most people. After all, I argue that we’ve already started colonization

  • Thomas Matula

    Ferris,

    The Moon Treaty was created to plug the gaps in the OST on activities on celestial bodies. Fixing the OST will not make the Moon Treaty disappear. Ignoring it is just leaving a messy job for future generations of advocates to deal with, one that may kill space development as more and more nations join it.

    You know treaties are not like normal laws, where if it fails to pass its done with. Once the critical number of states sign a treaty its part of international law for those that signed, and available for more to sign when ready. The Moon Treaty had the critical number, 5, sign it many years ago so its part of international law regardless of what advocates think of it. One liberal President and a willing liberal Congress could still make it U.S. law someday, maybe in a few years, maybe in 20…

    Folks thought they killed the Law of the Sea Treaty at the same time, and yet it may well be passed by the next administration as the link I presented showed. If it is the Moon Treaty could well be next. All it would take is someone like an Al Gore to champion in favor of better global relations and protecting the space environment and the Moon, and most other objects in space are as gone as the mineral wealth of Antarctica.

    Tom

  • Tom,
    Some things
    1 – International treaties also don’t apply unless they are ratified by a country. As yet, we haven’t ratified. Part of a revision of the OST could include the elimination of the Moon treaty
    2 – Apparently, you missed it – noted champion of the enviroment Al Gore believe that space privatization is a good thing.

    3 – Finally, I’d appreciate you not impling that any and all liberals are out to end space travel and space colonization. This is one proud liberal, who believes in the cause of space colonization.

  • Thomas Matula

    Ferris,

    Space colonization does not require privatization. Look at Australia or some of the early French colonies.

    Also the only way to eliminate the Moon Treaty is if all 12 nations that have signed it withdraw from it. A revision of OST will not have an impact on it.

  • Jeff Foust

    Tom:

    You write about the Moon Treaty: “NASA’s plans for a lunar base has renewed interest in it, like it ot not.” Can you provide some data regarding how the lunar base plans, or the overall Vision for Space Exploration, have renewed interest in the treaty? Have additional countries signed and/or ratified the treaty in the last few years, citing the VSE as the reason for doing so? Have there been other official expressions of interest about the treaty?

  • Chance

    Since the moon does not have a biosphere, why would the environmental lobby object to private development there? Are there any actual examples of a major environmental organization opposing private moon development, or are they just being used as the whipping boy/bogeyman in this argument?

  • al Fansome

    TOM MATULA said: [[[anti-capitalist socialist]]] Gee, that is the first time I heard someone refer that way to Australia, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands… All nations who have Ratified it. France – maybe :-) But India is becoming more capitalist then the U.S. And both have signed it, but not yet ratified it.

    Dr. Matula,

    Not sure where you are going with this, but by content analysis (e.g., If you read the treaty) it is clearly an anti-capitalist socialist treaty.

    The fact of the matter is that the Moon Treaty is product of its times. India was a proud socialist country, which is only recently becoming open to free market approaches. With respect to the European countries of Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands … let’s just say that socialism is alive and quite well there.

    More importantly, none of these countries incurred ANY downsides in signing this treaty. They had ZERO skin in the game when the signed it.

    The questions you still have not answered are:

    1) “What benefit would the U.S. get out of a signing *a* Moon treaty?”

    and

    2) “Is there an alternative approach to getting those same benefits that is better?” (NOTE: I can think of many alternatives for the hypothetical benefits you might name in answer to the first question.)

    - Al

    PS — If & when it looks like the Moon will be developed by U.S. interests, we will be in the driver’s seat on setting up the rules of the road. I have zero interest in “negotiating” with other countries who have zero skin in the game — and thus will only want to tell us what we can and can’t do with our money. My interest in negotiating with them is directly proportional to how much “skin in the game” that they commit.

