Author Topic: How Plausible is Chinese Annexation of Territory on the Moon?  (Read 19129 times)

Offline QuantumG

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

If they have any sense they'll keep it that way, and forget about the heavy lift. Storable propellant buildup at EML1 is a lot more scalable than a big rocket.
Human spaceflight is basically just LARPing now.

Offline JohnFornaro

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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.


I don't think that the Apollo approach is a pathway to failure, if the political motivation is sustained, and if launch costs can fall in accord with a more usual manufacturing paradigm.  We chose the elective Vietnam war, and were not able to afford Apollo.  It may be suggested that we would have lost interest in exploring the Moon anyway, but this view can't be proven any more than the opposite contention that we would have maintained our national interest in HSF. 

As it turns out, the limited exploration in LEO was sucessfully marketed to the politicians and the nation at large, so I think that had the funds been available, and the path of Apollo continued, and had not the warriors taken the public imagination, we could very well have that lunar base I keep clamoring for.

But it is the conjectural past.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Prober

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

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

you might be very surprised in a couple of years.   China has been buying Russian engines etc at scrap prices.  We are talking Buran "system" parts. 

Plus, China has a way of "reverse engineering" what they want/need.

 
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Offline Warren Platts

Plus, China has a way of "reverse engineering" what they want/need.

You got that right. They are absolutely shameless. cf. the Shanghai maglev train.

Anyways....

Consider the attached map: it is from Spudis and Lavoie (2010). It shows the major resources in the north polar region of the Moon. According to international law, Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) are declarable over former res communis on Earth. I have dawn in an approximate boundary of an EEZ of 200 nautical miles around a Moon base located at the North Pole.

As you can see, the customary boundary that's drawn on Earth around isolated places like the Falkland Islands  would encompass the entire North Polar region.
« Last Edit: 03/13/2012 03:34 am by Warren Platts »
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Offline Jim

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That's a brilliant analysis Jim. Thanks!  :P

Why both with detail when your first line is wrong

Offline Warren Platts

That's a brilliant analysis Jim. Thanks!  :P

Why bother with detail when your first line is wrong

First line? That people used to say that there were no worthwhile resources in Alaska?!?
____________________________________________
As for the area that would have to be controlled to lock up all the resources in the north polar region, one can see in the attached radar map that all good craters are within about 10 degrees latitude of the poles. On the Moon, a degree of latitude is about 30 kilometers. So an annexation of the north polar region of not much more than 300 km (around 172 nautical miles) would be all that is required. This is smaller than the 200 mile EEZ's typically declared on Earth.

Of course, the flipside of all this talk about it being in China's interest to annex territory on the Moon is that it would also be in the USA's interest to annex such territory....
"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 spectre9

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So you want the USA to annex the north pole of the moon?

Nobody needs to concour the lunar poles in the name of a singular country.

Australia claimed Antarctica and was then able stop it being exploited to preserve it's natural beauty allowing all the citizens of the world and future generations to enjoy it.

Working together with others for scientific research and exploration.

This is what should be done for the moon too once many countries have the capability to go there of course.

I like this.

Quote
There are few places in the world where there has never been war, where the environment is fully protected, and where scientific research has priority. But there is a whole continent like this - it is the land the Antarctic Treaty parties call '... a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science'.

http://www.antarctica.gov.au/antarctic-law-and-treaty/our-treaty-obligations
« Last Edit: 03/14/2012 01:47 am by spectre9 »

Offline QuantumG

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Australia claimed Antarctica and was then able stop it being exploited to preserve it's natural beauty allowing all the citizens of the world and future generations to enjoy it.

Yeah.. sure we did.
Human spaceflight is basically just LARPing now.

Offline Ronsmytheiii

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The general analysis so far has been focused on technical or economic factors in China and the moon, but clearly does not attempt any analysis in a historic or political science facet.

Will China claim the moon?

