Author Topic: How Plausible is Chinese Annexation of Territory on the Moon?  (Read 19135 times)

Offline Warren Platts

Professor John Hickman just sent me a copy of his latest article. I think it's an excellent analysis. With his permission, I've added a link here.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14777622.2012.656544

Quote from: Abstract
This article argues that a hypothetical decision by the People's Republic of China to assert territorial sovereignty over the area surrounding its planned manned Moon base is plausible. Enhanced international prestige in the near term and access to natural resources and strategic military positions in the long term may be sufficient temptations for China's leaders to challenge the United States to a twenty-first century space race. Strategic surprise could be successfully employed, given the opacity of Chinese decision-making; the conceptual blindness of external observers, including decision-makers, analysts, and academics; and China's repeatedly demonstrated capacity for executing military or diplomatic surprises of comparable magnitude. The ability of signatory states to withdraw from the 1967 Outer Space Treaty with one-year's notice means that international law only poses a temporary obstacle to such a decision. A manned Moon base would fulfill the condition of effective occupation necessary for territorial sovereignty under international law. An international relations constructivist approach discourages consideration of the advantages to states of territorial aggrandizement or the weakness of international law in restraining the behavior of states.
Astropolitics: The International Journal of Space Politics & Policy, Volume 10, Issue 1, 2012

When it comes to the Moon, the operative directive is going to be: "Use it, or lose it."

IMHO
YMMV
« Last Edit: 05/12/2012 12:36 pm by Warren Platts »
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."--Leonardo Da Vinci

Offline JohnFornaro

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Thanks for posting.

The phrase "conceptual blindness of external observers" strikes to the heart of NASA's failure to accomplish a lunar base or even BEO flight in the last forty years.  The external observers would be our policy makers, largely in the executive and legislative branches.  Internal observers would be in NASA management here and there.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Jim

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the sky is falling to

Offline woods170

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People are getting way too worked up about 'the Chinese are gonna claim the moon'. So, what is the big deal if they do?
Answer: no big deal. There is nothing of strategic value on the moon. At most it would gain China one heck of a lot of international prestige. And that's what they are headed for anyway. They are THE up-and-coming nation on Earth, likely to be eclipsed some time there after by India.

Now I can hear some people shout: "There is water on the moon!" Yeah, so..?
The expense it will take to establish a moon-base, set up a mining operation to extract water or whatever stuff from the lunar soil will, in the end, be so incredibly large that even China can not afford to do so for any extended period of time.

Now I can hear some other people shout: "China will militarize the moon and use it as a weapons platform against their enemies on earth!!"
Oh please....  ::)  delivering a weapon to any location on earth is best done NOT from the moon. It would make one heck of an expensive weapon... think of it: first have the weapon transported to the moon, than have it fly all the way back to a certain target on earth? So much for a surprise attack. Whatever the target on earth will be, it will have at least one full day to see the weapon coming and do something about it.

And I don't want to hear the laser argument either. Any laser firing on an Earthly target from the moon can easibly be targeted itself by Earth-bound lasers.

These constant warnings about the supposed lunar colonization plans of China are the direct result of fear. The fear that lives within predominantly within the USA that they will be surpassed by China.
Too late. That' gonna happen with or without China colonizing the moon. Just a few years from now China will pass the USA as the worlds largest economy.


Offline JohnFornaro

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Quote from: Jim
The sky is falling to...

...to where? The ground?

Quote from: woods
(1) People are getting way too worked up about 'the Chinese are gonna claim the moon'. So, what is the big deal if they do?

Answer: no big deal. (2) There is nothing of strategic value on the moon. At most it would gain China ... international prestige. ... (3) They ... likely to be eclipsed some time there after by India.

Now I can hear some people shout: "There is water on the moon!" Yeah, so..? (4)
The expense (5) it will take to establish a moon-base ... will, in the end, be so incredibly large that even China can not afford to do so for any extended period of time.

Now I can hear some other people shout: (6) "China will militarize the moon ..."

Oh please....  (7) delivering a weapon to any location on earth is best done NOT from the moon. ...

And I don't want to hear the laser argument either. (8) Any laser firing on an Earthly target from the moon can easibly be targeted itself by Earth-bound lasers.

