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FAQ #15: You can't farm Lunar land, and Earth doesn't need its minerals. So how could Lunar land be put to profitable use?

Basic industries like farming and mining are the first things people think of when considering putting land to profitable use, but they are very far from being the only way to make a profit on land. In fact, if you'll think about the United States today, a surprisingly small percentage of the land is being put to profitable use for farming or mining ...and it's an even smaller percentage of the profits actually being made on land. Far more profits are being made on U.S. land by people who use it as something to speculate on or invest in.

Most Lunar land will first be put to profitable use that way: as something to speculate on or invest in. Karl Marx might have thought that shameful, but I don't. It is a perfectly good way to put land to profitable use. ...and if it results in opening up the final frontier for all mankind, it would be wonderful!

Later, if land speculation and investment can pay to develop the infrastructure, many, many other uses for the land will open up. A few we can foresee: tourism related businesses, facilities for astronomy and scientific research, facilities for producing TV broadcasts for Earth (Lunar gravity will produce fascinating entertainment and sports programs), a landing field for visiting ships, with repair and re-supply facilities for those ships. Solar power collectors will take a lot of land, and location will matter a lot.

Hydroponic farming for the inhabitants of the Lunar base will be profitable, and so will mining of things they need, especially water. Small factories will appear to produce things that originally had to be imported from Earth, starting with oxygen and construction supplies. The first export products will probably be small Lunar rock souvenirs or jewelry. Later, maybe Helium 3 could be exported.

But the most profitable uses will appear in the future and are certainly beyond our ability to predict now. Could Ponce De Leon have predicted that that "worthless" swamp in the middle of Florida would end up as Disneyland? Would you expect Lewis and Clark to predict that those "worthless" snow covered mountains would eventually find very profitable use for ski lodges?

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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