  • t

    Hi Jeff,

    Belgium Ratified it in 2003 and made the following statement to other ESA nations.

    http://cordis.europa.eu/belgium/highlight1.htm

    [[[Belgium is now the tenth State and the third Member State of the European Space Agency (ESA) to become party to the Moon Treaty (***). Its active involvement in ESA programmes for future missions to Mars (Mars Express), as well as moon exploration projects, justifies its membership of what is now the main instrument of international law governing such activities. In addition, Belgium also seeks to reaffirm its role as part of the United Nations in regulating activities in Space and the development of international Space law.]]]

    Kazakhstan, (home of the Baikonur cosmodrome) ratified it in 2004. Its quite possible missions flying out of Baikonur may now be governed by the Moon Treaty as Kazakhstan MAY be regarded under the OST as the “launching” state even though Russia is paying the bill, just as a U.S. Mission flying out of Australia would be governed by the Moon Treaty since they are using an Australia launch site. It would seem both countries have “skin” in the game, as do the three members of ESA which have signed it.

    Peru, which signed in 1979, Ratified the Moon Treaty in 2005.

    As plans for a lunarbase on the Moon progress look for other nations to join as a way of getting a piece of “the action”, (and sticking it to the USA…) just as was the case in the 1970’s when some U.S. firms actually started looking at mining the Sea Floor.

    Tom

  • Thomas Matula

    Al,

    In regards to 1) The U.S. Should not sign it until the existing states have modified Article 11 and the other provisions of the Treaty which impact commercial lunar activities.

    In regards to 2) No. COPUS requires nearly a complete agreement before a treaty is produced, something unlikely now that memebership is so large. And any treaty would likely need to come out of COPUS, which the U.S. helped to create in the 1960′s, since its the UN Committee responsible for space law. For the U.S. to break with COPUS and start writing a new treaty or creating Space Law on its own, well many nations would view that dimly and probably not join it…

    Best to work in the system, not against it and that is what I am suggesting with the Moon Treaty.

    Tom

  • Tom,
    1 – I don’t claim colonization requires privatization. However, I do believe that it can expidate the situation.
    2 – As for how revising OST can impact it, everyone who has either signed or ratified the Moon Treaty has signed or ratified (and I’d be willing to say quite possibly all have ratified) the OST. As such, any negotiation over the OST will involve the party from the moon treaty as well. So getting their conscent will happen. In addition, a revision in one treaty can specifically superceed another treaty, espcially if it specfically states the other treaty – conflicts amoung both laws and treaties do arise. And this would be a method on how to address the Moon treaty, through the OST

  • Chance
    To answer your questions, no, there are no major enviromental groups worried about the “biosphere” of the moon. There is some discussion about any company behaving with a certain amount of responsiblity when it comes to using exo-resources, but thats true across the board.

    No, its being used as a whipping boy here

  • [[[anti-capitalist socialist]]]

    I suppose next they’ll demand that we use anti-capitalist socialist and even worse – FRENCH!!! – SI units and constants, when we design our launch vehicles and lunar bases. Why can’t the bible just be our bible?

  • Thomas Matula

    Ferris,

    Atcually there is a budding Astroenvironmentalist movement. Note this article below in the Electronic Green Journal.

    http://egj.lib.uidaho.edu/egj15/miller1.html

    Astroenvironmentalism: The Case for Space Exploration As An Environmental Issue

    Ryder W. Miller
    San Francisco, USA

    Some out takes from the article…

    [[[The adaptation of environmental concerns to developments in the exploration and commercialization of space fit surprisingly easily. Astroenvironmentalism is another re-formulation of the associated environmental concerns involving a space wilderness to protect, rather than a "frontier" to exploit.]]]

    and

    [[[Treating the Moon, Mars, Venus, and other planetary bodies as wildernesses that need to be protected, that is, arguing against the idea to "terraform" these celestial bodies. Terraforming introduces atmosphere-creating life into the barren celestial bodies in the effort to make these celestial bodies more amenable to human settlement. Terraforming is presently being explored despite the fact that we have not thoroughly explored these planets for indigenous life.]]]

