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Riccioli1651MoonMap

“Riccioli1651MoonMap” by G. B. Riccioli – Almagestum Novum

It used to be a common joke, once upon a time: selling a naive sucker the Brooklyn Bridge.  Same goes with swamp acreage.  But the moon?

Con artists throughout time dreamt up plots to sell lunar land as expansive as the graveyard along the Garden State Parkway.  Don’t worry about how you’re going to get there – you’ll figure it out! Where else can you get so much prime real estate?  Tell you what, it’s yours for the price of $100!

Well, there’s organizations selling star’s names to people willing to shell out money for no real reason except vanity – the National Star Registry, for example – but how real is that? Turns out, there’s interest in developing what the moon’s got to offer, and it could possibly be open to anyone with a way up and back.

Before that happens, though, there’s a few important details to consider, starting with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (also known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies).  Simply put, it says the moon belongs to no one in particular but to all humankind, no nation can put weapons of mass destruction upon it, and any nation that places a space object that lands upon it is responsible for any damages caused by said object.

This treaty was created well before the concept of private concerns launching their own scientific/lunar endeavors into space.  But we’re entering a new stage of space conceptualization now.  Private industry is poised to take over where nations once ruled.  Corporations such as SpaceX already contribute to NASA missions.  So what’s next?  The Moon Treaty of 1979 clearly states that no private entity can profit from the moon, and whatever is reaped from the moon must be for the benefit of all.  The United States, Russia and China, as well as many other nations, never signed it.  While there’s no underhanded endeavor to plunder the moon’s riches currently underhand, anyone’s a fool to think that isn’t going to happen as soon as it’s possible.

And really, what’s to stop individuals from going on up and taking what essentially is ungoverned land?  Think about it.  Throughout the history of the Earth, nations have taken over other nations, usurped the powers of other leaders, raped the resources and ruined cultures, all for the sake of greed and profit.  The entire side of the globe where I live (the United States) can thank its present existence to explorers from the other side of it, all in the name of seeing what’s there and what can be done with it.  Never mind that the land was already populated and doing well enough.

Truly, it’s only a matter of time before honest lunar endeavors turn into questionable ones.  In my mind, it’ll begin as an entirely cooperative gesture with clearly drawn lines.  But in the end, a small incident will lead to greater dissatisfaction, and it’ll only be a matter of time before hell will break loose.

In the meantime, enjoy the view.  It might change dramatically during our lifetimes, or those of our descendants.

 

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