Space and the liberal blogosphere

For some reason, the Houston Chronicle article about the policy differences between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, which include at least subtle differences on the issue of human spaceflight, got the attention of some high-profile members on the left side of the political blogosphere. Monday morning Matthew Yglesias of The Atlantic Online posted a quick note about the article, citing the passage from the Chronicle article that notes that “Clinton was more enthusiastic than Obama about human space travel and domestic oil production” when interviewed by the paper. “Advantage, Obama!” Yglesias wrote. “Though Clinton is clearly taking the more Texas-friendly line here.”

That post generated a response by Chris Bowers of Open Left, who sees Clinton’s apparent enthusiasm about human spaceflight as an advantage, not a disadvantage. Bowers is clearly a fan of space exploration, including human spaceflight, and concludes, “While I hope that whoever becomes the next President will be bullish on space exploration, that Clinton appears more bullish than Obama is a real point in her column as far as I am concerned.”

This, in turn, generated a response by Yglesias, who makes it clear that he’s a supporter of space exploration, just not necessarily human spaceflight. “Unmanned missions are, at the moment, the ones really pushing the frontiers of our knowledge and that’s going to continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. That’s where we ought to be focusing our energies.”

As these humans-versus-robots arguments unfold, I would recommend that they, and anyone else interested in the issue, check out a new book, Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel, by Roger Launius and Howard McCurdy. You can read a full review of the book in The Space Review, but in short, the two offer a thorough examination of the rationales that have been put forward over the years for both human and robotic space exploration, and the shortfalls and conflicts.

36 comments to Space and the liberal blogosphere

  • Bill White

    The race between Obama and Clinton is so close right now and hotly contested that people are seeking any point of leverage (no matter how small) to differentiate between the two.

    That said, Democrats may very well come to power and will need to decide whether or not to stay the course on many things, including ESAS.

  • It’s an interesting question. Which strategy is more likely to help a candidate carry a state like Texas that, while it does have a NASA human space flight center and workforce, is also large, diverse, and generally politically conservative? A fiscally conservative critique of human space flight that may have broad if thin appeal beyond JSC’s gates? Or a position of support for human space flight that plays deeply to the JSC workforce?

    Guiliani’s experience in Florida would seem to indicate that the latter position does not help a candidate significantly, although no candidate has run on the former position yet in such a state.

    Regardless, it’s certainly refreshing to see NASA human space flight become a talkable issue twice in the Presidential primaries, in two different states and in both parties nonetheless.


  • What would be great would be for Clinton to give a major speech at the JSC, attacking Obama for his position on human spaceflight. Won’t happen, but a guy can dream, right?

  • Obama is in Houston, and his space policies will become an even greater item of interest to liberal blogosphere

  • What would be great would be for Clinton to give a major speech at the JSC, attacking Obama for his position on human spaceflight. Won’t happen, but a guy can dream, right?

    If we approve of and embrace the current Bush NASA budget proposal of ~$17.6 billion and more or less stay that same course during POTUS #44’s term in office then getting back to the Moon using ESAS will be very difficult to do. I acknowledge some say ESAS won’t work no matter how much we spend but I disagree with that. Give NASA $2 billion or $3 billion more each year and I believe ESAS would work. Mileage may very and I desire to be respectful of those who disagree with me on that.

    But again, I assert that the current Bush budget is too small to allow ESAS to succeed and unless Congress appropriates more money than Bush requested — as called for by Mikulski (D-MA) and Hutchinson (R-TX) — then to stick with the Stick & ESAS makes no sense whatsoever.

    Would a Democratic Congress give President McCain $20 billion for NASA each year? Would he ask for that much? I dunno.

    Also note that BOTH Obama and Clinton appear to advocate postponing lunar return and that means delaying / canceling Ares V. If Ares V is canceled is there any reason whatsoever for building Ares 1 as an ISS crew taxi? If President Obama pulls the plug on ESAS (cancels Ares 1 & Ares V) the hue & cry over the termination of American human spaceflight will cause people to seek other options. Options such as a light Atlas V ISS crew taxi and / or Musk’s Falcon 9 crew taxi. Vehicles that can also service Bigelow stations.

    IF President Obama’s hostility towards NASA remains as advertised, that could open a window for NewSpace if NewSpace players can preserve America’s ability to fly people in space for a fraction of NASA’s current budget. Close the “gap” at a fraction of the cost.

    Then POTUS #45 can scale up those efforts for a lunar return, unless private sector gets there first.