    Remember the Moon Treaty also applies to other Celestial Bodies i.e. Mars. If Life is found on Mars expect environmentalists to encourage nations to use the Moon Treaty (and ratify it!), in its present form, to protect it…

    Some more out takes from the above summary article on Astroenvironmentalism…

    [[[Prohibiting national, international, and private agencies from owning property in space, in the interest of avoiding military conflicts. There is a need for more people to be involved in the efforts to see that space does not become another battleground.

    Creating the legal power to enforce these concerns. This would make more people aware of international space law and the need to enforce it. The United Nations rules on such issues through the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.]]]

    and so on. As noted the entire article is here and is part of one stream of Deep Environmentalism.

    http://egj.lib.uidaho.edu/egj15/miller1.html

    As more missions go to the Moon and lunar development looks more likely expect more environmentalists to turn their eyes skyward to “prevent the mistakes made on Earth”.

  • Thomas,
    there is are also the people who want to see humanity go extinct, and there are people who want to put nuclear weapons on the moon.

    Forgive me, but until you have something more substantive than this, this enviromentalist and space activist will continue to say, quite correctly, that its nothing more than a whipping boy. And it isn’t.

  • Thomas Matula

    Ferris,

    Yes, I have heard of the Human Extinction Movement. Difference is the majority of the public, and world nations for that matter, have no self-interest in keeping the Moon open to free enterprise and strip mining like you want.

    So feel free to keep your head in the sand like the Nuclear Power industry did in the 1960′s, and be prepared to reap the same reward.

    And don’t cry when a future environmentalist president greets the discovery of martian life with a signing of the Moon Treaty to protect it for future generations and an environmentalist Congress ratifies it.

    Menawhile, some additional readings…

    http://bst.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/26/5/430

    Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, Vol. 26, No. 5, 430-437 (2006)
    DOI: 10.1177/0270467606292504
    © 2006 SAGE Publications
    To the Moon, Mars, and Beyond: Culture, Law, and Ethics in Space-Faring Societies
    Linda Billings

    SETI Institute

    http://www.newmars.com/archives/000038.shtml

    For A Pristine Martian Sunset

    [[[Bergreen in Voyage to Mars notes that even though the Mars Society attracts fringe activists, it is still 'preservationism' to want the Martian terrain to remain pristine until we have searched it for life and wonder. I believe the Mars Society needs a Mars First contingent which probably couldn’t exist elsewhere. If there were more of a Mars First attitude at the Society it would be easier to get the approval of environmentalists who are busy with more immediate goals. We should agree to protect the ocean we have on Earth before we go on to create another on Mars. We should acknowledge environmentalism as the scientific revolution of our time and take those values with us into space as astroenvironmentalists. We should observe a pristine sunset on Mars before we change it. We should protect Mars for our children. When we express this concern about protecting a pristine Mars we are saving two worlds.

    Ryder W. Miller is an environmental reporter with a strong interest in space exploration. He is also Book Editor for SF Frontlines, a monthly progressive majority agenda newspaper in the San Francisco Bay area. A version of this article first appeared in the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's journal Mercury.]]]

    and

    http://space.newscientist.com/article/dn10110-future-missions-could-damage-lunar-environment.html

    Future missions could damage lunar ‘environment’

    14:00 19 September 2006
    NewScientist.com news service
    Jeff Hecht

    [[["The Moon is priceless to planetary scientists," declares the panel of the US National Academy of Sciences, which was chartered to tell NASA what science it should do on the Moon. In an interim report released on Tuesday, they warn that both the Moon's tenuous atmosphere and its polar environment are "fragile" and are likely to be altered by robotic and human activity.]]]

    But then we all know what environmental radicals the U.S. Academy of Sciences are, and what little influence they have in Washington…

    Tom

  • Tom,
    I think I shall point out the straws that you are grasping at – again, the LACK of any sort of substantial base – no major group is backing, nor is there even any sort of serious minority advocating this. I could point out the number of enviromentalists that have come to the idea of space tavel, and come from the idea of space travel. I could also point out the number of economists that are saying that global warming is the biggest single failure of the marketplace.
    There is more I could point out, but thats enough.

