We really wish it were possible, but space activists have been trying and failing to rally the public to support a robust government space program since Apollo. Originally the aerospace companies gave the National Space Institute and, later, the National Space Society, huge grants to mount a professional PR & advertising campaign, complete with celebrity TV commercials, to promote space to the general public - until they finally realized it was hopeless.
As some of us predicted decades ago, in the end, the federal budget, and the taxpayers, would not allow more of a purely government space program that flew only government employees. Even those Americans who think space is "neat" consistently vote for tax-cuts rather than spending more on space development.
Those who hoped the cold war "national prestige" issue would keep the US space program healthy forever ignored what happened to the idea that national prestige demanded the US always have the world's tallest building. Eventually the public says "been there, done that" and stops measuring national prestige the old way. Both space programs and world's tallest buildings moved to being prestige items for second, and now, third rate powers.
The Obama administration and NASA have finally bowed to the inevitable and are ready to see routine space travel move to the commercial sector, and are ready to support it. Below is video of President Obama ending the hope of a government return to the Moon during his administration, with Buzz Aldrin in the audience.
And it's definitely not just President Obama. President Bush's unfunded "vision" was just a fig leaf to punt the inevitable far enough into the future that the following administration would have to be the one to actually pull the trigger. Obviously, if Bush could have funded the full Constellation program, he would have. Whoever is in office has no choice - except to try to let space activists down gently or shift the blame to someone else.
Understand, we are not among those who are happy to see a strong, well-funded NASA go away. We think it's a terrible shame. But a robust government space program is like so many wonderful things that can't happen. Eternal life, flapping your arms to fly, winning the lottery - would be really great, but they aren't going to happen no matter how badly we want them.
It's time for everyone to acknowledge the paradigm has shifted. The old order of space development we have grown up with has finally died and a new one has begun, for better or worse.
Just as aviation and the internet transitioned from government to private enterprise, from now on, space will be a realm for commerce and free enterprise - not just government astronauts.
That means space settlement or colonization will take place only when private enterprise is given a way to make a profit from it - and that potential profit has to be large enough to justify the huge risks and long lead time the project requires.
Perhaps Congress will insist on some transitional measures to ease the pain of ending the old style NASA manned space program, but it would be much better for Congress to give space entrepreneurs the regulatory environment they would need to open the space frontier for all mankind - and make a profit doing it.
Land claims recognition legislation would commit the Earth's nations, in advance, to allowing a true private Lunar settlement to claim and sell (to people back on Earth) a reasonable amount of Lunar real estate in the area around the base, thus giving the founders of the Moon colony a way to earn back the investment they made to establish it.
That would spark a new, privately-funded entrepreneurial space race to settle the Moon and Mars, making the new order of space development even more beneficial for mankind than the last one.
Note: The first 25 FAQs below are reprinted from the Space Settlement Initiative website.
The FAQs above cover basic questions about Lunar Land Claims Recognition. The following questions address more advanced issues.
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