    On the other hand, if President Clinton and/or President McCain stick with the Stick but fail to increase NASA’s budget over the Bush trend lines we will NOT be going back to the Moon and we will be spending billions on Ares 1 to do nothing more than shuttle people to & from ISS.

    NASA either needs MORE money than Bush has proposed (and POTUS #44 needs to sustain those increases) so we can return to the Moon or NASA should get LESS money and we procure a much cheaper alternative for ISS support.

    I prefer MORE money and the Moon as my FIRST choice. However my SECOND choice would be an Atlas V and/or Falcon 9 ISS crew taxi. My LAST choice would be to keep NASA’s funding level, postpone returning to the Moon and build Ares 1 as an ISS crew taxi.

    = = =

    If Clinton (or McCain) loudly said NASA needs $20 billion a year NOW and vowed to increase as needed to return to the Moon, yes I would cheer.

    But to give a great speech and then NOT fund sufficient money would not be helpful.

    = = =

    My personal preferred choice would be to increase NASA’s budget, build Ares V and go to Mars sooner rather than later. But, that may not be politically feasible with any of Obama, Clinton or McCain.

    = = =

    A possible campaign slogan:

    Stick with the Stick — Vote McCain!

  • MarkWhittington

    The problem with the the scenario that (a) Obama pulls the plug on NASA and then (b) commercial space rises up to fill the void is that commercial space will have a hard time simply surviving with all of the taxes and regululations Obama (and Clinton btw) plan to burden business with. I predict that in such an eventuality, commercial space goes off shore and Australia becomes a major space power.

  • Mark –

    Congress will not permit President Obama to terminate America’s ability (NASA’s ability) to put people in space.

    I voted for Obama in the IL primary and I am a strong supporter but I would personally travel to Washington as part of a legislative blitz (I did the SEA thing last week) to loudly demand that President Obama not be permitted to terminate NASA and American human spaceflight.

    If Congress / NASA procured an Atlas V solution for ISS access or a SpaceX solution there would be no gap. How much federal tax revenue would Lockheed need to build a super-Gemini? Far far less than ESAS.

    The issue on the table is ESAS. Do we stick with the stick?

    I support ESAS, lunar return and Mars IF we fund it adequately. If we are not going to fund it adequately, it is a waste of money.

    Using Ares 1 as our ISS crew taxi is like buying a Cadillac Escalade to commute 4 miles between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

  • MarkWhittington

    Bill, you may be right about the Congress, though I’m not really willing to take a chance, all other things considered. But Obama would certainly impose huge taxes and likely allow the Oberstar regulations that combined would drive commercial space out of business or offshore.

    “Using Ares 1 as our ISS crew taxi is like buying a Cadillac Escalade to commute 4 miles between Brooklyn and Manhattan.”

    A bit of an exaggeration, but a good point, which is why I’m a warm supporter of COTS. I don’t see Obama or Clinton for that matter being a good friend of commercial space. If any kind of human space flight survives under either person, it will be Ares/Orion taking crews to and from ISS and nothing else for the foreseeable future. With McCain, who does support VSE, NASA continues to do space exploration, ceding LEO to private industry, IMHO.

  • Jeff, I read your review of this book with great interest and hope. I will probably buy and read it. However, if you are quoting the authors correctly, I expect little that is really new. Anyone who simply states that Many of the basic rationales for spaceflight—science, commerce, and security—can be fulfilled primarily, if not exclusively, by robotic spacecraft, without any further thought or analysis or qualification is failing to truly address the issue: they are only quoting the widely accepted religion of the day (which includes such absurdities as machine intelligence will match human intelligence by 2029). This is especially so when you quote them as stating that, “there are many tasks that are so complex that either humans alone can do them, or humans can do much more quickly than robots.” Both of these statements cannot be simultaneously true, especially when exploring the unknown and fractile surface of an alien body like the moon or (actually, in reality, less alien) Mars.

    Surface exploration of another world is probably the most difficult task humans have taken on. If they can’t do “many tasks that are so complex that . . . humans alone can do them,” you aren’t going to get very far exploring the moon or Mars with robots.

    — Donald

    — Donald

  • “commercial space will have a hard time simply surviving with all of the taxes and regululations Obama (and Clinton btw) plan to burden business with”

    Evidence? Where are these plans by Clinton and Obama targeting the space industry for taxation and regulation? Please provide references.


  • MarkWhittington

    “Evidence? Where are these plans by Clinton and Obama targeting the space industry for taxation and regulation? Please provide references.”

