Congress, Other

A new approach for property rights in space

The issue of property rights in space has long been a topic of interest to commercial space advocates, although few others have paid much attention to it over the years. The conventional interpretation has been that private property rights aren’t possible under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits nations from claiming the Moon or other celestial bodies. (The 1979 Moon Treaty would explicitly prohibit property rights claims on the Moon, but few nations are parties to that treaty.) Commercial space advocates argue that the lack of a private property rights regime in space has hindered the development of space, since private interests can’t acquire or sell land on the Moon or other bodies, or have assurances that their claims will be respected by others.

One solution, of course, would be for the US to seek to renegotiate, or to withdraw from, the Outer Space Treaty, but that appears unlikely given the treaty’s wide acceptance. In a white paper released Monday by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Rand Simberg argues for an alternative approach. He cites a proposal called the Space Settlement Prize Act that would require US courts and agencies to recognize private claims made on the Moon, Mars, and asteroids that meet certain requirements regarding habitation and transportation. The proposed law gets around the Outer Space Treaty by not having the US claim sovereignty over the territory, only recognize the private claim for the land. That, Simberg argues, is sufficient to provide the property rights certainty needed for commercial space development to flourish.

The white paper goes into greater detail on the proposal, although one element is missing: how to get this proposed legislation through Congress. Space property rights might be of great importance to commercial space advocates and entrepreneurs, but it’s a fringe issue otherwise. Given the current difficulties in Congress of getting all but the most noncontroversial legislation through, it will take a concerted effort by advocates to even get the attention of Congress on a topic that, to most, still seems like a low priority.

84 comments to A new approach for property rights in space

  • ArtieT

    “Commercial space advocates argue that the lack of a private property rights regime in space has hindered the development of space, since private interests can’t acquire or sell land on the Moon or other bodies, or have assurances that their claims will be respected by others.”

    What has hindered land development of space is the lack of a business plan that will close. That still holds true today, and unless someone finds oil in ‘them thar hills’, it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

  • DCSCA

    CEI is a front for the ultra right wing Koch Brothers crowd.

    “SourceWatch reports: The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is a advocacy group based in Washington DC. It calls itself “a non-profit, non-partisan research and advocacy institute dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. We believe that individuals are best helped not by government intervention, but by making their own choices in a free marketplace.””

    “[CEI] postures as an advocate of “sound science” in the development of public policy. However, CEI projects dispute the overwhelming scientific evidence that human induced greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change. They have a program for “challenging government regulations”, push property rights as a solution to environment problems, opposed US vehicle fuel efficiency standards and been a booster for the drug industry.”

    Exxon/Mobil has been a major source of grants for the CEI, too.

    CEI’s Foundation Funders

    Media Transparency lists CEI as receiving a total of $4,296,645 (unadjusted for inflation) in 123 grants from a range of foundations in the period 1985 through to 2004.

    * Armstrong Foundation
    * Barre Seid Foundation
    * Castle Rock Foundation
    * Carthage Foundation Scaife Foundations
    * Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation (Koch Family Foundations)
    * Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation (Koch Family Foundations)
    * David H. Koch Charitable Foundation (Koch Family Foundations)
    * Earhart Foundation
    * Gordon and Mary Cain Foundation
    * Jacqueline Hume Foundation
    * JM Foundation
    * John M. Olin Foundation
    * John Templeton Foundation
    * Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
    * Philip M. McKenna Foundation, Inc.
    * Randolph Foundation
    * Rodney Fund
    * Roe Foundation
    * Sarah Scaife Foundation (Scaife Foundations)
    * Scaife Family Foundations
    * Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation
    * William H. Donner Foundation”

    - source, progressivewatch.com

    “The white paper goes into greater detail on the proposal, although one element is missing: how to get this proposed legislation through Congress.” As if the laws of the United States, not the laws of physics, should govern the universe. =eyeroll= These right wing crazies will never learn; ‘Reaganomics’ failed on Earth and is not going to fuel the human expansion off it and out into the solar system.

  • amightywind

    Yawn. More Utopian dreamers proposing extra-national governance structures. The American taxpayer must fund such prizes, no doubt, then play the chump while state subsidized ‘entrepreneurs’ claim the rewards. No thanks. Give me a Space Marines branch of the military to enforce America’s extra-terrestrial national interests.

  • vulture4

    It is unlikely that the economics of spaceflight will permit development unlikely until access is much less expensive than it is now. If inexpensive access is developed, and a really valuable asset discovered, I would expect something similar to what happens with seabed oil reserves; a series of messy multilateral negotiations that end up with a division of the territory, after which the national authorities auction off their shares of the asset to private industry. For many marine resources this is of course still a matter of controversy but where the matter has been resolved the eventually mechanism is usually a multinational or UN-sponsored agreement. Assertion of property rights by non-state entities without national endorsement just prolongs the confusion.

    Finally, it’s interesting to find the Koch brothers involved in this. One can guess their objectives.

  • Coastal Ron

    With all the legislation that passes through Congress unnoticed, I would imagine all that would be needed is to get the attention of a Congressional sponsor and have them add it to one of the omnibus bills. I wonder if Rohrabacher would be interested?

  • A M Swallow

    The white paper goes into greater detail on the proposal, although one element is missing: how to get this proposed legislation through Congress. Space property rights might be of great importance to commercial space advocates and entrepreneurs, but it’s a fringe issue otherwise. Given the current difficulties in Congress of getting all but the most noncontroversial legislation through, it will take a concerted effort by advocates to even get the attention of Congress on a topic that, to most, still seems like a low priority.

    And that is how you get the law and treaty passed.
    A fringe issue that does not upset any important groups -> non-controversial
    Does not cost anything (unlike new roads) -> no budget or borrowing problems
    Low priority; all major bills are stalled and the only high priority this year is getting re-elected -> good time to pass it

    A mutual property rights recognition treaty with the UK, Canada, Australia and possibly France & Germany would be a good legacy to leave for retiring politicians to leave behind and a statement about the future for young ones.

  • Sam Dinkin

    Maybe the right way to recognize title is via claims of 40 acres per person who arrives on the Moon after the act’s passage date.

  • A M Swallow

    When writing laws for the Moon criminal law is also needed. Bans on murder, rape, assault, theft, fraud, claim jumping etc. are also needed.

  • Larson

    What has hindered land development of space is the lack of a business plan that will close. That still holds true today, and unless someone finds oil in ‘them thar hills’, it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

    Part of having a business plan that closes is having some form of property rights. It doesn’t do a company any good if there is indeed “oil in them thar hills” if they cannot claim ownership over it and therefore extract and sell it.

    When writing laws for the Moon criminal law is also needed. Bans on murder, rape, assault, theft, fraud, claim jumping etc. are also needed.

    Not necessarily. Even though the facility, ship, whatever would not be in any country’s territory, the people aboard would still be citizens of their respective countries and likely still subject to their respective judicial systems. (Something similar to extraterritorial jurisdiction here on earth where a country can claim jurisdiction for crimes committed by citizens while in a foreign country.) But, IANAL, and I’m sure further work will need to be done to settle such issues.

  • Robert G. Oler

    “The proposed law gets around the Outer Space Treaty by not having the US claim sovereignty over the territory, only recognize the private claim for the land. That, Simberg argues, is sufficient to provide the property rights certainty needed for commercial space development to flourish.”

    this is an interesting and entertaining idea, Rand is a smart guy who thinks out of the box…and this reflects it. Having said that 1) it is hard to see what this accomplishes and 2) it is hard to see how it has any validity.

    (I am not a lawyer, I dont play one on TV…my Dad is a 1000 dollar an hour attorney but that means nothing…)

    I do have a pretty good grasp of “sovereignty” far more (but then who does not) then Bush 43′s babbling on the subject (sorry had to take the shot)…but at best what this “bill” tries to do is create defacto sovereignty…

    I pull out my deeds to the house/land in Clear Lake and in Santa Fe and a curious phrase emerges “The State of Texas (the family has land titles which start “The Republic of Texas”) having domain over the land, guarantees title and rights of conveyance to (property specification) as being properly conveyed to (owner). Prior to March 2, 1836 there are no valid claims to the land”.
    \
    One might argue that the real date is April 21, 1836…but the point remains…the reason that Texas can guarantee the title and rights of a piece of property is because the land “really” belongs to the state…it has “domain over it”

    Dad just had a case against the Keystone pipeline where the folks who are trying to build the pipeline were given authority by the state of Texas to do imminent domain (we have a very screw the people, up with corporations gov…you might ahve heard of him). They could do that because well the state owns the land…Except the land actually was a “land grant” where the state conveyed to the owner (whose relatives fought in the Texas War of independence) specific rights…and those rights stopped it.

    The point here is that Rand’s effort while entertaining is calling on “the state” to enforce things it can only have by defact…ie no one is in a position to challenge it by either law or force of arms.

    The first thing that someone who wants to challenge some other “claim” would state in a federal cause of action is that The United States does not have “domain” over land it is not sovereign over. What would stop a “chinese company” from moving onto the same land and saying “The PRC gave us the right to be here”?

    I would be curious how some act of Congress can extend US jurisdiction to “land” where (to quote a SCOTUS decision) “the flag does not have domain”.

    The law might work by “defact” because there would likely be no one to challenge the “title” given…but its thin gruel. The instant that there was a challenge….

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Larson wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 11:37 am
    (Something similar to extraterritorial jurisdiction here on earth where a country can claim jurisdiction for crimes committed by citizens while in a foreign country.) .

    that is extremely narrow jurisdiction…at least in the US it only applies when the individual is “on a mission of the sovereign”.