(9) These constant warnings about the supposed lunar colonization plans of China are the direct result of fear. ...

(1) That they are.

(2) Yes, there is, since the Moon is the high ground in the current theater.  The high ground is only of utility if you can actually use it.  Since nobody can at the moment, it is not being used as the high ground.

(3) Which remains to be seen, as does remain whether or not China will eclipse the US.

(4) As to expense, if an engineer in one economy makes $100K, and an equivalent engineer in another economy makes $10K, then the second economy will have less of an engineering expense.  Who knows what that equivalency is, since engineering talent is also affected by political freedom in some stereotypical ways, not all of which are well understood.

(5) Even so, it won't be cheap.

(6) They way they act here on Earth is not likely to change on the Moon, so the military option is not off the table for their policymakers.

(7) Conceptual blindness can be so strong that when a vetted, trusted report crosses the President's desk that fuel laden passenger aircraft can be readily converted into intelligently guided bombs, the report can be ignored.  Who knows what such a weapon might look like, or what could be its feasibility?  Certainly the cognitively dissonant mind can hold that in this case there will be no technological advancement, but in another case, technological advancement can be counted on with certainty.

(8) You got that right.

(9) And that one too.
« Last Edit: 03/12/2012 12:01 am by JohnFornaro »
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Online edkyle99

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How plausible is it?  Not. 

Think about this question for about 2 seconds.  Then ask why China would want to do something outrageous like this that would antagonize the world - its economic customers.

At any rate, it is one thing to claim something.  It is something else to actually "own" it.  It is yet another thing to have the claim recognized by all of the world's other powerful nations, which would be necessary to "own" the claim. 

Right now China is developing a Delta 4 Heavy-class rocket (which the U.S. already has) while the U.S. is developing a rocket that will launch three to four times as much mass.  Control of assets in space, if it turned into a contest, would ultimately come down to which contestant could orbit the most mass in a given time frame.   

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 03/11/2012 09:19 pm by edkyle99 »

Offline Warren Platts

What's so implausible about claiming territory on the Moon? NASA has already done it: NASA has declared no-go zones around some of its Apollo landing sites, and placed regulations on movement within the rest of them. China would only be following the precedent started by the USA.

As for the OST, it actually allows for the declaration of "safety zones". Remember? But it doesn't specify how big (or small) these must be. I figure a permanently manned facility is going to be very expensive: they won't want to take a chance of anything crashing into it. With NASA using "crasher" stages, which seems to be the main design at this point, I suspect that the Chinese would want to declare a pretty big safety zone in order to feel safe. So they wouldn't even have to withdraw from the OST to capture all the strategic resources.

And even if they did withdraw from the OST in order to claim regions around a permanently manned base, what of it? The US couldn't complain very loudly considering that the previous Bush administration came very close to withdrawing from the OST: the thinking at the time was that there were bigger fish to fry, and that little would be gained by withdrawing at that time: but the converse of that line of reasoning is that the US would withdraw from the OST if it were decided that withdrawal was in the selfish self-interest of the US. Therefore, there isn't much ground to complain if China withdraws.

Would the USA go to war in space over the Moon. Not hardly. Would it start a trade war? I highly doubt. Would it default on all its T-bills. That's more likely, but China claiming all or part of the Moon won't precipitate that.

And why should anyone complain at all anyways? If China goes to the trouble to set up a permanently manned base on the Moon while the USA pursues more literal navel gazing in LEO, then the Chinese deserve the Moon. Neither the US nor anyone else would have the right to complain about what rightfully belongs to China under international law.
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."--Leonardo Da Vinci

Offline Warren Platts

There is nothing of strategic value on the moon.

People said the same thing about Alaska when US went about buying that place. Guess what? They were proved wrong. In addition to vast volatile deposits, there are also likely vast electrostatic placer deposits of valuable metals that people are only dimly aware of at the present time.

Quote
Now I can hear some people shout: "There is water on the moon!" Yeah, so..?

The expense it will take to establish a moon-base, set up a mining operation to extract water or whatever stuff from the lunar soil will, in the end, be so incredibly large that even China can not afford to do so for any extended period of time.