    Frankly, if your so worried about the “radical crazy enviromentalists” dooming us here on earth, then I suggest you actually start to engage, and point out to those who are concerned about the enviroment, but don’t want to go back to the stone age, how and where space can help out. Talking to them about things like the Space Option. Of course, I don’t know that you aren’t, although I suspect its not the case. But then, if its not, I’d begin to wonder, given your comments about enviromentalism, and internationalism, if you don’t have some sort of ulterior motive.

  • Thomas Matula

    Ferris,

    Actually I have been pointing it out for years. As a strong advocate for lunar commerce I have been showing how it could be done, at a number of space conferences, proceedings and in books like Beyond Earth (http://www.beyondearth.org). I am active with ATWG (http://www.atwg.org) and presented at the first two Lunar Commerce Roundtables (http://www.lunarcommerceroundtable.com/).

    As for environmentalists, well I did my dissertation on how public attitudes are formed towards spaceports, and how to keep environmentalists from killing them.

    Yes, some environmentalists are for space just as some are for nuclear power, but they are as much a fringe group among environmentalists as the human extinction movement is. The main stream of Deep Environmentalism is opposed to technology, and space is the poster child of technology. Count on bigger environmental groups getting involved when the issue emerges. These groups today are merely laying the philosophical foundations for astroenvironmentalism. Unforunately when the big environmental groups, with the billions they receive in donations each year, get involved it will be way too late for space advocates to stop them.

    But as I said, keep you head in the sand.

    If you get a chance you should read a book by a good friend of mine, Dennis Wingo, called Moonrush. He covers the danger from deep environmentalists well in it.

  • I suggest you look at some of the post at dailykos to see how not fringe it is. Frankly, the greatest obsticle is more along the lines of “We need to solve the problems here on earth first”, but open up when you start talking about how space can positively impact lives.

    Your equating enviromentalism with ludditism – the two are not equatible.

  • And, as I suppsoe is worth pointing out – Enviromentalism and space travel is so fringe as to attract noted enviromentalist Al Gore to attend at talk to the X Prize Executive Summit, and has caused noted businessman Richard Branson to invest in both Space travel and Green technology

    Clearly, it must be fringe

  • Adrasteia

    Thomas Matula: “Space colonization does not require privatization. Look at Australia or some of the early French colonies.”

    You know absolutely nothing of my country, the early colonies made massive land grants to early settlers.

  • If you get a chance you should read a book by a good friend of mine, Dennis Wingo, called Moonrush. He covers the danger from deep environmentalists well in it.

    Dennis Wingo is a science crackpot nearly completely isolated from the knowledge and working of science.

    Citing a book like Moonrush in regards to environmentalism is like citing Crichton in regards to global warming and climate change. You may as well wave a flag and get on a bullhorn announcing yourself to the world as a complete buffoon. But we’ve come to expect that sort of thing after putting up with your shit and people like you for the last six years in this country. Let me give you a little hint : America is fed up with your bullshit, and we aren’t going to take it anymore without at least commenting on it.

  • As an environmentalist myself, albeit not one that sees a whole lot of value in “preserving” airless, sterile, surfaces such as most asteroids and most of Earth’s moon, I do think the more ideological elements in the environmental movement will be a threat to our goals. However, I also think younger people today have a more balanced view of the environment — on both the protective and exploitive sides — than was the case when I was growing up in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is important for us environmentalists to fight fights we can win and that are worth winning, and not waste limited political capital on sterile regolith on the moon and probably the surface of Mars (as opposed to underground).

    I think a much bigger threat to the development of spacefaring civilizations is “planetary protection” extremism. If we say we cannot do anything on Mars without being able to “back out,” that is remove everything and leave a pristine environment, we don’t necessarily ban Martian development but we make it so expensive that it will never happen.

    We need to develop a balance between protecting biologically interesting environments, certainly until they have been studied, and allowing exploitation of those that aren’t. Regarding back and forward contamination, it is important to realize that this probably happens all the time via meteorite impacts: the Solar System may well already be a single extended ecosystem.

    Discovering life on Mars will be a decidedly mixed blessing. Human exploration of deep space would probably get a major boost, but planetary protection extremists would as well.

    – Donald