    Both plan to raise taxes on all businesses. I had not heard that commercial space was going to be exempt. And I have not been assured that either Clinton or Obama will stop Rep Oberstar’s plans to regulate commercial space as the current administration has. Considering the documented hostility both have toward the private sector, I would not bet against it.

  • Mark, Mark, Mark. The greatest reason that taxes are likely to get raised, by either major party, is seven years of Mr. Bush’s credit card financing of the game of empire — after the Clinton Administration had the budget well on the way to being balanced. At best, this issue is far more complex than you are presenting it.

    — Donald

  • Donald – you are giving Mark way to much credit when you say that at best, its far more complex.

    Mark has shown that he doesn’t really deserve the benefit of the doubt.

  • “Both plan to raise taxes on all businesses.”

    Totally and utterly false.

    Obama has proposed closing special interest loopholes in the corporate tax code and eliminating international tax havens. Those loopholes and havens do not apply to “all businesses”, not by a long shot. The rest of Obama’s proposal deals with the personal income tax, i.e., tax breaks for middle class workers, lower income senior citizens, and homeowners and a repeal of Bush II tax breaks for the very wealthy (top 1%).

    Clinton has similarly proposed a repeal of Bush II income tax breaks for the very wealthy. I am not aware of any Clinton proposals regarding corporate taxes.

    We may not agree with the economic philosophy behind these tax proposals, but that doesn’t give us carte blanche to paint them with highly inaccurate and misleading statements.

    “I have not been assured that either Clinton or Obama will stop Rep Oberstar’s plans to regulate commercial space as the current administration has.”

    Two points:

    1) Oberstar’s amendment was voted down in committee in Congress. It never got to the White House. And Oberstar’s attempts to stop passage of the bill without his amendment were voted down strongly on the House floor. The current Administration did not veto or otherwise “stop” Oberstar’s amendment. The rest of Congress did.

    2) No candidate, Democrat or Republican, has said “boo” about commercial space flight regulations. In fact, as Mr. Muncy, no shrinking violet liberal himself, recently pointed out at an STA breakfast, Clinton is the only remaining candidate whose civil space statements have made any reference (and a positive one at that) to commercial space at all.

    “Considering the documented hostility both have toward the private sector”

    Where is the evidence for this vaunted “documented hostility… toward the private sector” that you keep repeating ad nauseum? Can you please come up with even a few accurate facts or references on this?


  • SpaceMan

    Poor Mark, his fantasies of power and insider knowledge just won`t come true & acting as if such things were true does`t work either.

    Soooo sad.

    Time to grow up Mark and enter reality where the rest of us live.

  • Habitat Hermit

    This week is off-topic bonanza ^_^

    Just how is repealing a tax break not the same as raising taxes? Are you aware that the Bush tax cuts increased the US tax income and expanded the US economy? What do you think will happen when those taxes are raised again, sorry, when the tax cuts are repealed?

    Keep that in mind and pay notice to US public debt as a percentage of GDP (that would be the red line in the bottom graph in the illustration right at the top). Read the text of the Wikipedia article for the details on exactly what “public debt” signifies in this case.

  • “Just how is repealing a tax break not the same as raising taxes?”

    Agreed. They are the same.

    But that’s not the statement that I was correcting. I was correcting Mr. Whittington’s false assertion that Obama and Clinton “plan to raise taxes on all businesses”. Obama’s tax plan clearly does not “plan to raise taxes on all businesses” as it would close loopholes and tax havens in the corporate tax code that do not apply to all businesses. And I’m unaware of any Clinton positions on the corporate tax code.

    To be clear, I’m only setting the record straight on the candidate’s positions using the candidates’ own statements. I personally have no interest in an off-topic debate here about their positions or other matters of tax and national economic policy.


  • Al Fansome

    At the core of this topic is a very interesting issue.

    Who here really thinks that a presidential candidate’s position on the “government human spaceflight program” will change the votes of a LOT of people?

    The war is a defining issue among candidates that influences votes.

    Health care is a defining issue that influences votes.

    Tax policy is a defining issue that influences votes.

    Economic policy is a defining issue that influences votes.

    Environmental policy is a defining issue that influences votes.

    Energy policy is a defining issue that influences votes.

    Character is a defining issue that influences votes.

    Now we can debate all those issues — and some here want to debate them — but it would be off topic.

    THE REAL POINT — Very few people, including those who post on this blog, are going to make up their mind about who to vote for based on their stated policy on “government human spaceflight”.

