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

Hopefully, promising property rights will turn out to be enough to produce the necessary investment. But it is impossible to know, this early, whether it will be. After all, it is impossible to know now how much it will cost to develop safe, reliable, affordable space transport, or how long it will take.

But we can be certain that promising property rights would help generate the investment we need.

There is also no way to be sure just how much Lunar land will be worth when recognized deeds are being sold by people who can actually take you (or your customers) to that land. But a piece of Lunar land the size of Alaska would certainly be worth a very large amount of money.

Right now there is a sizable demand for phony deeds to Lunar property, so it is safe to assume there will be a much bigger demand for real deeds to Lunar property. The way to estimate the dollar value of lunar land in discussed in FAQ #7.

Those who say property rights are not needed until after settlement has actually taken place are counting on near -term incentives (such as space tourism, servicing the space station, etc.) to produce all the necessary investment in affordable space transport, the establishment of on-orbit infrastructure and then settlement itself. It is very much open to question whether such near-term incentives could be sufficient, but it is certain that adding a very big long- term incentive, on top of whatever near-term incentives there are, would have to help.

Imagine that you are an entrepreneur trying to get a venture capitalist to fund your research on a radical new idea that you think might reduce launch costs by an order of magnitude or more. He asks, If you succeed in this risky venture, how are you going to use it to make enough profit to make it worth my while? You tell him your projections of space tourism profits, etc., and he is impressed, but not enough. Then you add: in addition to all that, if we do reduce launch costs enough, it could later be used to establish a settlement on the Moon and immediately gain U.S. recognized ownership of 600,000 square miles that could be sold, and/or mortgaged, starting the very next day. If that were valued at only $260 an acre, it would be an instant gain of an almost $100 billion dollar asset on your books. At $500 an acre it would be worth $192 billion ($192,000,000,000.00). Is there any chance that would not help your case? Even at only $100 an acre it would be almost $40 billion.

In order to spur the development of affordable space transport, this law doesn't need to bring in all the needed investment by itself. There are existing incentives, but not enough. We need only bring in sufficient additional financing to tip the balance. The promise of property rights for space settlement is a very low cost, low risk, "do-able" way to attract that supplementary venture capital.

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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