    So for instance if Haliburton has a person on foreign soil who kills another Haliburton person (or even a local) the US would not claim jurisdiction on it. If a person with a black passport or military ID does that well we would claim and get jurisdiction.

    It is a minor thing but it is the reason that US troops are no longer in Iraq. The Iraqis were no longer willing to give them “sovereign immunity” no matter what Willard Mitt Romney says RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    There is really no problem with criminal laws…see the US South Pole stations for how that would work. There is a US Marshall with now I think 4 deputies for Antarctica. RGO

  • Artie,
    I was recently a judge in a space-focused student business plan competition. One of the teams actually had a reasonable business concept that did involve collecting materials from the Moon and returning them to earth. Raising the money to do the mission wasn’t likely going to happen unless one of them had an Uncle Gates who made some money in the software world, but if they could raise the money, they had a reasonable shot of getting a good return.

    But the very first question they got was about if they’d be allowed to actually sell something they brought back from the Moon.

    So I’m not saying that the legal regime is the only thing standing in the way to lunar development (I think the immature state of cislunar transportation is a much bigger impediment), but it clearly is an issue that investors are worried about. Which means that even if there are other issues that are bigger, it’s still something that needs to be resolved to close such a business case.

    Not saying this particular proposal is the perfect solution (I for one would like to see smaller land grants–the current one is for a grant twice the size of Colorado), nor that we’ll instantly see tons of lunar ventures if this problem is solved. Just saying I’m glad someone is actually working on solving this problem while other people are solving other problems–we don’t have to or even want to do everything in series.

    ~Jon

  • The best solution is to simply allow the UN, or some other international organization, to lease out lunar territory to individual nations for perhaps 40 or 50 years (perhaps $1 million per year per square kilometer of territory?). Annual revenue from such leases could then be distributed equally amongst every nation on Earth. Nations that are leasing lunar territory could then sublease all or parts of their territories to private businesses and organizations that seek to exploit lunar territory or resources for profit. And the same should apply to other planets, moons, and asteroids.

    Meteoroids, celestial objects 10 meters in diameter or less, should be open to full exploitation by any government and private entities, IMO, for a one time fee (perhaps $1 million). Such objects can weigh several hundred tonnes and would probably be worth several hundred million dollars in water, oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon resources for utilization in space. However, IMO, an additional one time fee should be charged if such objects are parked within cis-lunar space at one of the Lagrange points before they are exploited. An international organization could simply charge $1 million dollars to a company that captures a meteoroid and then charge another, a one time, $1 million storage fee for parking the meteoroids within cis-lunar space ($2 million in total for objects probably worth several hundred million dollars).

    Under this scenario, all of the world’s governments are minimally compensated for allowing individual nations to control and exploit extraterrestrial territories. And private companies would get to lease extraterrestrial territories from individual governments, like the US, Russia, China, Japan, etc. that have purchased leases in order to control such territories. Everybody makes money!

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Mark

    Oler stumbles onto a truth that libertarian schemes concerning property rights on the Moon fall down over. The question arises, who is going to enforce these land grants? Even assuming that a private group gets to the Moon unaided by any government — and considering that just to get to low Earth orbit companies like SpaceX have their hands out for billions in subsidies — what is to prevent another state actor (the Chinese come to mind) from refusing to recognize the claim and booting the intrepid pioneers from their lunar land grant?

    Sadly, if we want to enact a regime of property rights in space, there has to be a strong government presence in space to enforce them.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “what is to prevent another state actor (the Chinese come to mind) from refusing to recognize the claim and booting the intrepid pioneers from their lunar land grant?”

    The fact that China is not on the Moon (and currently has no plans to land taikonauts there, nevertheless organized police or military forces)?

    I think the point to the proposed legislation is to encourage U.S. industry to get there the fastest with the mostest. If that happens, there’s not much China (or any other actor) can do. It becomes a fait accompli.

    Also, absent a very highly concentrated resource that exists in once highly localized spot, I doubt that nations are going to come to blows over the Moon for decades, maybe centuries, to come. Even the South Pole Aitken Basin is over 2,000 kilometers wide. Most likely, unless they make plans to meet, lunar expeditions sponsored by different actors are going to be widely separated geographically (and probably also in time if there is no permanent presence) and thus have no contact with each other.

    “Sadly, if we want to enact a regime of property rights in space, there has to be a strong government presence in space to enforce them.”

    Even if China or another state wants to challenge lunar claims, they don’t need a military or police presence in space to press them. They can just challenge them diplomatically or militarily on Earth. Despite another post in this thread, “space marines” would be a waste of resources.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The best solution is to simply allow the UN, or some other international organization, to lease out lunar territory to individual nations”

    Your logic is inconsistent. You’ve made many posts on this blog about how important it is for the U.S. to return to the Moon. But now you want give all lunar rights to the U.N. and rent those rights out to all nations.

    If the Moon is as important as you think it is, then you should want it for your country, not others.

    “Meteoroids, celestial objects 10 meters in diameter or less, should be open to full exploitation by any government and private entities, IMO, for a one time fee (perhaps $1 million)… and then charge another, a one time, $1 million storage fee for parking the meteoroids within cis-lunar space”

    Adding lots of million dollar fees is just going to make extraterrestrial development, already a very expensive proposition, even more expensive. There’s currently no economic incentive to develop these resources, and your proposition would make it worse.

    If you want to see extraterrestrial resources developed, then you want to encourage that activity (as the proposed legislation tries to do), not discourage it with taxes.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    a FEW ERRORS need to be corrected.
    — and considering that just to get to low Earth orbit companies like SpaceX have their hands out for billions in subsidies — ”

    you have been fracked up ever since Bush43 helped the GOP to learn to lie….SpaceX is not asking for billions in subsidies…a fee for service is not a subsidy. SLS is the billions a year for subsidies…

    you wrote:
    “what is to prevent another state actor (the Chinese come to mind) from refusing to recognize the claim and booting the intrepid pioneers from their lunar land grant?”

    The main issue would in my view not come from “another state actor” but from another private company. Property rights are designed to prevent or at least adjudicate both issues between private landowners and the state…but mostly between two groups of private actors.

    Now all this assumes that somehow there is some “thing” that crops up that is all of a sudden worth the cost (at whatever level) to develop the infrastructure that is needed to get to the Moon, get the product, and make it useful in some fashion to the folks back on Earth (where the real market is)…and right now that does not exist (although doubtless at some cost level there is a product)…

    But if there were and the “thing” were concentrated in some area…well thats when the entire notion would come into play.

    Having said that if there was such a “place” where a “thing” was being “developed”…then a “strong government presence” is not enough unless you are chatting about defacto sovereignty by force…

    What is required is some sort of international treaty among space faring nations that would in some fashion by either allowing annexing or “some way” (Marcels is at least entertaining) deal with disputes between two different nations and their private or state actors.

    It was just this sort of dispute that lead Saddam to invade Kuwait (the Kuwaitis were cross drilling with Haliburton’s help) ….

    so there has to be some international mechanism…I suspect it works something like how oil drilling off shore is done but (gasp) in some fashion ends up involving the UN (unless we somehow again come up with some national method)…

    “Sadly, if we want to enact a regime of property rights in space, there has to be a strong government presence in space to enforce them.” this statement is right wing chickenhawk babble.

    We will need a strong government presence in space to enact the infrastructure you right wingers so dislike…but while it makes good science fiction the notion of some “Operation Moon Freedom” to free the Moons resources for our domination (much as we tried to do in Iraq) is pointless.

    We should at somepoint try and take the notion that Armstrong spoke…”All mankind” and try and work that out.

    nice try Mark. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    entertaining and thought provoking…not sure I agree completely but it is something to think about RGO

  • Egad

    Jon Goff wrote,


    I was recently a judge in a space-focused student business plan competition. One of the teams actually had a reasonable business concept that did involve collecting materials from the Moon and returning them to earth…

    But the very first question they got was about if they’d be allowed to actually sell something they brought back from the Moon.

    Without violating any confidentiality/nondisclosure agreements, could you say a bit more about this? Did the very first question focus on any particular concern in law or treaty, or was it just a generalized concern? And did anyone have an answer?

  • Mark

    Deep Blue Nine is wrong. The Chinese are developing plans for manned lunar expeditions as the recent white paper states.

    Oler is, as usual, raving. SpaceX and other companies have gotten hundreds of millions in subsidies before a single resupply flight has flown to ISS, Commercial crew is the space faring version of Solyndra, but with the twist that there aren’t any private markets for the government subsidized space ships outside of some vague ideas. (Yes, I’m aware of Bigelow and wish that company well. But until they actual have a working space station, it remains a promise and not reality.)

    Oler also needs to get over George W. Bush. His obsession with a man who has not been in public office in over three years is getting to be a little concerning.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    “The proposed law gets around the Outer Space Treaty by not having the US claim sovereignty over the territory, only recognize the private claim for the land. That, Simberg argues, is sufficient to provide the property rights certainty needed for commercial space development to flourish.” “…this is an interesting and entertaining idea.”

    Nonsense. This is more right wing gibberish. Corporations owning off-planet rights or whole celestial bodies is Reaganomics In Space and musings on same are a waste of grant funding. But methods for circumventling existing law is a conservative mantre. This is just “Reaganites In Space” chatter seasoned with a hint of Mitt. Remember the words of discredited financier and Wall Street fellow traveller Ivan Boesky to his wife- “What good is the moon- you can’t buy or sell it.” Surely you realize if these folks could patent air, they’d charge you a nickel a breath, and that’s per nostril.

