Monday, July 20, 2009

40th anniversary of the first moon landing

Young people might wonder why no one has been to the moon in their lifetime. I'll explain it in terms that they can relate to. Space exploration is like dating. At first, all you are able to do is look at a heavenly body through a telescope or visit it's myspace page. You try to learn more about it by sending emails or space probes. Then when you're sure that it's safe to do so, you send a manned mission or take them out on a date.
You do all this to see what's out there. But after a while, you need to think about the long term. Why exactly should you keep spending money on rocket fuel and steak dinners? What are your intentions, anyway? Do you want a colony or a family? Do you plan to simply take advantage of her by mining her for resources?

After over half a century of exploration, if we don't have any long term plans then there is no point in continuing this relationship. If we do decide on a long term relationship, then we need to establish boundaries.

The homestead principle must be applied to space. If an individual or entity creates a useful structure on another world, then they should be allowed to own that structure and the land beneath it. It's unlikely that any corporation or eccentric billionaire would bother to set up a habitat dome on the moon or Mars unless they were assured that their claim to it would be recognized by all. If our government and governments around the world adopted this principle, then the real space race can begin.

4 comments:

Doug said...

What legal body would have standing to convey property rights. I think we're at the pre-government stage of things -- if you're strong enough to keep it, you can "own" it.

When things get more populated, we can worry about property-rights that are aided by government force instead of individual force.

Interesting topic though.

milton f said...

I would much rather see private companies sending space ships into outer space. It is way past the time to get rid of NASA. What a giant waste of my money.
Where is Burt Rhutan when you need him?

Robert Enders said...

Doug,
I didn't see you post until today. I think that private companies would invest more in space mining and colonization if they had some assurance that their claims would be legally recognized. According to the Outer Space Treaty, http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/SpaceLaw/outerspt.html ,
no government can claim sovereignty over any part of any celestial body. That treaty would have to be renegotiated, or the US could simply withdraw from the treaty after giving notice. There would have to be some kind of government or government like framework in place before any private entity is going to commit to sending massive amounts of equipment and personnel into space.

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