No, China does not want to mess up the current pyramid of cards that is the international laws governing space.  China has never shown a historic desire to massively expand their boundaries except for areas they consider historic part of their identity. The voyages of Admiral Zheng He did not result in overseas expansion, even at the height of Chinese power. The PRC would rather work within the existing system as it benefits them.  If there are any resources on the moon worth exploiting China can do so within the existing agreements without the need to bother to claim it.  Just look at Africa, China has shown little interest in anything except resource extraction, and does so by supporting governments that we find "undesireable" for various reasons.  No, China does too well in the existing system to open Pandora's box.

Offline Warren Platts

The general analysis so far has been focused on technical or economic factors in China and the moon, but clearly does not attempt any analysis in a historic or political science facet.

Will China claim the moon?

No, China does not want to mess up the current pyramid of cards that is the international laws governing space.  China has never shown a historic desire to massively expand their boundaries except for areas they consider historic part of their identity. The voyages of Admiral Zheng He did not result in overseas expansion, even at the height of Chinese power. The PRC would rather work within the existing system as it benefits them.  If there are any resources on the moon worth exploiting China can do so within the existing agreements without the need to bother to claim it.  Just look at Africa, China has shown little interest in anything except resource extraction, and does so by supporting governments that we find "undesireable" for various reasons.  No, China does too well in the existing system to open Pandora's box.

As has been pointed out, the very best spots on the Moon are few and far between. These are the relatively flat, quasi-permanently sunlit plateaus adjacent to major cold traps. Basically, there is one: the north rim of Whipple Crater. Thanks to NASA declaring its little sovereign zones around the Apollo sites (like the 40 acre no-trespassing zone around the Apollo 17 site), whoever gets to North Rim first can claim it with a single, brief sortie.

The other lesson that NASA taught the world, is that whoever gets up there gets to decide what happens. Did NASA consult with the UN when it declared its no-trespassing zones? Nope. Did they consult with the Chinese or Russians? Nope. Therefore, whoever goes to the Moon next has no obligation to consult with anyone on how they choose to dispose of the terrain they occupy.

Thanks to the precedent that NASA itself set, the UN is irrelevant. People that don't go to the Moon are irrelevant. If the US bypasses the Moon, by NASA's own actions, the US is irrelevant.

What's going to suck is when after the Chinese demonstrate the superiority of the "Kobe Bryant" model where commerce is led by state owned enterprises and demonstrate that there are trillions of renminbi to be made on Lunar commodities after Earth's stocks hit the wall, US companies are going to want to get in on the act.

But then the PRC may decide that it likes having a corner on the global gold, PGM, REE market. And so, since they will have the Lunar infrastructure, they will simply arrest anyone who attempts to cut into their turf. And what will the US or EU be able to do about it. Absolutely nothing. Will they go to war over it? Nope. Will they embargo Chinese goods? Nope. In fact, the pundits will say the Chinese deserve their concession, because they earned it.

Will the Chinese have to withdraw from the OST to do this? Nope. They will have their little operations strategically scattered around. They will get to decide how big the safety zones should be, because they got their first.

So don't worry, be happy.

Bottom line: when it comes to the Moon, the guiding principle will be use it or lose it.
"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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China has never shown a historic desire to massively expand their boundaries except for areas they consider historic part of their identity. ...

Well:

http://bigthink.com/ideas/20774

Quote
Bodhisattva Guanyin of the Water Moon

This is all speculation, right?  Or does the Bodhisattva count as the "historic part of their identity"?

What about Tibet, for example?  Times change; regimes change; nation's goals change.  Look at us; we used to be all about space.  Now we're all about portable devices and entertainment.  Fiftey years ago the South China Sea wasn't all that important to China.

...the very best spots on the Moon are few and far between.

Maybe so, at least with current knowledge of the mineral content up there.  Just to pick one group at random...

From:

http://www.moonexpress.com/index.php/moon-is-me/moon-is-me-human-benefits-article

Quote
The resources and the wealth of the Moon, and beyond, will be available to Earth.

From:

http://www.moonexpress.com/index.php/moon-is-me/moon-is-me-mission-article

Quote
"We are looking for the next generation superpowers out there to help us identify and acquire lunar resources that could benefit life on Earth and our future in space," said Richards.