How do you know this to be true? Did you read the Spudis and Lavoie paper? They describe a base capable of producing useful amounts of rocket propellant that could be constructed for about $86 billion USD, no heavy lift required.

Quote
Now I can hear some other people shout: "China will militarize the moon and use it as a weapons platform against their enemies on earth!!"

Oh please....  ::)  delivering a weapon to any location on earth is best done NOT from the moon. It would make one heck of an expensive weapon... think of it: first have the weapon transported to the moon, than have it fly all the way back to a certain target on earth? So much for a surprise attack.

The Moon wouldn't be used as a missile platform: it would be used as a manufacturing platform. Think about it this way: the first step will be to produce rocket fuel. Then they will refine some metals. Then it's a small step building some kind of factory on the Moon.

Now, the holy grail of space weaponry would be a full spectrum missile defense system that would provide complete control of the upper atmosphere and Earth-orbit up to GEO and possibly beyond.

The US looked very hard at this concept back in the  day. The consensus was that a large constellation of 100,000 satellites (Brilliant Pebbles) could actually deliver a such a full-spectrum missile defense system. The problem was launch costs: they figured it would cost many trillions of USD to deploy such a system.

That's why SDIO was heavily involved in researching ways to radically bring down the cost of launching to LEO, e.g., Delta Clipper and other systems.

But what if a space power had a satellite manufacturing facility on the Moon? Combined with Lunar propellant and reusable Lunar landers, the launch costs for such a system would be practically for free. After all, isn't that the same argument used for space based power systems (SBSP)? SBSP is a neat idea, but all proposals get eaten up by launch costs: one proposed solution is to get the materials from the Moon: by parity of reasoning, a massive Brilliant Pebbles system would also benefit greatly if its parts could be manufactured on the Moon.

The US would be presented with a big, fat strategic surprise. It would be forced to respond in kind, but with having to launch all its assets from Earth rather than the Moon, it will be at a major cost disadvantage. Combine this with the fact that at the time this all goes down, China will have a larger GDP than the US. The US simply wouldn't be able to compete: it will be in the same predicament that the USSR found itself in when Ronald Reagan was president. They'll be able to spend us into the ground.
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."--Leonardo Da Vinci

Offline Jim

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What's so implausible about claiming territory on the Moon? NASA has already done it: NASA has declared no-go zones around some of its Apollo landing sites, and placed regulations on movement within the rest of them.

Invalid argument.

Those stay out zones are only for NASA sponsored missions.  Has no bearing internationally

Offline Jim

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There is nothing of strategic value on the moon.

People said the same thing about Alaska when US went about buying that place. Guess what? They were proved wrong. In addition to vast volatile deposits, there are also likely vast electrostatic placer deposits of valuable metals that people are only dimly aware of at the present time.

Quote
Now I can hear some people shout: "There is water on the moon!" Yeah, so..?

The expense it will take to establish a moon-base, set up a mining operation to extract water or whatever stuff from the lunar soil will, in the end, be so incredibly large that even China can not afford to do so for any extended period of time.

How do you know this to be true? Did you read the Spudis and Lavoie paper? They describe a base capable of producing useful amounts of rocket propellant that could be constructed for about $86 billion USD, no heavy lift required.

Quote
Now I can hear some other people shout: "China will militarize the moon and use it as a weapons platform against their enemies on earth!!"

Oh please....  ::)  delivering a weapon to any location on earth is best done NOT from the moon. It would make one heck of an expensive weapon... think of it: first have the weapon transported to the moon, than have it fly all the way back to a certain target on earth? So much for a surprise attack.

The Moon wouldn't be used as a missile platform: it would be used as a manufacturing platform. Think about it this way: the first step will be to produce rocket fuel. Then they will refine some metals. Then it's a small step building some kind of factory on the Moon.

Now, the holy grail of space weaponry would be a full spectrum missile defense system that would provide complete control of the upper atmosphere and Earth-orbit up to GEO and possibly beyond.

The US looked very hard at this concept back in the  day. The consensus was that a large constellation of 100,000 satellites (Brilliant Pebbles) could actually deliver a such a full-spectrum missile defense system. The problem was launch costs: they figured it would cost many trillions of USD to deploy such a system.

That's why SDIO was heavily involved in researching ways to radically bring down the cost of launching to LEO, e.g., Delta Clipper and other systems.