    Ferris and Donald and Bill White are going to vote for the Democratic candidate because of their positions on the all the issues above. Hillary or Obama’s position on NASA funding will not change their position.

    Mark is going to vote for John McCain because of his position on the issues above. McCain’s position on NASA funding will not change Mark’s position.

    If “space policy” does not change our votes, how can anybody here seriously think it will change the votes of other people?

    Space is NOT an issue that generates votes.

    – Al

    “Politics is not rocket science, which is why rocket scientists do not understand politics.”

  • Al,
    That doesn’t mean that we can’t influence policy. Thats the main point. For example, Bill White and myself, and someone else, were going to have a panel at the Netroots Nation convention (this is the replacement for the Yearlykos convention) where there could be talk about space policy. There is siginificant issues that everyone agrees we must deal with. And during the election is a good time to talk to a candidate about policy.

    And, while I agree that its not really an issue that delievers votes, it is an issue that people care about (see Chris Bower’s comments, and see Matt’s comments). Which means that any candidate has to be able to talk to and communicate, and listen, to us.

  • Jeff Foust

    For further evidence of Al Fansome’s point, look at what happened in Brevard County in the Florida Republican primary: Rudy Giuliani came in and said all the right things to win the hearts and minds of the region’s electorate (close the gap, promote commercial space, etc.). And he did no better there than the state as a whole – which, of course, was not very well at all.

    Ferris: you wrote that you “were going to have” a panel at the conference on space policy. Did those plans fall through?

  • Al Fansome


    I 100% agree that the people that read this discussion should attempt to influence policy. There are various possible ways to do this that (IMO) have a chance of being effective, and many more ways to be non-effective.

    To be effective, the ideas should not designed as space ideas per se, but as ideas on how to use something that is “space” to connect to the electorate on broader, more appealing, non-space themes.

    Let me suggest one idea —

    For obvious reasons, Clinton is increasingly desperate. The current situation creates an opportunity, as she is now looking for something to change the game. She either changes the political game very soon now, or it is all over.

    If someone were to give her an opportunity — to appear more visionary … while also making a more personal connection between her and the electorate — they might persuade her to say something more about space.

    Senator Clinton could give a speech in Texas (Rice University??), laying out her personal “Vision for Space Exploration” — and WHY she thinks space exploration is important for the nation.

    More importantly — since she needs to get more personal if she is going to win — she should talk about when she was young woman and applied to be a NASA astronaut, and was denied because of government policy. She could talk about WHY she was personally inspired to apply. She needs to let people know more about her personal side — let them relate to the young woman — who was motivated to apply even though NASA was not accepting women into the program.

    She could talk about future young women (and men), and the importance of creating real inspiration for our young children, by creating real opportunity, as opposed to the temporary rhetorical inspiration of speeches.

    She then could talk about Obama’s plan to destroy that which is inspirational to millions of American children, while offering nothing REAL to replace it.

    She might state that maybe Obama was never personally “inspired” as a child about “human space travel”, but she was, and millions of other American children are also inspired as well.

    To be clear — this suggested speech is NOT about space. It is about inspiring millions of American children to reach farther and higher, to inspire them to excellence. It is about getting personal — letting people in more … to get to know her better — thus increasing her “likeability” factor.

    She had one temporary “up bump” in the last 6 weeks where she changed the trend line. That was the day before the vote in New Hampshire. In what I believe was an unscripted moment, her eyes teared up. She then won New Hampshire, surprising everybody. Since then the surprises have all been in the other direction, with all the momentum going to Obama. There is a lesson learned here.

    IMO, if Hillary wants to win, she needs to “go personal”. Space creates an opportunity for her to do so.

    – Al

    “Politics is not rocket science, which is why rocket scientists do not understand politics.”

  • finger pointer

    Mark reminds me of a troll, so maybe if you stop feeding him, he’ll just go away.

  • Jeff – short version – our panel suggestions were rejected. And we had some really great panelist lined up, too.

    With the recent back and forth between Matt and Chris, as well as a few other people, we are trying to get them to reverse their positions, and include a space panel, but, as I said, its not happening right now.

    Al – I agree with what you said, but the reality is that Clinton is not the concern. Her space policy is a known quantity, and Lori Garver is a known quantity.

    Now, its true, that the same arguments can be put forward to Obama (and whose to say that they aren’t), but talking to clinton about it doesn’t really help, IMHO.

