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FAQ #31: Will Changing How NASA Works Bring the Taxpayers Back on Board?

Unfortunately, NO!

Many space activists refuse to face the unpleasant truth, but an overwhelming majority of voters have demonstrated over and over again that they prefer tax cuts to space spending.

It couldn't matter less to that huge majority of voters whether NASA builds the hardware - or buys the hardware or services commercially - or gives out prizes. They don't care whether they go for a big booster or fuel depots, They don't care whether the goal is the Moon or Mars or asteroids. They only care about the money.

They may like space but they no longer want their taxes to pay for it! This is a democracy, so, sooner or later, the government had to listen to that majority of voters, no matter what we space activists want.

That means the era of massive government space programs is over - a dead man walking!

Of course, no politician wants to be the messenger who has tell that bad news to the aerospace workers and aging minority of passionate space lovers, so they have to kill space spending a little at a time while pretending they're trying to save it.

The Bushes proposed grand visions they couldn't fund, leaving their successors to be the ones who had to actually say we can't afford them. But cutting space spending has been going on since LBJ and Nixon cut the Apollo program and the planned moon base to pay for Vietnam "guns and butter".

It's easier to kill a new program, that doesn't yet have much of a constituency, than an old program that is vigorously supported by a bloated army of workers, vendors, etc. who have been living off it for years.

Space programs like the shuttle get cut with the pretense that the money will be re-purposed to new space programs like Constellation, but then, a year or so later, the new programs can be easily dropped with little notice so the money can be used to cover tax cuts.

Still, space activists pretend that the problem is NASA's fault, and this reform, or that one, will solve everything. "Spend the money we have better" works only if you really have the money. But in this case, the money is on the way out the door and won't be there long enough to spend smarter. Any re-purposing of spending just makes it easier to cut.

John Glenn made the case to President Obama for continuing the shuttle flights until we had a replacement. "The president didn't disagree with any of my arguments," Glenn told the NY Times, "He said we just don't have the money."

Now, even robotic missions and commercial crew are being cut.

The terrible reaction Newt Gingrich got when he proposed a more efficient - but still taxpayer funded - moon base is yet more proof that the era of big government space programs is ending.

The only solution is to come up with a way to pay for space that doesn't depend on government money: for-profit free enterprise whose customer is not the US government.

The same way we happily paid for the computer revolution.

Strip of lunar land
image credit: NASA

Questions & Answers about Lunar Land Claims Recognition

Note: The first 25 FAQs below are reprinted from the Space Settlement Initiative website.

  1. What is the real purpose of enacting a Lunar land claims recognition law?

  2. Will promising property rights be enough to produce the necessary investment in developing affordable space transport?

  3. What does international law say about private property ownership in space?

  4. Can there be property ownership without national sovereignty?

  5. What if other nations refuse to recognize land claims in space?

  6. Why not allow smaller, limited land claims for easier steps than settlement?

  7. Could lunar land really be worth enough money to make a difference?

  8. What conditions should the US set for recognition of a claim?

  9. How much land should a settlement be able to claim... and why?

  10. Why must the Earth-Moon space line and settlement be open to all paying passengers regardless of nationality?

  11. Wouldn't it help if a major company announced that, if a land claims recognition law were passed, it would try to develop affordable space transport?

  12. Are the weaknesses and compromises in this plan likely to be permanent?

  13. Didn't the earliest version of this plan talk about Lunar "land grants"? Why aren't you using that phrase any more?

  14. Did land grants work in the past, on Earth?

  15. You can't farm Lunar land, and Earth doesn't need the Moon's minerals. So how could Lunar land be put to profitable use?

  16. If you can't give figures, now, proving the profitability of the end uses of Lunar land, how could anyone raise big money for Lunar land?

  17. Could other sources of revenue be enough without land claims recognition?

  18. What if the Lunar settlement does not produce enough operating revenue to pay off its debts and make a profit?

  19. Could this law produce a new "space race"?

  20. Why is U.S. legislation, in particular, so important?

  21. Could the U.S. withdraw from the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, claim national sovereignty on the Moon, then award property rights to whomever it pleased?

  22. What about defense? Does recognizing a land claim obligate the U.S. military to defend the Lunar settlement?

  23. What effect would this have on NASA and the aerospace companies?

  24. What do the experts say about this idea?

  25. Who came up with this idea?

More FAQs

The FAQs above cover basic questions about Lunar Land Claims Recognition. The following questions address more advanced issues.

  1. If we really went to the Moon in 1969, why aren't we there now?

  2. What were the assumptions before the Outer Space Treaty, (e.g. Robert Heinlein)?

  3. Should Lunar government be modeled after Antarctica?

  4. Could the UN just give every nation a portion of the Moon to own, thereby creating valuable Lunar property rights?

  5. Why don't space activists convince the public to support a government program to establish a base on the Moon and Mars?

  6. Will changing how NASA works bring the taxpayers back on board?

  7. What would Land Claims Recognition cost the US Government?

  8. What will this legislation do for general economic growth?

  9. Who would issue and record Lunar land deeds?

  10. Why are Lunar land sales necessary?

  11. Could this law force the US to recognize a foreign government's Lunar land claim?

  12. Shouldn't we wait to put such a law into effect until free societies are ready to settle the Moon, to keep it from encouraging the Chinese?

  13. Would Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty prohibit Lunar land claims recognition?


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Every revolutionary idea passes three stages:
  1. It's impossible.
  2. It's possible but not worth doing.
  3. I said it was a good idea all along.
- Arthur C. Clarke
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