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    “[China] currently has no plans to land taikonauts there…[on he moon] ”

    =yawn= Inaccurate and purposely misleading from commercial space advocates desperate to avoid a ‘space race redux’, which would all but end any attempts to tap government subsidies denied in the private sector. As Google is an easy source for you for public discourse on same, try inputing :’China plans lunar program’ and review the plethora of pages and sources revealed. =eyeroll= Two examples-

    1. “China has already said its eventual goals are to have a space station and put an astronaut on the moon.” – source, http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-12-29/news

    2. “Red Moon Rising: China Plans a Manned Lunar Landing– China has just made its intentions clear. According to a recently released white paper, it is now official Chinese policy to launch the country’s own space station and put an astronaut on the moon by 2020.”
    -source, http://bigthink.com/think-tank/red-moon-rising-china-plans-a-manned-lunar-landing

    The list goes on and on and on and on… =eyeroll=

    =yawn= We understand your head fake, but 1+1=2, not 11. We know why. So just go fly. Get somebody up, around and down safely. If Red China can do it over and over, surely commercial can do it once, too.
    Get some skin in the game. But per Pelley’s 4/1 60 Minutes piece on Brevard County, [which stephen Smith conveniently ignored while crowing the the previous weeks' Space X PR piece] HSF launched from KSC is at a minimun of five years off.

    ======

    The Chinese are not going to telegraph intent beyond vagaries about their lunar plans, human and so on, any more than the Soviets did beyond what they couldn’t conceal in the 1960′s and 1970′s. Any hints of a ‘space race redux’ w/China threatens commercial’s agenda and any bid to siphon off government subsidies; it dries up— which is what the commercial camp is really concerned about and why it is in commercial’s interest to head fake and nay-saying any hints of Chinese lunar plans, manned or unmanned, culled from official government planning reports, official and unofficial sources. It’s clever politicking but easy to defuse.

  • DCSCA

    Jonathan Goff wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    “I was recently a judge in a space-focused student business plan competition. One of the teams actually had a reasonable business concept that did involve collecting materials from the Moon and returning them to earth.”

    In all seriousness, have you seen 1950′s ‘Destination Moon’– as it has a fairly good business plan as part of the script, provided you find and plan on returning uranium in the craters to justify the expense of the trip. How about applying the question to a more reasonable challenge on Earth which can face similar legalities. Recall the chatter about towing icebergs to arrid regions or drought striken population centers for drinking water and/or irrigation purposes. How nations w/icepacks within their borders decide to exploit it (like for tourism) is their concern.The icepack in international waters are free of private ownership, accessable by any nation (or firm) willing to build a boat, grab an ice pick, parka and make the trip to lasso a berg. How do you try to legislate ownership of same– who regulates the sales- Haliburton or the UN– who profits– do you sell off the ice pack (which is presumable a renewable resourse for a time) -and make it afforable to only the wealthiest firms or consortiums, or simply invest in the firms and technologies willing to risk ‘mining’ a region ‘free’ for exploitation. It’s a problem of planetary scale and consequences, just as laying claim to ownership of celestial bodies. This ‘space ownership’ chatter is just foolishness. Sure, laying claim to ‘natural resources’ accessed by private firms off-planet has merit, but to stake claim of ownership of the whole body disturbs ‘the natural order’ of things– on many ‘cosmic’ levels.

  • Dark Blue Nine wrote:

    “Your logic is inconsistent. You’ve made many posts on this blog about how important it is for the U.S. to return to the Moon. But now you want give all lunar rights to the U.N. and rent those rights out to all nations.”

    The US already signed the Outer Space Treaty back in the 1967, a treaty which forbids any nation from claiming ownership a celestial body. According to the treaty, the Moon is part of the Common heritage of mankind. As it should be!

    The idea that corporations can just go around exploiting lands owned by the people without compensation is of course a Libertarian dream. But its not reality. Even individuals who own private property here on Earth– have to pay taxes.

    Perhaps you’re advocating some sort of private commercial feudalism where private companies can just fight it out amongst themselves both in the heavens and on the Earth as to who owns what:-)

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Vladislaw

    Robert Oler wrote:

    “Now all this assumes that somehow there is some “thing” that crops up that is all of a sudden worth the cost (at whatever level) to develop the infrastructure that is needed to get to the Moon, get the product, and make it useful in some fashion to the folks back on Earth (where the real market is)…and right now that does not exist (although doubtless at some cost level there is a product)…”

    The “thing” is the 9 BILLION acre UNCLAIMED asset called Luna. I would think getting the ownership rights along with all the associated mineral and water rights would be all the incentive needed. Of course it has to be a big enough block of property to get the ball rolling and the U.S. would have to acknowledge if other countries wanted to join the club of supporting all claims.

    Again, I don’t believe you have to bring products back at first. A ton of gold on the moon has the same asset value as a ton on earth. If, it is done the way it is done on earth, that asset is going to spend it’s life spent buried in some vault for eternity. A suprising amount of platinum group metals and gemstones never move around. It is just squirreled away in some vault and shows up as an asset. The only thing that ever changes is who owns it.

    North Dakota has coal mineral rights that have been bought and sold for around a century. Not an ounce of coal has every been mined from a lot of this. The mineral rights are an asset carried on the books of an energy company until they sell them to another.

    It will be the same on Luna when we finally develop the market for it. There should be a well established market for the speculation to occur, something that should have been established once we landed. Mineral rights and water rights for Luna should be established first and let the markets determine relative values for these unharvested assets. Their values should always stay relative to costs associated with harvesting them.

  • Fred Willett

    Many years ago as a beginner programmer (It was way before the Osborne became the last word in computer sophistication and Steve Jobs hadn’t yet made his first billion) I attended a conference on copyright matters. I raised the issue of software copyright protection as a coming future issue and the good professors and lawyers looked at me as if I was from another planet.
    They all had more pressing issues to consider.
    And so it is with outer space.
    And so it will stay until we are actually going to the moon and looking to build our house or factory, our base or mine. Then the lawyers will run around and cludge together some temporary fix.
    That’s the way the law works.
    The law is little more than a collection of temporary fixes. Many of them enacted by the ancients with a firm belief that this patch will hold until someone gets around to enacting a more permanent solution.
    Is there any reason to believe that this approach will not work in settling outer space?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    “SpaceX and other companies have gotten hundreds of millions in subsidies before a single resupply flight has flown to ISS, ”

    but a few post ago it was “billions”

    ” Mark wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    “low Earth orbit companies like SpaceX have their hands out for billions in subsidies ”

    when you are making it up the facts dont really matter now really I guess does the charge…but there is a difference between “millions” and “billions” just as their is between subsidies and fee for service.

    SpaceX and others have gotten payments for milestones which they accomplish in fullfilling (or attempting to) a genuine federal contract.

    The contracts are not sole source as was famous in the Bush43 years and they are unlike the “subsidies’ paid to the contractors on SLS, a program you support…the payments to the folks on SLS are made irregardless of performance…AND DO FAR JUST IN A FEW SHORT YEARS HAVE BEEN MORE THEN THE ENTIRE COMMERCIAL CREW/CARGO EFFORT PERIOD.

    You were silent as Cx spent 15 billion dollars for nothing…ok they got that cheap (700 million dollars) suborbital test which showed nothing…but compared to say Gemini which consumed 5 billion in real dollars for the ENTIRE PROGRAM…15 seems a lot to get absolutely nothing.

    If SpaceX or anyone else fails to meet any of the performance milestones they do not get paid…and if this test shot is successful; the effort will actually deliver cargo to the space station…

    you wrote:

    “The Chinese are developing plans for manned lunar expeditions as the recent white paper states.”

    OK we are now down to “Plans”. NASA develops endless plans. Bush 43 in his watch watched Cx plan eternally as it also spent vast sums ofmoney.

    Plans are not hardware and plans do not signal intentions. All the hardware DEVELOPMENT actually shows now is that the Reds are over about a decade…redoing Gemini…which went from scratch to final flight…in what 18 months?

    I mention Bush 43 because you constantly in your analysis exhibit his rhetorical style…”plans” do not make hardware or intentions…no more then Saddam maybe having WMD was a threat to the US.

    You folks are careful…you “exaggerate” carefully…always cloaked in the rhetoric of urgency; with little or no facts to back up the analysis.

    Sit back and enjoy Mark. The first of the “Liberty vehicles” you endorsed in the Weekly Standard piece…are about to try a semi operational mission.

    At least you hung on to get that correct. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Having been a tad critical of Simberg’s efforts…this should really be repeated.

    Simberg’s “notions” are at the very least (and I think far more then this) a break with the stale notions of the past…and an attempt to interject some notion of “possible” in a world where little of that is done now.

    We will at some point need property rights in space; I hope that they are somehow done “for all Mankind” instead of narrow parochial national interest (but this may be to much of a hope)…and this is a good contribution to the thought process.

    I dont think that the effort is right now a deal buster in terms of private efforts on the Moon.

    “Jonathan Goff wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    But the very first question they got was about if they’d be allowed to actually sell something they brought back from the Moon.”

    thats a good question and I agree with Goff that right now the transportation issue is the big one…but at some point we will resolve that at least in the US with the introduction of free enterprise…and we will focus in on that question first then the larger issue of mineral/etc rights.

    Anyway Nice job Rand. RGO

  • Jose Jimenez

    @ A M Swallow

    “A fringe issue that does not upset any important groups -> non-controversial
    Does not cost anything (unlike new roads) -> no budget or borrowing problems.
    Low priority; all major bills are stalled and the only high priority this year is getting re-elected -> good time to pass it”

    The legality of the proposal aside, legislation like this would be seen globally as an incredibly aggressive foreign policy move by the U.S., something which members of Congress and the White House would be well aware of, and which would make legislation along these lines exceedingly controversial.