  • Al, I agree with both you and Ferris. It is true that, even though I consider human spaceflight and expansion into the Solar System the defining issue of our age, and the decisions we make on that issue will ultimately determine whether humanity has a long-term future, there are nearer term issues that have greater influence on my vote. We have to survive as a rich industrial culture long enough for that to happen. However, though I was inclined to support her anyway, Ms. Clinton’s space policy did decide my vote (sorry Bill, though I still want to hear your reasons for coming to a different conclusion). More importantly, when Ms. Clinton says something about space and thus forces Mr. Obama to caugh up a position, it gets more publicity than anything that all of us could possibly do. It makes spaceflight more of the background noise and less open to question, the “default position;” for the first time, I think a broadly pro-space position has been embrased by all three serious candidates before the election — this both reflects on the existing national opinion and encourages a pro-space opinion. So, yes, the candidates’ position on spaceflight will not directly influence many votes, but they can influence the national agenda.

    That said, I think Al’s advice, both to us and to Ms. Clinton, is excellent. She could also talk about how any expansive space effort will employ large numbers of “American workers,” including union workers, in constructive, forward-looking jobs that can improve America’s industrial competativeness, again speaking to a key Democratic issue.

    — Donald

  • Bill White

    Ohio and Texas are Hillary Clinton’s last stand. Her firewall.

    Here are the results since super-Tuesday:

    Louisiana: +21
    Nebraska: +36
    Washington: +37
    Maine: +19
    Virgin Islands: +82
    DC: +51
    Maryland: +23
    Virginia: +29
    Wisconsin: +17
    Hawaii: +52

    To propose massive new spending on space won’t help her in Ohio. Not with people facing foreclosure and overwhelming medical bills, today.

    Texas? It might however the Texas primary/caucus system (the Texas Two Step) is rather complicated and even if she does very well, her delegate gains shall be modest.

  • Vladislaw

    “expansion into the Solar System” this can not really happen until property law gets settled, everyone talks about “colonizing” the moon and mars, the number one reason some one HISTORICALLY colonized was free land and no monarchy or central government taxing you. What billionaire is going to plunk down all his money for a covered wagon, a couple mules and a plow when after his long crossing of the sea of space, the land isnt his when he gets there.

  • To propose massive new spending on space won’t help her in Ohio.

    It would in Cleveland.

  • Al Fansome

    FERRIS: Al – I agree with what you said, but the reality is that Clinton is not the concern. Her space policy is a known quantity, and Lori Garver is a known quantity.

    Now, its true, that the same arguments can be put forward to Obama (and whose to say that they aren’t), but talking to clinton about it doesn’t really help, IMHO.


    There is more than one way to be effective with influencing Obama. If Clinton were to take the tack I suggested, it is likely to force Obama to respond. That is influence.

    What would I advise Obama to do?

    I would advise him to take a space policy position that mitigated one of his perceived weaknesses (that he is more rhetoric than substance), while also being consistent with his existing philosophy of “change”, and while being consistent with a theme of entrepreneurial innovation that he talks about on occasion.

    I would propose that he respond to Clinton with:

    OBAMA: “You want to spend $100-200 Billion dollars putting a few dozen government employees in space. Personally, I think that is very poor investment for this nation, and not that inspirational. Kids have a better chance of being an NBA basketball star than being a NASA astronaut. We need to create reality to kids dreams, and not hold out false hope like you suggest.

    Instead, I would invest 10% of that $100-200 Billion — $10-20 Billion — in incentivizing American entrepreneurial space transportation companies to break open that “new ocean” to the American people, so that thousands and then tens-of-thousands of Americans per year can travel into space. Now, that would be truly inspiring to our children, as they would know they really did have a much chance to go into space.

    Then, as President, I will take the 90-190 Billion that I have just saved from that poor investment on government human spaceflight, which you support, and I will use those taxpayer funds to pay for expanding health care to tens of millions of Americans, and to help pay for tax cuts to the middle class. That too is a better investment than spending $100-200 Billion to send a few dozen government employees into space.”

    That would be a substantive response to Senator Clinton, and would show to the world he has REAL substance behind his rhetoric. (Of course, he is pretty busy right now, and the chance of anybody getting to him with this substantive policy position is pretty small.)

    But Ferris — if anybody can do it, you can. Give it a try!


    – Al

    “Politics is not rocket science, which is why rocket scientists do not understand politics.”

  • canttellya

    Wow, Al, that fictional Obama response sounds like a great one. If only he’d say it.

