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Exploration and Development of Space

Paul Spudis has a great comment about exploration over at airspace: http://blogs.airspacemag.com/moon/2010/01/25/have-we-forgotten-what-exploration-means
Here is my reply:
Every organism, organization, or system must bring in more resources and energy than it expends, in order to thrive and grow. Exploration needs to contribute to society in order to be sustained. Unfortunately, the US signed the 1967 Space Treaty that essentially prohibits anyone from making a profit from space development, and the de facto acceptance of the wording of the Moon Treaty, that the resources of space are the heritage of all mankind, currently presumes that any profits made by a private commercial enterprise on the Moon belong to the UN, and require that any such enterprise create an exact copy of their facility to give to the UN, along with all their research. Under those circumstances, no private organization would or should spend any resources in developing a Moon based facility.
A farmer doesn’t plant a kernel of corn in order to only get one kernel back. They expect to get at least 3 cobs of corn on each stalk, with about 30 rows of 40 kernels each – or a return of 1200 percent. When Queen Isabella loaned the money to Columbus, she looked him in the eye and told him to bring her ships back filled with loot, or she would find him. So when his men tried to get him to turn back in the middle of the Atlantic, he really couldn’t turn back empty handed. Exploration can not exist as an altruistic fantasy.
NASA, as a government agency, can not take the next step from research and exploration, to development and exploitation. And the current international treaties practically prohibit anyone else from doing so, either.
Russia, China and the US governments aren’t bothered by that, either suspecting that if they do develop a facility on the Moon or an asteroid that produces a return, that their military can tell the rest of the world to pound sand, or ignoring the question entirely, for the same reason. A private commercial facility doesn’t have that ability.
The non-space-faring nations are comfortable with the current situation, expecting that they don’t have to do anything, and if someone else does produce a return with a Moon based facility (or any “celestial body”), the UN will make them share it.
So, what needs to happen, is that something political needs to change, so that all the nations of the world will not be left out of space development, while at the same time providing a rational property ownership regime that allows private (or public, I don’t care) commercial development to reap the returns they can from investing in development.

I propose that we cede legal ownership of the Moon to the UN, with the proviso that every nation on Earth be granted 10,000 square hectares of Moon property in perpetuity, without them having to invest anything, but they can not sell their rights to it. They could lease it to anyone who would want to develop it. The Moon is big enough, each nation could have 10,000 square hectares on the near side, and 10,000 square hectares on the far side. Conflicts of property wanted by several different countries to be decided by lot.

Further, a “World Heritage Site” be declared of 1,000 square hectares around any equipment or probes currently landed on the Moon, to be undisturbed in perpetuity.

Further, the UN agency in charge of this Moon property be instructed to sell (with proceeds going to the UN) remaining property on the Moon in some sort of “Homesteading” type arrangement, at a nominal fee (something like $1,000.00 US per hectare) to any person or organization willing and capable of launching and maintaining a functioning facility on their property on the Moon, in lots not to exceed 5,000 square hectares.

This would protect the interests of the nations of the world, and provide for development of space resources by those interested in doing so.

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