Moon Pie

November 27, 2009

A cutting analysis.

To continue the theme introduced in my last outing; this Loonie notes the re-emergence of (Liquid) “Gold Fever” notably here at the somewhat  excellent Space Review of Jeff Foust. In this piece Jim Gagnon sets out a rational for ‘divvying up’ the Moon and takes it further at his Blog: “On the Path to Space.”

One quote from the first article leapt out at this former space cadet.
So much so, that what was going to be just a simple comment; has evolved into the piece you are now reading. (Thank you! :))

[A reason for HSF]”…that resonates with Americans and all peoples of the world at a visceral level.”

This somewhat innocuous statement is a quantum leap in the right direction. (Although you will note it is still the US and Them!) Nevertheless up to about a year ago this latter collective noun would not have been seen. There might have been a codicil for the “poor impoverished” Russians and some bleak sabre rattling statement about the inscrutable Chinese… But “all the peoples of the world?” It would seem that,  in the somewhat right of centre space community they are at last shaking off the Unilateralist Vision of Bush the Younger. Vide “Question (lunar authority)” By Taylor Dinerman (Space Review, 29th Sept 2008):

“Why should anyone in America accept the idea that a European straightjacket is a suitable garment for our next moves into the cosmos?” (ibid.)

Prior to this, there was the even more outrageous initiative set out by Alan Wasser (Space Future, October 2001) A massive (1,600,000 square km.) land grab for the first ‘private’ enterprise to achieve a settlement. Noting that this area neatly encompasses one of the lunar poles! One of the passages is telling:

“The profits on land sales which take place in the U.S. will, of course, be subject to U.S. taxes, so the Budget Office will score this legislation as a revenue producer, not a cost to the U.S.
It sounds strange because we haven’t done it yet, but there is growing sentiment for extending private property and the benefits of free enterprise to space. Former House Science Committee chair Bob Walker has suggested that the Bush administration would like to develop such a legal structure. “

However according to the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty such a concern would need to be operated by stateless persons, from a launch platform outside of any internationally agreed border and equipped and financed by a similarly stateless fashion. Shades of Captain Nemo! And it would still be illegal!

One imagines that as the gilt continues to peel off America’s Global Hyper-Trappings the concept of “first come, first served” is also losing its gloss.
Indeed such a lot of “Liquid Gold” has passed under the bridge since then, that the recent Committee on Human Spaceflight (Augustine II) took critical submissions not only from ESA but Roscosmos as well!  And thus, unless I am VERY much mistaken, the Unilateralist plan to ditch the ISS in 2015 is history. One also hopes that America will also be able to extend the  Shuttle… in one form or another.

But let us return to the Moon.

A good summary of the current state of play is the wonderfully prescient: “Who owns the moon? It’s ‘complicated,’ say experts!” (Lara Farrar, For CNN 19th May 2008) which ends with: “My feeling is until we know what is there, we shouldn’t mess with it,” [Henry Hertzfeld, a space analyst at George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute. (ibid.)]

“It” of course is the infamous Moon Treaty currently languishing as a ratified but largely impotent international framework for advancing beyond LEO. This Loonie believes that one of the reasons why we, as a space faring species, have not advanced further… is because we know that  (re)negotiations are going to make Kyoto and Copenhagen look like petty domestic issues! But the discovery of substantial reserves of water compels the international community (Space Div.) to seriously revisit the Moon Treaty.  Now that we know that certain areas of the Moon are even more: “the most valuable pieces of real estate in the Solar System.” [To paraphrase Paul Spudis.] Namely the rather small polar locations possessing (near) continuous insolation and proximity to the shadowed depths where water and other volatiles might be found.

Some stop gap solutions:

A/ Peaks of permanent photoelectricity.
First come first served! After all we need a land rush don’t we? So the first persons; companies; space agencies or other entity to deploy an array gets to keep that bit of ground and rights of access via an associated  transmission line. Should the facility fall into disuse or abandonment: laws of salvage could be employed. No solar squatters as it were.  Hopefully though, the first settlements will be international in nature and thus power: a cooperative resource. Whilst the rush may be on at the poles;  at lower latitudes solar will only be 50% of the mix with nuclear the next most likely option. In the long term this Loonie would suggest that solar power will be beamed down from SPS constellations during the long lunar night.  Solar Power as a driver for a land rush is ideal as the short term urgency is replaced by irrelevancy in the long run.

B/ Non replaceable volatiles.
Common heritage. After scientific analysis, all deposits of non replaceable hydrogen, organics and whatnot are ring fenced by your local Life Support System and held in trust for future generations. In converse to the issue of Solar Power; it is important that the ideals set out in the Moon Treaty,  or its successor, are demonstrated right from the start.  Thus setting the tone for a Solar Commonwealth as our nascent ecologies move out into space. Again, in the long term, these volatiles are not in short supply but mining the Oort cometary halo may take a while!

C/ Replaceable Hydrogen and other volatiles
Conversely the big discovery by the Chandrayaan team that Hydroxyl ‘dew’ forms on the lunar surface is the real game changer. These volatiles: ‘mined’ from the solar wind can be expended for rocket fuel. Critically, as we run out of Helium here on Earth, lunar extraction may be our only source! This Loonie sees large scale concessions on the FarSide – so as not to spoil the view. Micro Graphic advertising requiring a really powerful telescope may also prove lucrative! These concessions fund the global ‘Divvy.’