  • the number one reason some one HISTORICALLY colonized was free land and no monarchy or central government taxing you

    No, the number one reason was that the transport used for the colonization already existed and was a routine, affordable aspect of the colonizing society. When and if that becomes true for space, then the political/economic motives canl kick in; putting them first is wankery.

  • Vladislaw

    Monte, you really do not understand certain things, and when you do not understand them you would be better off not saying anything.

    So you’re saying when rome colonized gaul it was because the ceaser said, “well, ox carts are now cheap and routine enough I guess it is time to colonize gaul”

    OR was it because everyone that colonized gaul got HUGE tracts of land and slaves to work the land, which ceaser gave them if they went and colonized.

    Columbus landed and IMMEDIATLY claimed the land for the crown and the crown started GIVING LAND AWAY to induce people to go colonize. It was the same for the brits, the crown gave away HUGE land grants to INDUCE people to go live like a savage AND fight the current land holders in the new world. The history of colonization is the history of man going somewhere, on foot, horseback or boat and THEN claiming all the land for the crown (or declaring themselves king) then giving that land away to induce others to come and fight whoever held the land and take it way from them. In all cases it was about the freakin LAND and LAND OWNERSHIP. It didnt or does not matter what the transport method is or it’s relative cost.

    Tell me professor gas can, if the United States of America made a policy statement of ” The first american who can privately fund a manned expedition to the moon can claim it for themselves and the USA will recognize and ENFORCE the claim with the military” do you HONESTLY believe cost would be a factor? Free land AND free resources would be the ONLY modivating factor and a few billion FREE acres of land and the resources they hold would be all that would be needed.

    Monte, when the USA colonized the west, people WALKED, rode a horse, an ox cart it didnt matter, they wanted FREE land AND the resources on them ( gold, silver, timber, coal etc) the government (crown) GAVE FREE LAND to INDUCE people to go. The homestead act is a clear example FREE LAND to anyone willing to GO THERE on THEIR OWN DIME and start utilizing the resources. (which the government or crown can THEN tax)

    As I said, no one will spend the dime to goto the moon without that incentive to INDUCE them to go on their own dime. A colonist wants to OWN the freakin’ LAND and resources it contains. It is the same for a mining company they will not spend BILLIONS without the MINING RIGHTS.
    So if we REALLY are serious about “colonizing” the moon we have to resolve the property rights issue FIRST or NO ONE will be induced to go and colonize.

    I say, the First mining company gets 5 million acres, the second 4 million etc etc until we have about 5 companies, and like the railroad, which was given every alternating MILE or section (640 acres) along the tracks they laid to INDUCE them to build it, they were then free to sell that land to “colonists”. It would be the same here the mining companies would set up the transport systems.

  • Monte, when the USA colonized the west, people WALKED, rode a horse, an ox cart it didnt matter, they wanted FREE land AND the resources on them ( gold, silver, timber, coal etc) the government (crown) GAVE FREE LAND to INDUCE people to go.

    Well, if you could WALK to the moon, you might have a useful analogy.

  • Vladislaw

    the anology WAS correct because monte believes colonization is solely dependant on some sort of maximized efficient transportation system has to be created FIRST. It doesn’t, my anology is that people colonize for the free land and resources FIRST and to hell with HOW they get there, as long as they CAN get there. We have the technological capability to goto the moon BUT you can not own the land when you get there, even if you built a rocket, traveled to the moon, safely landed you could NOT claim the land. THAT is what colonists do when they get to the “promised” land, they CLAIM IT and OWN IT.

  • Well, if you want to ignore the ECOMONICS of the technology, then you might have a point. People who live in the real world don’t do so.

  • Vladislaw, I’m quite sure that when it starts to matter, property and exploitation rights over space resources will have to be (and will be) sorted out. My contention is that at present, and for a long time to come, uncertainty over those rights is way, way down the list of obstacles to colonization.

    In terms of your beloved historical analogies: to claim that billionaires aren’t funding lunar transport now because they aren’t assured of land claims is like claiming that the Roman Empire didn’t find and colonize the New World because it hadn’t developed institutions like the Spanish land grant and the English chartered company. True, it hadn’t — but the technical and economic shortcomings of galleys for open-ocean sailing played a role so much greater that it’s silly to dwell on the institutional/legal barriers.