    Let’s also remember that the most recent de facto survey of public opinion on U.S. lunar settlement ambitions – the public reaction to Gingrich’s lunar colony statements – suggest that even within the context of the domestic arena alone this idea would be considered quite controversial (online CNN poll found 80% against Gingrich’s lunar proposal).

  • Doug Lassiter

    Mark wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 6:06 pm
    “The Chinese are developing plans for manned lunar expeditions as the recent white paper states.”

    Did you READ the white paper? It says, in toto …

    “China will conduct studies on the preliminary plan for a human lunar landing.”

    Studies of a preliminary plan? That’s sure a passively bleating way to say “we’re marching proudly onward to the Moon!” Yes, they’re looking at it, and they may well be driving hard at it, but by no stretch of the imagination can one read that into this white paper. In fact, what one can read into this white paper is that their commitment to putting humans on the Moon is far less convincing than anyone had ever thought.

    We’ve been through all this before, and I really thought the matter had been laid to rest. The Chinese white paper does NOT make any strong statement about intentions for landing humans on the Moon. Sounds more like an afterthought.

  • Vladislaw

    Doug Lassiter wrote:

    “China will conduct studies on the preliminary plan for a human lunar landing.”

    Studies of a preliminary plan? That’s sure a passively bleating way to say “we’re marching proudly onward to the Moon!”

    As the character Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) said in the movie “Jerry Maguire” to Tom Cruise:

    “Show me the money”

    NASA always has the power point flavor of the month but the bottom line is where is the money for the project.

    Until such time as massive amounts of funding is funneled to the Chinese space program we can take it all with a grain of sand.

    We may not beable to see inside a lab to see some testing but we can see the results of major shifts in funding at the Chinese federal level.

    The day they start funding it, we will know something is up.

  • DCSCA

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Did YOU read not one, but the papers ‘in toto’– the pattern of intent over is there not onlu in what is said, but not said and in the purposed vagaries. If you’re going to isolate your evaluation to singular information points then you have no quibble waiting to see if Curiosity survives before funding further Mars missions.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The Chinese are developing plans for manned lunar expeditions as the recent white paper states.”

    What “recent white paper”?

    And if it exists, white papers are merely predecisional. They’re not plans.

  • mike shupp

    Uh dear. One can argue that an international treaty (“Moon Agreement”) which has never been invoked since its ratification in 1984 is a dead letter. One might mention that the vision of near-instantaneous exploitation of abundant extraterrestrial resources which seems to have generated the sentiment which led to that treaty has been refuted by the passage of time, by the manifest lack of enthusiasm for space settlement exhibited by spacefaring nations, and by the pronounced disinterest in space ventures on the part of established commercial enterprises. One might note that at this late date it appears that space settlements will require technology not yet available and the development of extensive infrastructure over a period of years at staggering cost, and that the putative success of planetary colonization efforts mounted by earthy states in the next century or so is far from assured. Agreement being found on these points after discussion by many nations, we might imagine that one or more spacefaring nations might make the argument to other nations that the Moon Treaty and Outer Space Treaty in their present forms are inamicable to human settlement of the solar system — a goal of many people in many nations — and should be amended in some form which preserves the egalitarian tenor of the original acts.

    More succinctly, if we assure Peru and the Ivory Coast and Indonesia that people and corporations from Peru, the Ivory Coast, and Indonesia will have as much right to land (and sunlight, and water-bearing minerals) as people and corporations from the USA as quickly as they can be accommodated, those nations might go along with the USA in amending the several Space Treaties. Presumably the amendments would include these assurances.

    If we tell Peru et al that the Moon belongs to the people who have already been there and that minor states should just stuff themselves and their diplomats should keep quiet in the presence of their betters, they’ll likely vote against us in the UN; they might lay large tariffs on goods imported from the US; they might be rude to US tourists; if these measures are ineffective, they might intrigue with other nations to extend this disfavor. Happiness would NOT ensue.

    I sort of wish that Rand had given some thought to selling his settlement plans to people outside the United States.

  • DCSCA

    @Mark wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 6:06 pm
    “Deep Blue Nine is wrong. The Chinese are developing plans for manned lunar expeditions as the recent white paper states.”

    Yep. But the objective of commercialists is to nay-say it becuase a ‘space race-redux’ all but ends any chances of tapping government subsidies. It’s a classic lobbying tactic; a head fake and clever politicking, but easily neutralized.

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    “OK we are now down to “Plans”. NASA develops endless plans.”

    And they can pay off. Gilruth’s engineers in the STG were thinking/planning lunar mission ops long before Apollo was greenlighted and the LOR selected. Once it was, the hardware was sized and contracted for it accordingly.

    “We will at some point need property rights in space”

    They exist already. Americans don’t lay claim to the Sea of Tranquility but the artifacts left from Apollo 11 resting there are owned by NASA- that is, the American people. Just as the S-IC wreckage on the ocean floor belongs to NASA as well. The Soviet lunar artifacts- intact and wrecked, belong to Russia and so on.

    @Vladislaw wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    It’s all relative and flooding the world market with ‘lunar gold’ devalues it as a commodity. A long time ago salt was a valuable asset. Today, not so much.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Commercial crew is the space faring version of Solyndra

    Gee, then your description of the SLS and MPCV should be even more horrible, since they have consumed $Billions without any functional hardware demonstrated.

    Unless 100% government-funded programs are good, whereas public/private programs that have private companies contributing significant amounts of the required funds are bad? Well?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Vladislaw wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Not for sure I agree with that…by your definition a block of gold on the bottom of the Atlantic in the RMS Titanic is as valuable as one in my safe…Dont think so RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    In all seriousness, have you seen 1950′s ‘Destination Moon’– as it has a fairly good business plan as part of the script…

    You really need to get out of your basement and enter the 21st Century.

    There are plenty of valid business models for people to consider without having to dig up and watch 50′s era scifi movies that pre-date the Outer Space Treaty. Lunar mining will have analogues to terrestrial mining in harsh conditions, but the issue that Jon was highlighting is that, just like with terrestrial investors, property rights have to be clearly defined.

    A mining entity can find valuable materials and have a great plan for extraction, but if their efforts will get them tied up in litigation then that changes the ROI calculation – maybe ruins it. And when it will be the most expensive mining operation ever conceived, there can be no unanswered questions about property rights.

    Rand’s proposal may not end up being the final solution, but if it raises the issue and gets people thinking about solutions, he will have done well.

  • Fred Cink

    Mr Oler, I believe these are your statements. “When you are making it up the facts don’t really matter…” and “…Cx spent 15 billion dollars for nothing…15 seems alot to get absolutely nothing.” Cx funding produced the twice successfully tested 5 segment SRB, the approaching completion J-2x, and the majority of R and D on what is now MPCV, not to mention numerous upgrades/modifications to launch sight infrastructure. Was Cx the correct, well managed/executed successful program it should have been? No. But PLEASE cease with your arrogant and inane spouting of your koolaid-inspired cheerleader rants They are way past ridiculous.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Fred Cink…

    be careful with my words and I will be with the ones you toss dont be careful with my words and I’ll remind you of them…such as this

    “You were silent as Cx spent 15 billion dollars for nothing…ok they got that cheap (700 million dollars) suborbital test which showed nothing…but compared to say Gemini which consumed 5 billion in real dollars for the ENTIRE PROGRAM…15 seems a lot to get absolutely nothing.”

    the test you mention are useless and overpriced…congrats on reinventing an Apollo era engine that is no where close to flight status…if SLS were to ever fly they would need an existing upper stage.

    goofy RGO

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    =yawn= Guess a reasonable business plan– even a work of fiction- spooks you. That’s Hollywood for you- a happy ending you won’t accept. Simberg’s musings are simply another attack angle in the service of a far right think tank (a Kocn brothers favorite) to pitch celestial private property rights. Like we need some spacial BP to own an asteroid, have a mishap, crack it in half and send it spiralling down to obliterate Houston. Oops, sorry, we’ll pay a fine and clean up the mess doesn’t cut it. Now there’s a good screenplay for you. You really ought to bone up and learn who the players are in the game.

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 8:45 pm
    “… white papers are merely predecisional. They’re not plans”

    =eyeroll= The Low Committee, a group within the STG- formalized among othersplaning, a ‘white paper’ titled “A Plan For A Manned Lunar Landing” and layed out how manned lunar landings could be made based on their earlier planning w/projected costs/methods/procedures & hardware requirements–(for fiscal ’62 planning) as Ike’s Glennan transitioned out of NASA, before Webb was appointed and long before the lunar landing goal coalesced as firm policy and announced by JFK on 5/25/61, The history is all there. source- http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-4205/ch1-8.html

  • Vladislaw

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    “Not for sure I agree with that…by your definition a block of gold on the bottom of the Atlantic in the RMS Titanic is as valuable as one in my safe…Dont think so RGO”

    Actually, you would first have to prove ownership, the whole point of my post, without the property rights of ownership it is just an unclaimed asset worth nothing because it would be illegal to sell something you do not own.

    IF .. a big if… you could somehow prove ownership of that gold on the titanic, if would more than likely be worth more than generic gold bullion as it would have a unique rarity value also which may even prove higher than the recovery cost.

    It really doesn’t matter where your safe of gold is Robert, at least on today’s earth. But if your gold was buried in some bank vault somewhere, with electronic banking, the ownership of that gold can instantly change hands many times per day. If you had a ton of gold on the moon in a box, and hung a sign on your habitat that read “BANK”, I do not think you would have a hardtime doing electronic banking and ownership transfers.