D/ Oxygen (LUNOX) all the traffic will bear… Ditto: Al; Fe; Ti and any Platinum Group Metals you find using the Wingo Hypothesis! Again concessions and some form of profit sharing would add to the ‘Divvy.’

E/ Land With the exception of sites of special historical interest:  the  various probes, Apollo landing sites,… or those of special scientific interest; this Loonie would propose that a base would claim a radial 10km per person in permanent residence; allowing for crew rotation.  Or a generous 314.16 sq km. (MoonPi!) However a multinational base  would get a radial 100 km and a truly international base: 1000 km! (i.e. roughly one tenth: 3. 142 × 106 km² vs 3.793 × 107 km² total lunar surface area)
However when it comes to the Moon we have to think of “Cubic.” And there’s plenty of Cubic for everyone: 2.7245 cubic km/person. 2.195 8 × 1010 km³/  World Population (2020) 8.0563 x 109

(Bagsies the bit at the centre!)

Lunar Authority: A solution.

Before very long we will need some sort of straightjacket governing body to oversee the exploration and exploitation of the Moon. Whilst this may be an anathema to Taylor Dinerman and other MegaCapitalists who want the MegaCorporate approach; this Loonie believes that the capitalistic meme is not one to be perpetuated. Especially in the light of recent events and  lessons learnt by the Captialisation of Russia. Outer Space Oligarchs? No thank you! Nor should the Nationalistic meme prevail. Instead we take one step away from a pure national interest by using the various Agencies: NASA, RosCosmos, CNSA,… as the founding members of a Lunar  Cooperative. Whilst each would, in practice, represent their respective governments’  national interests;  in the long term a Lunar Authority charged: “with the sacred trust of Luna for all Humankind” [To paraphase RAH in “Moon is a Harsh Mistress.”] …might just evolve into a body with a Supra-National outlook without the need to placate the Shareholders.
Or stuff the expense account!

This would consist of permanent members; rotating members and a Chair.

  • Permanent members. Those Organisations/Nations with an indigenous human launch capability. Thus encouraging the same. Currently: Russia, America, China. Soon: France (not ESA!) India, Brazil …UK (Last to the party. As always!)
    Permanent Members supporting a Lunar Base would have the right of Veto!
  • Rotating Members:
    Countries without an indigenous launching capability and equal in number to the permanent members. Chosen in the same mysterious manner as the current Security Council!
  • Chair: Chosen from the great and the good in the same way as the U.N. Secretary-General and again from those Nations without an
    indigenous launching capability. Has veto and casting vote!

For an existing parallel this Loonie would suggest the International Seabed Authority set up by the Law of the Sea Convention.

Business Model

Alas this former space cadet has no head for money. Let alone high finance. Clearly the Lunar Society of Equitable Pioneers cannot consider a per capita ‘divvy’. The last thing we need is a positive reinforcer for population growth. Perhaps a backdated inverse relationship to terrestrial pollution: CO2; radiation; toxic chemicals;… might figure in the algorithm. Which would bring the Green Movement into the fold, instead of growling at its contents from outside the pen: currently milling around in confusion!  Reluctantly this loonie must leave the division of the Moon Pie to experts in Game Theory and Cake Cutting.

In researching this article I have also found other worthies pondering this problem:

Who Owns the Moon? (20th November 2009 Richard Elkind, Cornell Daily Sun)

There’s Water on the Moon, But Who Owns It? (18th November 2009 Ashby Jones, Wall Street Journal)

We do!


  1. Thanks for linking this at Space Politics.

    I largely agree with your assessment of the current situation, however my fictional character Harold Hewitt is somewhat more — shall we say — aggressive in his efforts to establish property rights.

    You also might like this essay / book marketing pitch:


    One snippet:

    Extraterrestrial property rights:

    Jean-Jacques Rousseau famously explained the origin of private property as follows:

    The first man who, after enclosing a plot of land, saw fit to say: “This is mine,” and found people who were simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society.

    In Platinum Moon, Harold Hewitt seizes upon Rousseau’s formulation as practical guidance for establishing private property rights to lunar resources. He sends teams of private astronauts to the Moon to prospect for platinum group metals while he and Nathan Gillespie simultaneously run a worldwide media campaign crafted to persuade the human race to cheer rather than boo his efforts.

    • Thank you for your comment. Alas you are speaking to a “lunar leveller” in the sense of being against the Enclosures. These were achieved at the point of a gun. Clearly if that method were employed the OST would be broken and under my interpretation of the current ‘law’ the launching Nation would be the responsible “state party” and the target for international censure. The only way a PR campaign would persuade the human race to cheer them on would be corporate altruism. Say profits to UNICEF. Otherwise it would be seen as a land grab not by a private individual or a corporation but by the “state party.”
      In the absence of any enforcement the result would be UN Resolutions; Sanctions; Disinvestment and Boycotts of the “state party.”
      I would maintain that a multilateral organisation formed under the auspices of the UN is the only way forward for the large scale exploitation of lunar resources.

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