  • Vladislaw

    well monte, we really do not know what the romans were doing but there is growing evidence that the romans did a LOT more exploring then you think:

    Roman coins have been found in Venezuela and Maine.
    Roman coins were found in Texas at the bottom of an Indian mound at Round Rock. The mound is dated at approximately 800 AD.
    In 1957 by a small boy found a coin in a field near Phenix City, Alabama, from Syracuse, on the island of Sicily, and dating from 490 B.C.
    In the town of Heavener, Oklahoma, another out-of-place coin was found in 1976. Experts identified it as a bronze tetradrachm originally struck in Antioch, Syria in 63 A.D. and bearing the profile of the emperor Nero.
    In 1882, a farmer in Cass County, Illinois picked up bronze coin later identified as a coin of Antiochus IV, one of the kings of Syria who reigned from 175 B.C. to 164 B.C., and who is mentioned in the Bible.
    Pottery: Roman pottery was unearthed in Mexico that, according to its style, has been dated to the second century A.D.
    In 1966, a man named Manfred Metcalf stumbled upon a stone in the state of Georgia that bears an inscription that is very similar to ancient writing from the island of Crete called “Cretan Linear A and B writing.”
    In the early 1900s, Bernardo da Silva Ramos, a Brazilian rubber-tapper working in the Amazon jungle, found many large rocks on which was inscribed more than 2,000 ancient scripts about the “Old World.”
    Near Rio de Janeiro, high on a vertical wall of rock – 3,000 feet up – is an inscription that reads: ‘Tyre, Phoenicia, Badezir, Firstborn of Jethbaal…” and dated to the middle of the ninth century B.C.
    Near Parahyba, Brazil, an inscription on Phoenician has been translated, in part, as: “We are sons of Canaan from Sidon, the city of the king. Commerce has cast us on this distant shore, a land of mountains. We set [sacrificed] a youth for the exalted gods and goddesses in the nineteenth year of Hiram, our mighty king. We embarked from Ezion-Geber into the Red Sea and voyaged with ten ships. We were at sea together for two years around the land belonging to Ham [Africa] but were separated by a storm [lit. ‘from the hand of Baal’], and we were no longer with our companions. So we have come here, twelve men and three women, on a… shore which I, the Admiral, control. But auspiciously may the gods and goddesses favor us!”
    The Kensington Stone, discovered in Kensington, Minnesota in 1898 contains an inscription describing an expedition of Norsemen into the interior of what is now North America. It’s estimated that this expedition took place in the 1300s.
    In 1980, P.M. Leonard and J.L. Glenn, from the Hogle Zoological Gardens, Salt Lake City, visited a rock outcropping in Colorado that was reputed to be inscribed with “peculiar markings.” Leonard and Glenn believe they are excellent examples of Consainne Ogam writing – a type ascribed to ancient Celts. One of the many inscriptions was translated as: “Route Guide: To the west is the frontier town with standing stones as boundary markers.”
    A fist-sized, round stone was found during the early 1890s in an cemetery near Nashville, Tennessee. Its front was inscribed with symbols thought to be Libyan, pre-100 A.D. style. It translates as: “The colonists pledge to redeem.”
    Pictures: An experienced botanist has identified plants in an ancient fresco painting as a pineapple and a specific species of squash – both native to the Americas. Yet the fresco is in the Roman city of Pompeii.
    Statues: In 1933, in a burial at Calixtlahuaca, Mexico, archaeologist José García Payón discovered a small carved head with “foreign” features in an undisturbed burial site. It was later identified by anthropologist Robert Heine-Geldern as “unquestionably” from the Hellenistic-Roman school of art and suggested a date of “around AD 200.”
    Structures: Many stone chambers dot the New England countryside and most archaeologists insist they are all potato cellars built long ago by farmers. Others argue that they are too sophisticated for such a mundane application. One, is built into a hillside at Upton, Massachusetts, has sophisticated corbelling that follows they style of Irish and Iberic chambers. It’s theorized that it was really built by Europeans around 700 AD – long before the Leif Eiriksson.
    Ships: In 1886, the remains of a shipwreck was found in Galveston Bay, Texas. Its construction is typically Roman.
    Toys: A doll made of wood and wax was found deep in a “Well of Sacrifice” at Chichén Itzá, Mexico, on which is written Roman script.
    Tombs: In the Mayan ruins of Palenque, a stone sarcophagus was found that is very much in the style of the ancient Phoenicians.