    That goes with any metals actually. There are all kinds of metal depositories on the planet. From scrapyards to strategic metals. Lots of those piles of metals will never move. Goto any major salvage yard and look at the weeds growing over metal, but it is still carried on the books as an asset, and it maybe bought and sold, mergers and acquistions but the asset just sits there.

    Pallets stacked with bars of nickel, platinum, gold, silver, titanium sitting on the moon will have value if someone can have a legitimate claim to them.

    A market will determine the price differential, I would be amazed if at first, because of rarity, it isn’t actually higher than earth based. (Billionairs playing “keeping up with the jones’s) But over time and amount stacked up it would start moving to earth’s price and in some cases, lower than earth’s.

    This excludes any local use for the resources. The price there would be based on replacement cost from earth.

  • Robert G. Oler

    mike shupp wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    nice RGO

  • Doug Lassiter

    DCSCA wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 8:22 pm
    “Did YOU read not one, but the papers ‘in toto’– the pattern of intent over is there not onlu in what is said, but not said and in the purposed vagaries.”

    Excuse my attempt to parse this sentence.

    The reference I was responding to was directed specifically at the “white paper”. How many “white papers” should I be reading? As far as I know, there is precisely one, and I’m going to pay attention to what is said there, as opposed to what is not said there. The reference was to a singular information point. I was just pointing out that the information derived from that singular information point was simply not justified by it.

    You know, they didn’t say they were going to land a human on Pluto, so … oh my goodness! Can it be true? So much for, er, “purposed vagaries”.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Guess a reasonable business plan– even a work of fiction- spooks you.

    Unlike you, I’ve seen and worked on business plans.

    And while sometimes fictional business plans can be just as good as real-but-unrealistic ones, it doesn’t change the end result – business plans based on fiction, with no anchor in reality, are worthless.

    Just like your opinions on this matter…

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “1. ‘China has already said its eventual goals are to have a space station and put an astronaut on the moon.’ – source, http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-12-29/news

    Your first link goes to Business Insider, but there’s no content — only this:

    “Page Not Found
    We’re sorry. We couldn’t find the page you requested.”

    “2. ‘Red Moon Rising: China Plans a Manned Lunar Landing– China has just made its intentions clear. According to a recently released white paper, it is now official Chinese policy to launch the country’s own space station and put an astronaut on the moon by 2020.’
    -source, http://bigthink.com/think-tank/red-moon-rising-china-plans-a-manned-lunar-landing

    Your second link consists of a couple paragraphs above a video of Leroy Chiao, a second-generation Chinese-American astronaut, advocating greater international cooperation, including with China — not competition.

    Moreover, the Chinese document linked in the first paragraph contains no goal to “put an astronaut on the Moon by 2020″. In fact, there’s no references to human lunar activities or planning at all. I translated the document into English with Babelfish, and the only references to lunar activities are robotic.

    “try inputing :’China plans lunar program’”

    China does have a lunar program. It’s robotic, not human. Look up Chang’e.

    “which stephen Smith conveniently ignored”

    Smith did not ignore it. He critiqued it here:

    http://spaceksc.blogspot.com/

    “Yep. But the objective of commercialists is to nay-say it becuase a ‘space race-redux’”

    Neither of you has produced a document showing that China has a human lunar program. Your own references either advocate for greater cooperation with China, not a space race with China (Leroy Chiao’s video), or they only mention Chang’e, a robotic lunar program.

    “long before the lunar landing goal coalesced as firm policy and announced by JFK on 5/25/61″

    Exactly. White papers are _predecisional_. Even if you produced a Chinese white paper with a human lunar goal (which you havn’t), that doesn’t mean that the leadership of the Communist Party of China endorses the goal, has decided to pursue the goal, or has funded the goal — just as the U.S. government had not decided to pursue a human lunar goal at the time of the Low Committee.

  • Finally, it’s interesting to find the Koch brothers involved in this.

    Sadly, the Koch brothers have no involvement with this at all. If they did, it might be better funded. It’s simply our resident nutcase troll being itself.

    I have to confess the usual amusement with all of the ignorant comments expressed here by people who have clearly not actually read the paper. But why let that slow you down? It doesn’t with any other subject.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The idea that corporations can just go around exploiting lands owned by the people”

    No one “owns” any real estate in space under existing international law.

    “Even individuals who own private property here on Earth– have to pay taxes.”

    No one said that they didn’t. But if you want to encourage an activity (like development of extraterrestrial resources), then you reduce or eliminate taxes on that activity. You don’t increase or add new taxes to the activity.

    “Perhaps you’re advocating”

    I’m not advocating anything. I’m simply pointing out that your logic is internally inconsistent. If the Moon is valuable enough to spend hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars on a human lunar return effort, then you should want the U.S. to be able to lay claim to some portion of its real estate and resources. But instead, you want to give that real estate and resources away (to the U.N.), which would indicate that the Moon is not valuable, at least not to the U.S. If that’s true, then the U.S. should not spend taxpayer dollars on a human lunar return effort.

    I’m not taking a position one way or the other. I’m just pointing out that your positions are incoherent.

  • Vladislaw

    Mike Shupp wrote:

    “and by the pronounced disinterest in space ventures on the part of established commercial enterprises.”

    I would have a bit of a different take on that. The federal government made it pretty clear where they wanted commercial companies moving in space and where they were not interested in seeing the private sector invest.

    The government made some activities have a clear road and government grants and contracts toward that road, in other activities commercial companies found absolutely no money or support.

    The property rights for LEO to GEO was resolved. That opened it up for Sat operators and call it real estate and complaints have been heard about the best property is already taken. You can obtain an orbit slot and can rest assurded some other company or country isn’t going to park a sat on top of yours.

    Space revenue has enjoyed about a 12% yearly increase and they have experienced this even in economic downturns. It is now about 300 billion a year, add in estimated revenue for sub orbital and it takes another bump upwards, bring in Bigelow/Boeing/SpaceX and we could see even more growth.

    When the Federal government makes it an easy road we can see industry and sector growth increases. We can also easily see the the opposite, if the government decides to put up road blocks.

  • DCSCA

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    “How many “white papers” should I be reading? As far as I know, there is precisely one.”

    Which is precisely wrong. They’re all available over the decade and the intent, stated, unstated complete with purposed vagaries is all there.

  • mike shupp

    Vladislaw: “I would have a bit of a different take on that. The federal government made it pretty clear ….”

    Er, no. I understand your point, I think — The extent to which US businesses have paid attention to space has been much affected — generally, adversely — by the federal government.

    But my point was a more general one: businesses in every nation on earth have basically shunned space settlements and long range space programs as a focus for investment. There are no companies anywhere with actual plans for investing corporate funds on the moon or Mars. Want to build a hotel at the lunar south pole? Any number of aerospace firms will be happy to design it for you — but they’re all on earth, and they don’t have the facilities or equipment to actually construct your building, and they’re not in any hurry to acquire these capabilities either unless a government foots the bill. Want a satellite to study the weather on Titan? Note that ALL planetary probes have been paid for by governments; free enterprise hasn’t wasted a penny on any of them. Weather satellites about earth? Government again. Communication satellites and landsats seem to be the only long-lived business investments in space — and none of these involve humans in orbit or humans on the moon, just human customers on earth.

    It can’t be argued that ALL this lack of interest can be blamed on NASA or the White House. Bluntly put, space settlement doesn’t look like a good place for businesses to invest. The technology isn’t readily available; there’s no trained workforce; support costs during construction would be astronomical; the work itself might be slowed — expensively –by yet unknowfn actors; the payoff is too far downstream to justify investment; and there’s little prospect of repeat business. Robert Heinlein made it look easy for D. D. Harriman; we’re finding it harder. Thus the notion that we should openly admit to the international committee the defects in the Moon Treaty and appeal for revisions.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 11:04 pm
    “How many “white papers” should I be reading? As far as I know, there is precisely one.”

    DCSCA wrote @ April 4th, 2012 at 1:36 am
    “Which is precisely wrong. They’re all available over the decade and the intent, stated, unstated complete with purposed vagaries is all there.”

    I think DBN above has produced a good assessment of those “white papers”, or whatever color they were allocated. Those were not the ones referenced by the OP though.

    That’s a novel phrase, “purposed vagaries”. As in telling us things specifically to mislead us? Those are the seeds of real paranoia.

    To bring this properly back on topic, if the Chinese go to the Moon, and put up a fence around some land I thought was mine (which of course, in the spirit of purposed vagaries, they’d never tell us they were going to do …) , what recourse do I have? In this view, the U.S.could say, yep, according to our records, it sure belongs to you. But we’re not going to do anything about it.

  • In this view, the U.S.could say, yep, according to our records, it sure belongs to you. But we’re not going to do anything about it.

    Yes, it could, just as it could have said, “You know, Saddam, Kuwait doesn’t belong to you, and we recognize its sovereignty, but we’re not going to do anything about it.” Such things are always subject to politics and a sense of national interest. But it’s still better than having no recognition at all.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ Apr

    To bring this properly back on topic, if the Chinese go to the Moon, and put up a fence around some land I thought was mine (which of course, in the spirit of purposed vagaries, they’d never tell us they were going to do”

    exactly…if they do as you suggest they have just made a claim of sovereignty and if no one is willing to challenge them on it…then they own it and can do with it what they vaguely want to do.

    Whittington is 1/10th correct in this…in my view it is going to be very hard for some business to on its own go to the Moon and do “something” and then come back and sell “it”.

    There is going to have to be some “national” (or international) cover for it. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Monica and I were talking about this…and the point came up that the “issue” exist the other way as well.

    Say this bill passes and Congress or whoever starts issuing these “ownership” documents…and then starts letting the federal government regulate activities there.