But what if a space power had a satellite manufacturing facility on the Moon? Combined with Lunar propellant and reusable Lunar landers, the launch costs for such a system would be practically for free. After all, isn't that the same argument used for space based power systems (SBSP)? SBSP is a neat idea, but all proposals get eaten up by launch costs: one proposed solution is to get the materials from the Moon: by parity of reasoning, a massive Brilliant Pebbles system would also benefit greatly if its parts could be manufactured on the Moon.

The US would be presented with a big, fat strategic surprise. It would be forced to respond in kind, but with having to launch all its assets from Earth rather than the Moon, it will be at a major cost disadvantage. Combine this with the fact that at the time this all goes down, China will have a larger GDP than the US. The US simply wouldn't be able to compete: it will be in the same predicament that the USSR found itself in when Ronald Reagan was president. They'll be able to spend us into the ground.


Nothing but scaremongering and bovine excrement.  Not one bit of reality in that post.

Offline Warren Platts

That's a brilliant analysis Jim. Thanks!  :P
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."--Leonardo Da Vinci

Offline tigerade

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In my opinion, if China can make it to the moon, they can do whatever they want when they get there.

Online Diagoras

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If the entire Standing Committee suddenly and unanimously lose their minds and decide that their current policy of seeking to curb international concerns about China's rise is best achieved by randomly declaring that they are the Imperial Lords of the Moon, then this is plausible.

Otherwise, it is not.
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Offline pippin

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In our lifetime, China is not going to land people on the moon, so what do we worry about here?

Offline MATTBLAK

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People who make absolute statements - 'never In our lifetime' etcetera - about geopolitical or historical futures usually end up absolutely wrong.

China will go to the Moon, IF they want to. But will they?

Even though I strongly suspect they are in no hurry, I strongly believe they will.
« Last Edit: 03/12/2012 07:38 am by MATTBLAK »
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Offline spectre9

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Limited resources on the moon?

What exactly is China going to build the grandest space program of all time for?

Just so they can annex a bit of water and gold in a dark crater?

Is this their public policy?

Lets see China build a rocket in the "moonshot" class before getting worried about losing all that precious crater ice.

I'm trying to compare China to NASA in the early 60s and I just don't see it.

Their capability to even do an Apollo type mission any time soon is greatly overestimated.

Offline JohnFornaro

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Control of assets in space, if it turned into a contest, would ultimately come down to which contestant could orbit the most mass in a given time frame.

Exactly.  One of the reasons the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor was to reduce the amount of mass we could send to that theater.  They underestimated our ability to create new mass and new delivery systems.

The US looked very hard at (Brilliant Pebbles) back in the  day. ...such a full-spectrum missile defense system. The problem was launch costs: they figured it would cost many trillions of USD to deploy such a system. ...

The US would be presented with a big, fat strategic surprise. ...

Future President Paul probably would put it this way:

"We had no idea what the Chinese were doing, with a hundred launches a year for the last decade, due to the entirely coincidental failure of our access to our satellites and the internet.  We were completely surprised to hear about what the Chinese accomplished on the Moon."
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Warren Platts

Lets see China build a rocket in the "moonshot" class before getting worried about losing all that precious crater ice.

I'm trying to compare China to NASA in the early 60s and I just don't see it.

Their capability to even do an Apollo type mission any time soon is greatly overestimated.

I'd be more worried if they start working on cryogenic fuel transfer and storage capability than if they start work on an BFR. As the ULA depot-based architecture demonstrates, HLV's are not necessary for an aggressive and sustainable Moon program that would include a permanently manned base. If they're smart, they'll do what NASA did right and leapfrog the mistakes and sidetracks....
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."--Leonardo Da Vinci

Online QuantumG

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Their capability to even do an Apollo type mission any time soon is greatly overestimated.

Actually, that appears to be the way they're going.. which suggests they won't be doing anything after that, just like Apollo.
Human spaceflight is basically just LARPing now.

Offline spectre9

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Heavy Lift rockets and fuel depot technology?

Both will cost heaps and one has not been done before.

China has their own version of ULA and Rocketdyne do they?

All I'm seeing is a few medium class UDMH powered rockets.

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