    Statues: In 1914, archaeologist M.A. Gonzales was excavating some Mayan ruins in the city of Acajutla, Mexico when he was surprised by the discovery of two statuettes that were clearly Egyptian. One male and one female, the carvings bore ancient Egyptian dress and cartouches. They are thought to depict Osiis and Isis.
    Inscriptions: Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs have been found in New South Wales, Australia. Located on a rock cliff in the National Park forest of the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, the enigmatic carvings have been known since the early 1900s. There are more than 250 carvings of familiar Egyptian gods and symbols, including a life-sized engraving of the god Anubis. The hieroglyphs tell the story of explorers who were shipwrecked in a strange and hostile land, and the untimely death of their royal leader, “Lord Djes-eb.” From this information, scholars have been able to date the voyage to somewhere between 1779 and 2748 BC.
    Fossils: In 1982, archaeologists digging at Fayum, near the Siwa Oasis in Egypt uncovered fossils of kangaroos and other Australian marsupials.
    Language: There are striking similarities between the languages of ancient Egypt and those of the Native Americans that inhabited the areas around Louisiana about the time of Christ. B. Fell, of the Epigraphic Society, has stated that the language of the Atakapas, and to a lesser extent those of the Tunica and Chitimacha tribes, have affinities with Nile Valley languages involving just those words one would associate with Egyptian trading communities of 2,000 years ago.
    Artifacts: Near the Neapean River outside Penrith, New South Wales, a scarab beetle – a familair Egyptian symbol – carved from onyx was unearthed. Another was found in Queensland, Australia.
    Tombs: The April 5, 1909 edition of The Phoenix Gazette carried a front-page article about the discovery and excavation of an Egyptian tomb in the Grand Canyon by none other that the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian has since denied knowledge of any such discovery.

    again, I think you are over valuing the importance of the transportation system over the idea of new land and the exploitation of the resources that can be claimed. Egyptian and Roman generals, which also ran commerical type operations from land they were given from pharoh and ceaser for conquering new land can be compared to today’s billionaires acting like a general commanding the troops in the battle of economic warfare. My point is we can not know WHAT a group of billionaires would do IF the free land and resources was put on the table. This offer can not be put on the table though until property rights etc get decided. A chicken and the egg senerio.
    Since we can not know what a group of billionaires would do IF the inducement of a million free acres of land was offered on the table ( and which can not be offered UNTIL property rights are established) The whole idea of PRIVATE colonization is all moot.

    Have you heard of this idea?

    “A Texas-based firm has drawn up plans for a manned expedition to the Moon to seek out the raw ingredients for what amounts to an orbital gas station for future spacecraft.

    Under the plan, from Bill Stone of Austin’s Stone Aerospace, Inc, a vanguard team of industrialists would explore the Shackleton Crater at the Moon’s south pole to determine how much, if any, frozen water and other materials sits locked beneath the lunar regolith [image].

    If enough resources are found, they could then be processed into spacecraft fuels and hauled into low-Earth orbit (LEO) for propellant-thirsty spacecraft at one-tenth the cost of launching them from Earth, according to the plan.

    “Once initial funding is received to initiate the detailed planning effort, we expect to be open for business in LEO in the 2015 timeframe,” Stone said in a statement, adding that the ambitious plan would likely cost about $15 billion and require significant international partnerships. “Only by operating commercially will this enterprise be successful.”

    See this is what I am saying, if the USA stated that if this company did this and was successful the USA would recognize a 5 million acre land claim by the company do you think it would gain any traction?

    You have to remember monte a mining rights claim as soon as obtained automatically becomes an asset you can loan money against. A mining claim holds value NOT for the gold that has already been mined, the asset value is against all FUTURE mining. The same would hold true for the moon. How much capital could be leveraged with a 5 million acre moon mining rights claim backed by the USA? Which group of billionaires would try for it first? Do you think none would make a play for this? Do you think private enterprise would tear into this at a scale we have never seen the government do before with space flight?
    Where do you mine diamonds? Volcanoes, when they erupt, diamonds are thrown out of the top in the lava or are left in the pipe, the central, vertical part of the volcano. So the best place to find diamonds is in the center of an extinct volcano. Magma-spewing volcanoes developed on the moon soon after its formation, according to a new study of a moon rock that fell to Earth. How many diamonds are just waiting to picked up?

    I agree with you that we can not launch rockets over night, but we also know the difference between government doing something and private enterprise doing it. I feel the lure of free diamonds might do it, or mining oxygen, so once again I am going to say, if we truely want to “colonize” we REALLY have to get going on the property rights so land grants can be offered and we can find out once and for all if business would go there and make a go at it.

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