    I suspect the “company” would start arguing that they dont have the authority to do so…RGO

  • Vladislaw

    Mike,

    One thing leads to another. If the federal government would have pushed commercial human access in the early 1970′s do you think, today, 40 years later, some of those activities would be taking place? They did push sat tech but not human access.

    When Reagan came into office he tried to break some of those roadblocks by changing NASA’s mandate to start to seek out and encourage commercial activities.

    It has been pretty clear where the government and NASA want investment to go and where they want the status quo to remain the same.

  • Egad,
    This was right after NASA had arrested that old lady for trying to sell a moon artifact that an astronaut had given her deceased husband for his role in the Apollo program. The concern was that NASA would not recognize the ownership of materials returned from the moon by a private entity and would insist on them being treated as government property.

    ~Jon

  • DCSCA

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ April 4th, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Uh, no, if you were familiar w/State, you’d know ‘purposed vagaries’ are geopolitics 101.

  • Doug Lassiter

    DCSCA wrote @ April 4th, 2012 at 5:08 pm
    “Uh, no, if you were familiar w/State, you’d know ‘purposed vagaries’ are geopolitics 101.”

    Interesting that search engines never saw that phrase in the many many geopolitical documents they have logged (well, except for one or two posts from the last week of Space Politics). It’s a nice phrase, nonetheless, even if no one else uses it. Now, “proposed vagaries” is a rarely used geopolitical phrase, and a decidedly archaic one.

  • Say this bill passes and Congress or whoever starts issuing these “ownership” documents…and then starts letting the federal government regulate activities there.

    Someone else who didn’t read the proposal and clearly doesn’t understand it.

  • mike shupp

    Vladislaw: “One thing leads to another. If the federal government would have pushed commercial human access in the early 1970′s ….”

    Well, certainly, and I have enjoyed many a glum moment over the last forty years reflecting that if Richard Nixon had left well enough alone and kept the Apollo program running the way it was supposed to, that by now the USA would have a very fine lunar base indeed. But alas, that was not to be.

    But this doesn’t invalidate my original point — that commercial firms ALL OVER THE WORLD are leery of investing in things like space settlement, and that says much more about economics and businessmen than it does about the Awful Power of the US Government.

    Let me let you in on a little secret: The US government’s power to push businesses around is generally much less than it would wish, and particularly so when it wishes business to accomplish some objective, and this particularly obvious when dealing with aerospace. Why else is the estimated cost of the F-35 program over 300 billion bucks? Why else did the USAF end up with two EELV producers rather than one, as was originally intended? Why else was NASA flying space shuttles 20 years after they were expected to be retired?

    You want a real life example of American government actively controlling business? Think of ITAR –trade restrictions on “armaments”. Think of how terrified the government is that businessmen are casually giving away vital military secrets! and how intensely annoyed businessmen are by obsolete and unnecessary regulations which do nothing for actual national security and cost the country billions of dollars in lost trade opportunities!

  • Coastal Ron

    mike shupp wrote @ April 4th, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    …if Richard Nixon had left well enough alone and kept the Apollo program running the way it was supposed to, that by now the USA would have a very fine lunar base indeed.

    Some people say it really Johnson that killed Apollo, but setting that aside, let’s remember that Apollo was not designed to be the best way to set up a “fine” lunar base, it was designed to accomplish Kennedy’s goal:

    I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.

    For the U.S. to have been able to afford to build and sustain a “fine” lunar base, the costs would have been staggering, especially with the continued use of disposable rockets and spacecraft. Just look at the amount of mass that one Saturn 5 stack could land on the Moon, and that should give you an idea about how expensive it would have been.

    And cost aside, we would have had the same legal issues we face today with the Outer Space Treaty, so what would have been our goal on the Moon?

  • Vladislaw

    I understand where you are coming from Mike and do agree with a lot of what you write.

    “But this doesn’t invalidate my original point — that commercial firms ALL OVER THE WORLD are leery of investing in things like space settlement, and that says much more about economics and businessmen than it does about the Awful Power of the US Government. “

    Starting in 1960 which national government has given a positive green light?

    Where militaries back then were saying .. “ya we want our businesses to have ballistic missiles in their backyard and launch people”

    Using United States terminology .. which Nation’s FAA, DOT, NASA, Military, Presidents, congresses, passed the laws needed to not only to legally allow it to happen, but secondly acting as a green light for industry to know it is safe to spend billions and the gov/mil/cong isn’t going to pass legislation and screw you?

    It always comes back to that, where is any government/military given a green light and pushed for this?

    Without the FAA, DOT, Mil, Pres, Congress passing the legislation to allow this to happen ( it has only recently been passed in the Unitied States and more legislation is still needed and we have seen year to year increases in private investment in commercial space since the Anasari X prize was won)

    Investors would be silly to even bother with it when there are safer investments with better returns that DO have all the needed legislation already passeed and in place to do it.

  • Coastal Ron

    Congrats Rand on inspiring an article in Wired on this subject.

    This is an important issue that needs to be settled soon, and it’s not as clean-cut as people would think. Small amounts of lunar dust are legal to sell, and rocks from Mars are fair game for anyone to claim. To borrow the punchline from an old joke, we’ve already established that exploitation of the universe is allowable – now we are merely haggling over the price. So really the big question is how much we want to allow, and when.

    Do we want to be able to see strip mining on the Moon? Or relegate it only to the farside?

    Should exploitation be allowed through a licensing agreement that “rewards” everyone on Earth? Some sort of trust fund that is distributed evenly between the countries of the world depending on population? And should there be one licensing rate for material that is returned to Earth, but a lessor amount for material that stays in space? That would encourage space development I would think.

    I don’t think anything will happen this year, but a tipping point is coming, and it could be within a decade if the Google Lunar X Prize is won by someone.

  • mike shupp

    Coastal Ron wrote @ April 5th, 2012 at 1:19 am

    “… we would have had the same legal issues we face today with the Outer Space Treaty,, so what would have been our goal on the Moon?”

    First, yes Apollo was expensive. But I sort of think, over 40 years NASA might have come up with a few ways of paring down that Saturn V & LEM cost, quite possibly with more success than NASA found with the Space Shuttle.

    Secondly, after 40 years of carrying astronauts and their gear and supplies to the moon, the US would have had the capability to build a REALLY FINE lunar base. Something that the richest, most powerful, most technologically developed nation on earth can’t accomplish today in this version of reality. That’s got to have a smidgen or two of worth.

    Also, an existing US moon base would have eliminated the Moon Treaty, at least in its present form. The Moon Treaty was passed in the mid 80′s; with an honest-to-God US base in place, the signers would have had a more realistic idea of whether Yanqui Imperalists were out to pillage the wealth of the solar system in the near futureande how that Awful Effort could best be defeated.

  • mike shupp

    Vladislaw wrote @ April 5th, 2012 at 11:54 am …

    Thing that sticks in my mind from the mid 80′s, is that when contemplating spending its own money on some investment, Rockwell International — a diverse corportion with some aerospace interests, not to mention being my employer — demanded that said investment pay a minimum of 20% per year, WITHOUT RISK. More chancy investments had higher payoff requirements.

    Not that the company was especially leery of risks or unwilling to gamble on new markets; it just was the case that in the real world, the company was willing to invest at such and such levels, and chose the projects that offered the most profit first. So 20% per annum was the cutoff for consideration, and not even every one of those proposals got funded.

    The point I’m trying to make is that from the standpoint of most businesses, investments in outer space don’t look all that good. Space projects take lots of money, they keep that money tied up in expensive machinery and high salaries for years on end, they’re often risky, and the payoff is long deferred. They’re bad bets in other words, even if they do pan out — and that would be the case whether the US approved or disapproved of commercial space programs.

    If only companies could go from thinking of moon bases to building and operating them and making actual profits in a two year period! Then they be doing so, in the dozens, while the American government was still mumbling about which Senate subcommittee should be authorized to hold hearings to appraise the matter.

  • Coastal Ron

    mike shupp wrote @ April 5th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    First, yes Apollo was expensive. But I sort of think, over 40 years NASA might have come up with a few ways of paring down that Saturn V & LEM cost, quite possibly with more success than NASA found with the Space Shuttle.

    If NASA couldn’t lower the cost to access space with a semi-reusable spacecraft, then how would they be able to do it with a completely disposable one? You are ascribing abilities to NASA that have not been proven to exist, and without competition, there is little incentive for the NASA contractors to lower their prices over time, as we see with ULA today, and USA during the last decade of Shuttle.

    Secondly, after 40 years of carrying astronauts and their gear and supplies to the moon, the US would have had the capability to build a REALLY FINE lunar base.

    Well I can certainly see that it would leave a lot of non-reusable stuff on the surface of the Moon, because let’s remember that reusability was still a new concept with NASA in the late 60′s, and implementing a reusable architecture would have added immense cost to an already expensive Saturn V-based effort. How many % of the U.S. Government budget were you thinking of allocating – 5%? 8%? 10%?

    This gets back to the question of why? Why do we need to urgently rush to the Moon? It’s not going anywhere, and we know of no economic reason to go there (i.e. no resources we need to plunder).

    Why commit so much taxpayer money to something most taxpayers will never see, hear, or touch? How do you convince them?

  • Vladislaw

    If NASA had directed a tiger team to come up with a falcon 9 to launch astronauts and to do it as cheap as SpaceX that would have cost NASA and it’s contractors jobs and funding.

    NASA is now forced to ONLY do big things to keep all the jobs in place. It isn’t about success in space its about success in the tax base of your district and how much political campaign funds you bring in. If anything actually gets accomplished .. well hell that’s just gravy.

