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Lunar Timeshares

Werewolves will be out tonight for the largest moon in fifteen years. The elliptical orbit of Luna brings it as close as it gets to our Earth and sky-gazers in the northern hemisphere will find it high in the sky, cresting about our heads around midnight. Rain or shine you should check it out; it won’t appear to be this large for another eight years.


Copyright, David Haworth

Perhaps this is why Romanian scientist Virgiliu Pop is pounding the pulpit insisting that the moon will best serve mankind by being parsed apart by space-faring superpowers instead of the free-love Common Heritage suggestion that has left us with Antarctica bereft of mines, immigrant staffed factories and armed squads of dogsled teams patrolling lines in the ice.

Pop sees a future where the surface of the moon will undergo a market-driven transition similar to that which transformed the United States into a sprawling mass of rustbelts, landfills and tract homes. The established pace programs have an advantage but Pop’s egalitarian idea suggests smaller nations band together and form regional space agencies to participate in this 21st century landgrab. In his recently published book, “Who Owns the Moon?– Extraterrestrial Aspects of Land and Mineral Resources Ownership” Pop explores pre-existing legal definitions of property ownership and uses what precedent he can find to encourage a system of ownership beyond escape velocity. His cunning eyes have also settled on less traditionally daydream inducing rock of ice floating through the solar system, namely asteroids and comets.

Looks like Gene Roddenberry’s concept of an egalitarian future will have to wait a couple more centuries. Scramble now to assemble your moon colonization team and be sure you’ve got a team of space lawyers back home to keep the courts locked up until you can ring your lunar lot with electrified wire and get the gun turrets up.

Thanks to New Scientist and Space Magazines for the stories, io9.com for bringing it to my attention.

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  1. December 12, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Blaark,
    Thank you for featuring my book on your blog! There may not be landmines on Antarctica (which is not common heritage, but is a sui generis legal phenomenon where territorial claimants have chosen to freeze their claims), but there were – and still are – plenty of landmines in what was supposed to be the egalitarian society of Pol Pot’s Democratic Campuchea. A year ago I visited Tuol Sleng and the Killing Filelds. Most crimes were not made by those defending private property, but by those opposing it (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot).

  2. blaark
    December 12, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Thanks for checking in on my blathering– I wish I had known you had a blog when I first posted this.

    Sorry for my confusion regarding Antarctica.

    We could probably dedicate a good amount of space and time citing examples of maniac despots and their effect on supposedly communal or communist nations vs. examples of rampant exploitation by legal yet criminal entities; since I suspect we both know this why bother? Regardless of how the rules behind who’s in charge of the moon– private companies, a couple land holding countries or an international governing agency– the potential for violent conflict exists. I’m not sure that I buy the idea that ownership pacifies whatever greed or bloodlust seems inherent in people but perhaps your coming from Romania and my being from America shapes our focus on the most obvious and prevalent abuses around us. The Latin and South American wars and the continued intrusion perpetrated by international concerns and corrupt officials (and the US’s complicity) don’t make me feel any safer just because there’s some property deed or law written down.

    So as cynical as I may be I try and focus on the fundamental rights and hope that people can unify on the idea that we can all share something for the betterment of everyone. Fundamentally I think it’s as wrong to sell off parts of the moon for exploratory drilling and mineral extraction as I do to privatize natural resources or pretend that environmental concerns end at international borders. Some things belong to everyone because they effect everyone. What can be discovered from having a scientific outpost qualifies as that in my book.

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