  • mike shupp

    Coastal Ron: “… reusability was still a new concept with NASA in the late 60′s …”

    Actually, it wasn’t. Von Braun’s ideas, as written up for Colliers in the 1950′s, had included reusable rockets. In fact it was a pretty big part of the picture. However, for the 1960′s NASA was in a hurry and NASA launch vehicles were basically reworked ICBMs and reusability just hadn’t been a feature in weapons of mass destruction … It’s a reasonable bet that over time, NASA would have attempted to replace the original Saturn 5 design with something at least partially reusable. I’ll leave open how immediately successful this would have been.

    “…. How many % of the U.S. Government budget were you thinking of allocating – 5%? 8%? 10%? …”

    Nice question. Let’s recall that NASA curently gets about 1/2% of the Federal budget, or about 1/8% of total GNP. As I recall, it’s estimated England spent 1.5% of GNP on colonization during the age of the first Elizabeth. This is awful hand waving, I know, since the English economy of 400 years ago was rather different than ours, and nobody even thought of measuring GNP anywhere until the 20th century. But it’s clear there’s scope for growth… As for how much growth, recall that in the 1950′s the US spent about 10% of GNP on Defense, and that NASA spending was often lumped in with DoD spending. So there actually was a period when planners imagined that that 10% figure would continue to the the end of century and perhaps beyond, and that NASA might hope for 10-20% of the 10%. Which would be 8-16 times the scale of NASA’s current funding. So by 1999, it was thought, we’d have lunar bases for sure, and likely Mars and Venusian colonies and nuclear powered interplanetary rockets which could be used for decades, just like water-based ships. Welll, shucks. Didn’t turn out that way!

    “…Why commit so much taxpayer money to something most taxpayers will never see, hear, or touch? …”

    Would it be unreasonably snide if I pointed out I’ve never been to Afghanistan? or even made use of its famous poppy-based products?

    More seriously, in the modern state, few of us are totally autonomous. Whatever we will, the state lies across our shoulders; it takes some of the wealth from our pockets and respends it for goods and services which are of value to the state. rather than immediately to us. It conducts wars, for examples, it feeds babies, it builds highways, for reasons which may or may not always make sense to us. Why not build space settlements?

  • mike shupp

    Vladislaw: “…NASA is now forced to ONLY do big things to keep all the jobs in place. It isn’t about success in space its about success in the tax base of your district and how much political campaign funds you bring in. If anything actually gets accomplished .. well hell that’s just gravy.”

    Far be it for me to say something kindly about congressmen. But …. the point of interest is not that Representatives and Senators run around making speeches about the numbers of NASA jobs in their districts — they do this, yes, but they’d take credit for periods of good weather if they thought the voters would believe them. The actual point is that after all these speeches and important hearings and Congressmen pointing their finger at Charles Bolden and so on, CONGRESS MAKES ONLY SMALL CHANGES IN THE SPACE BUDGET. If anyone took Congressional rhetoric seriously, it would seem essential that NASA spending be drastically increased, perhaps by a factor of ten. And yet it never happens.

  • Coastal Ron

    mike shupp wrote @ April 5th, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    Actually, it wasn’t. Von Braun’s ideas, as written up for Colliers in the 1950′s, had included reusable rockets. In fact it was a pretty big part of the picture.

    It was an idea that hadn’t been transferred from magazine covers into the real world or workable hardware. I know it could be done. Just about anything we want to do in space can be done – given enough money. And your original position regarded continuing Apollo, so I’m just extrapolating from what you wrote.

    Continuing Apollo, and developing a new class of reusable rockets, spaceship, space stations, landers, habs, etc., would have been a lot to swallow while we were still fighting in Viet Nam and experiencing the occasional economic downturns.

    As I recall, it’s estimated England spent 1.5% of GNP on colonization during the age of the first Elizabeth.

    And why did they spend that much? Because they could bring back riches from their colonies. What do we bring back from the Moon that will help pay for all this money NASA is spending? True the government does spend money on things that don’t return economic value, such as the military, but just like the military returns value in “keeping us safe”, the other agencies and departments have functions that the average person can relate to, or even demand (NPS, NIH, FAA, DOT, etc.).

    No such connection for the average taxpayer with stuff in space, especially if it’s something that’s not new [[Breaking News - An Astronaut Picked Up Another Rock On Day 137 Of Their Lunar Colony Stay - Film At 11!]]. So what are the “riches” that we can look forward to that equal, what, $100B or so? Or are we making long-term deposits on surviving a future Earth extinction event?

  • Vladislaw

    Good post Mike.

    Just one little nit pik. We have heard some rhetoric out of Wolf, Kay Bailey Hutchinson and a bit from Shelby lately and it is all anti commercial space. I take that seriously, along with their attempts at making small changes in commercial funding.

  • mike shupp

    Coastal Ron: “Continuing Apollo … would have been a lot to swallow while we were still fighting in Viet Nam”

    Not much, The Apollo Applications Program was reasonably well set in terms of hardware, and would have run till 1974 or so. By then the war was pretty much over. Continuing a moon program several more years at the expense of say ASTP and one or more Skylab missions would have been quite feasible, and after that setting up an initial moon base might have cost about the same as was spent instead on Shuttle R&D and operations. It wasn’t basic economics that did in the manned lunar program, after all, just people.

    “… And why did they spend that much? Because they could bring back riches from their colonies….”

    Well, sorta. The Spanish are actually the people who gave colonial exploitation a bad rep, starting just about as soon as good old Christopher Columbus decided that if he couldn’t find tea or gold or silver just lying about that the local residents (dubbed “indians”, which raises the fascinating question of how he would have behaved if he actually had reached India) could repay Spanish investors by becoming slaves. Immediately, in other words. And Spain went on seizing people and gold and silver (when they finally up) and llama wool and cloth and tobacco and grain until everything fell apart with Napoleon and Bolivar in the 1810′s and economists generally concluded in the last century that Spain set off inflation throughout Europe which didn’t get settled down for two centuries or more, AND that by neglecting development at home for the sake of foreign riches, Spanish rulers set their nation up for four years of poverty.

    The Brits (and the French most of the time, ditto the Dutch) had a very different plan. They sent out colonists. The colonists traded with natives. (Well, sometimes they traded bullets and sword strokes, but that was supposed to be exceptional.) The colonists traded with their homelands. ONLY with their homelands, not with foreigners’ homelands, and the colonists were pledged to not manufacture any items made in their homelands, because their role in life was to be Customers. This was called Mercantilism; it was an economic policy which endured several centuries without many challenges until Adam Smith came along, and you still hear echoes of it today whenever people gather together to deplore the Declining Balance of Trade.

    And while mercantilism has flaws as a theory of economics and poses problems for development theory, if’s enough of an improvement over smash-and-grab looting that some of those little colonies grew up big and strong and merged with others and eventually formed viable states. And some of those newfangled states ended up not just as customers and shipping agents but as bonafide actors in human affairs.

    Anyhow, it seems reasonable to hope that human settlements in space would eventually develop into full-fledged nations. Granted there’s a lot of technology to invent first. And building infrastructure will be expensive and their will likely be disasters and unexpected obstacles to overcome all along the way. But that’s sort of what we put up here on the old homeworld anyhow, and biGod! isn’t that what wealth and technical expertise and clever people with university schooling are supposed to be used for in the first place?

    And if the prosect doesn’t appeal to the typical American web surfer day after day, that’s just too damned bad.

  • mike shupp

    Oh sigh! and I hate editing, but sometimes it’s got to be done….
    ———————————

    Coastal Ron: “Continuing Apollo … would have been a lot to swallow while we were still fighting in Viet Nam”

    Not much, The Apollo Applications Program was reasonably well set in terms of hardware, and would have run till 1974 or so. By then the war was pretty much over. Continuing a moon program several more years at the expense of say ASTP and one or more Skylab missions would have been quite feasible, and after that setting up an initial moon base might have cost about the same as was spent instead on Shuttle R&D and operations. It wasn’t basic economics that did in the manned lunar program, after all, just people.

    “… And why did they spend that much? Because they could bring back riches from their colonies….”

    Well, sorta. The Spanish are actually the people who gave colonial exploitation a bad rep, starting just about as soon as good old Christopher Columbus decided that if he couldn’t find tea or gold or silver just lying about that the local residents (dubbed “indians”, which raises the fascinating question of how he would have behaved if he actually had reached India) could repay Spanish investors by becoming slaves. Immediately, in other words. And Spain went on seizing people and gold and silver (when they finally showed up) and llama wool and cloth and tobacco and grain and chocolate until everything fell apart with Napoleon and Bolivar in the 1810′s and economists generally concluded in the last century that Spain set off inflation throughout Europe which didn’t get settled down for two centuries or more, AND that by neglecting development at home for the sake of foreign riches, Spanish rulers set their nation up for four centuries of comparative poverty.

    The Brits (and the French most of the time, ditto the Dutch) had a very different plan. They sent out colonists. The colonists traded with natives. (Well, sometimes they traded bullets and sword strokes, but that was supposed to be exceptional.) The colonists traded with their homelands. ONLY with their homelands, not with foreigners’ homelands, and the colonists were pledged to not manufacture any items made in their homelands, because their role in life was to be Customers. This was called Mercantilism; it was an economic policy which endured several centuries without many challenges until Adam Smith came along, and you still hear echoes of it today whenever people gather together to deplore the Declining Balance of Trade.

    And while mercantilism has flaws as a theory of economics and poses problems for development theory, if’s enough of an improvement over smash-and-grab looting that some of those little colonies grew up big and strong and merged with others and eventually formed viable states. And some of those newfangled states ended up not just as customers and shipping agents but as bonafide actors in human affairs.

    Anyhow, it seems reasonable to hope that human settlements in space would eventually develop into full-fledged nations. Granted there’s a lot of technology to invent first. And building infrastructure will be expensive and there will likely be disasters and unexpected obstacles to overcome all along the way. But that’s sort of what we put up with here on the old homeworld anyhow, and biGod! isn’t that what wealth and technical expertise and clever people with university schooling are supposed to be used for in the first place?

    And if the prosect doesn’t appeal to the typical American web surfer day after day, that’s just too damned bad.

  • Googaw

    Wow. The Great Prophet of All Our Futures doubles down on the goofiness. What we really need are better property rights for real space commerce, which happens to be unmanned, not Monopoly-card property rights for economic fantasies of space settlement. We haven’t even yet settled the oceans, for crying out loud, and the labor and construction costs there are many orders of magnitude lower.

    BTW we could also use better property rights for extraction industries, both the unmanned kind and the kind with humans on site, in international waters: that and in GEO are where we are going to learn the lessons about property rights on such frontiers.

  • Coastal Ron

    mike shupp wrote @ April 6th, 2012 at 6:08 am

    and after that setting up an initial moon base might have cost about the same as was spent instead on Shuttle R&D and operations.

    I doubt it, but we’ll never know. Suffice it to say that doing things 1,000 times further away from LEO would have required a lot more support than what the Shuttle program consumed.

    The Brits (and the French most of the time, ditto the Dutch) had a very different plan. They sent out colonists.

    A good point, but an even better distinction between colonizing the America’s and colonizing just about anything in space. When the colonists were dropped off in the America’s, they could live off the land. As of right now, everything we need in space has to come from Earth, and though we’ll likely learn to make things in space eventually, the infrastructure to do that is a long ways away.

    And some of those newfangled states ended up not just as customers and shipping agents but as bonafide actors in human affairs.

    Let’s hope the same for space, but I have a hard time imagining when we’ll be able to support enough people in space that would want to split off to form their own nation – or that could survive in space without ties to Mother Earth.

    Maybe I’m too damn practical, but from a logistics standpoint, I don’t see where the money is coming from to do any lunar dreams in the near future. Not Congress, and since there is no known assets in space that can be brought back to Earth to be monetized, no money-making/for-profit enterprises.

    It’s too big of a jump right now to go directly to the Moon without a logistic system in place to support it. I don’t know why people don’t see that, but maybe they have become complacent being able to get their FedEx packages delivered anywhere in the world within 24 hours, and they think that NASA can do the same in space…

  • mike shupp

    I concede your points. Still we’re entitled to a little optimism.

    (1) Technology continues to advance around the world; computers get faster, materials more durable, robots more versatile. Some of these improvements will affect future spacecraft.
    (2) We’ll be in better shape to evaluate COTS and Commercial Crew by the end of the year. The news might well be good.
    (3) The financial health of the US government will surely improve over the coming decade, and with that a reduction of the pressure on NASA and other science-related agencies.
    (4) There are other nations with active or potential manned space programs. People are still interested in spaceflight, if unwilling to pay much for it. At some point — maybe 30 or 40 years hence — we might see an India-China Moon Race, or a European Mars expedition.
    (5) Global warming might be a forcing factor. I.e., it’s regarded as a serious issue outside the US, which suggests other nations will continue to build satellites for climate study, which will keep their space capabilities on track.
    (6) And at the very least, I’d guess American spaceflight becomes a well-studied academic discipline by mid century. There’ll be journals — or gated web sites — where professors and bureaucrats from around the world post papers discussing OMBs role in cancelling this space telescope program or that, to what extent multiple contractors worked well togther or conspired against each other in the days of Apollo, looking to see how guidance concepts moved from Hughes to Lockheed to NASA to Rockwell, examining the successes and failures of declassified military programs, etc.

    So if we can’t do anything else, we can always serve humanity as A Great Bad Example. Well, it’s more contribution than most nations make,

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Maybe I’m too damn practical, but from a logistics standpoint, I don’t see where the money is coming from to do any lunar dreams in the near future. Not Congress, and since there is no known assets in space that can be brought back to Earth to be monetized, no money-making/for-profit enterprises.”

    Somewhat relevant to the discussion… an admission by one of the leading Google Lunar X-Prize teams that their business model isn’t cutting it and they’re doing a rethink:

    http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/teams/rocket-city-space-pioneers/blog/rethinking-business-model

  • Coastal Ron

    @ Mike Shupp

    I share your optimism.

    @ DBN

    I think there will be a market for knowledge and services for Moon related stuff (both government and private companies), but I think it will be quite a while until we can lower the costs enough for lunar resources to be competitive. Although I hope I’m wrong…

  • Egad

    Have there been comments on the Simberg paper by people knowledgeable in space law or relevant legal matters? I’ve been looking but haven’t seen anything.

  • mike shupp

    Egad! Don’t hold your breath.

    Seriously. CEI, of which Rand Simberg is an “Adjunct Scholar” (i.e., generally unpaid), is a minor league libertarian think tank. It doesn’t have a lot of clout in Washington, D.C. — don’t take my prejudiced word about this, go bounce around from topic to topic at Wikipedia for an hour or so. It doesn’t much concern itself with science and technology except for the obligatory libertarian rejection of global warming. This is probably its very first space-related paper in its 28 years of existence. Strike One.

    This is not a pressing issue. No earthly nation has sent human beings to any moon or planet other than our own for over 40 years. No nation has claimed ownership of any moon or planet since the possibility can be argued to have risen, in 1957. A formal widely recognized agreement known as the Outer Space, signed by all spacefaring nations in 1967, rules out such ownership; no nation in 45 years has made a formal objection to the treaty, has proposed revisions intended to benefit profit-making organizations, or has rescinded its agreement. No nation on earth in 2012 has firm plans for sending astronauts to the Moon or to any other planet or any other moon or any other celestial object within the next several decades; only several nations have publicly considered in even the vaguest way manned flights to other celestial bodies at any time whatsoever. The US government has specifically ruled out the possibility that Americans will revisit the moon. Simberg’s paper isn’t applicable to the real world. Strike Two.

    There are about 350 nations on earth. Many of them have reviewed and generally agreed with the principles expressed in something called The Moon Treaty, or The Moon Agreement, a U.N. proposed treaty that was formulated in the mid 1980′s. About 13 of them have gone so far as to sign the treaty and make it binding law in their country. The most recent nation to do so was Turkey, just a few weeks ago. This is not ancient history, in other words. The Moon Treaty in several ways is a logical outgrowth of the UN’s Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and its several follow-up agreements — on all of which the US is a full signatory. (Arguably the OST is more general, since it applies to all bodies in space. It bans ownership of any such body by any earthly nation. The MT bans ownership of extrerrestrial resouces by nations or companies or indivduals — only multinational organizations are pure enough to qualify.) Simberg’s paper deals with none of this, and suggests that the US government act unilateraly to impose some sort of quasi-ownership of extraterrestrial resources on private individuals or enterprises. Such a policy isn’t going to be acceptible, period. Other countries will object, the USA will have no legal counter, and we can’t even be sure the US government will even attempt to counter (do you suppose a future conservative Republican administration would feel duty-bound to defend a Sierra Club claim for half the moon’s surface to protec the lunar environment from exploitation by unscrupulous miners of Helium-3?) . Strike Three.

    You don’t buy this? You think one of my “srikes” was just a foul tip? Let me offer a wildly different conception of things: The logical owners of lunar resources are people living on the moon — in particular, people who are born and live and raise children and eventually die on the moon. Such people don’t exist yet, but most of us would like to believe that they will exist, and most of us — upon reflection — would probably agree that the life of such people would be better of if they owned thie natural resources of their world, and even that the likelihood that such people might exist was tied to retaining such resources. I.e., you want to see real human beings living in real lunar cities? Then you let the water found on the moon and the platinum found on the moon and the Helium-3 found on the moon and the gold found on the moon belong to people who chose to live on the moon. Make the moon as poor and empty as the Gobi desert, and you’ll get a moon as well inhabited as the Gobi.

    Simberg proposes a scheme which, in the end, will benefit earth-based capitalists more than lunar colonists and their descendents. (To be fair, I don’t think that’s his intent. But.) To me, that’s Strike Four.

    ———

    But I’m old and sour. You go off and have a life of your own, Egad, and experience will make you knowledgeable about all sorts of stuff, and someday you too will be in your sixties, just another annoying opinionated old bastard, and I trust you and your fellows will have more understanding, more wisdom, and more charity — and better lives all round –than the tw*ts you replace on the internet.

  • The US government has specifically ruled out the possibility that Americans will revisit the moon.

    Nonsense.

  • mike shupp

    Ah! The Man Himself.

    “The CURRENT US government has ruled out the possibility that Americans will SOON revisit the Moon.” Do you prefer that wording? It is more accurate, I concede, but it doesn’t much alter my argument that discussions of extraterrestrial property rights aren’t “pressing.”

    May I hope that you will concede my argument that a) property rights are important and b) we should blow the Moon Treaty and sections of the OST to smithereens if necessary to establish those rights, but c) unilateral declarations aren’t the way to get there.

    Oh well. You got further into a worthy fight than I have, and while I’d have preferred that you throw a few more lefts than rights, I appreciate that you’re fighting for me and many others, and I thank you for the blows you struck, and wish you well in coming matches.

  • “The CURRENT US government has ruled out the possibility that Americans will SOON revisit the Moon.” Do you prefer that wording?

    The previous U.S. government had done that, too, buy choosing Constellation. It’s more likely to happen under the current government than it was under the previous one, and relatively soon, even if not by the government.

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