Hard for me to believe that they (ME, China, anybody) are only interested in the water ice.  Other groups are also interested in lunar resources.  Some of them are dead set on acquiring He3, for example, as that pathway to profitability.

Point is, our current knowledge of the "best spots" on the Moon is incomplete at best.  We do have an idea as to where some good initial base spots are.  Tho.

Quote from: Warren
The other lesson that NASA taught the world, is that whoever gets up there gets to decide what happens.

I agree, and I also think that the race back has already started.  Our policymakers do not see it that way, having won the primitive race in 1969, that the advanced marathon is right around the corner.  The US needs to withdraw from OST, and the Moon and all needs to be opened up for private property ownership.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline lbiderman

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Plus, China has a way of "reverse engineering" what they want/need.

You got that right. They are absolutely shameless. cf. the Shanghai maglev train.

Anyways....

Consider the attached map: it is from Spudis and Lavoie (2010). It shows the major resources in the north polar region of the Moon. According to international law, Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) are declarable over former res communis on Earth. I have dawn in an approximate boundary of an EEZ of 200 nautical miles around a Moon base located at the North Pole.

As you can see, the customary boundary that's drawn on Earth around isolated places like the Falkland Islands  would encompass the entire North Polar region.

Wrong. The Economic Exclusive Zone is based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. In international law, you cannot expand one charter into another domain. Therefore, the EEZ is not applicable on the Moon. Anyways, basing ourselves on the old utis possidetis concept (mainly, that the permanent and long term occupation of a territory gives you sovereignty), you could, theoretically speaking, declare that certain lunar territory is yours if you establish a permanent lunar base. However, in order for the principle to function, there should be no other claims to the same territory (Malvinas/Falklands is the perfect example), and (this is the key) it should be recognized by other international powers (which is highly unlikely).
Anyway, going back to reality here, the only way China could declare ownership on lunar land is by "kicking the board", saying to the world "what are you going to do about it?". That is NOT going to happen given the current long term scenario. It has more to lose than to win.
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Offline Warren Platts

Plus, China has a way of "reverse engineering" what they want/need.

You got that right. They are absolutely shameless. cf. the Shanghai maglev train.

Anyways....

Consider the attached map: it is from Spudis and Lavoie (2010). It shows the major resources in the north polar region of the Moon. According to international law, Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) are declarable over former res communis on Earth. I have dawn in an approximate boundary of an EEZ of 200 nautical miles around a Moon base located at the North Pole.

As you can see, the customary boundary that's drawn on Earth around isolated places like the Falkland Islands  would encompass the entire North Polar region.

Wrong. The Economic Exclusive Zone is based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. In international law, you cannot expand one charter into another domain. Therefore, the EEZ is not applicable on the Moon.

Huh? Charters are always expanded into other domains. That's how it's done. What was the reason for the 200 nautical mile EEZ limit? Mainly mathematics: 200 is a nice, round number; 100 miles didn't seem generous enough, and 300 would be too much, evidently. But the 200 nautical mile limit, as opposed to, say 300 km, or 250 statute miles was totally arbitrary.

But now that that number is out there, what's to prevent it from being applied to other areas? What IS the appropriate EEZ boundary around a permanently manned Lunar Station?

The thing is, if we apply the Law of the Sea standard, one base locks up the entire polar region. You guys don't realize this, because it takes actually looking at a map of the Moon and punching in some numbers into a calculator. But I make it my business to do little things like that.

Quote
However, in order for the principle to function, there should be no other claims to the same territory (Malvinas/Falklands is the perfect example), and (this is the key) it should be recognized by other international powers (which is highly unlikely).

No, Malvinas only proves my point. The Brits were there first with British settlers. They speak English down there--not Espanol. Therefore, they get to say what happens down there. And guess what? It doesn't matter what "international powers" think about the issue. It's a centuries old fait accompli at this point.

If China gets up there first, Mandarin will be the official language of future Lunar colonies. As it should be.

Quote
Anyway, going back to reality here, the only way China could declare ownership on lunar land is by "kicking the board", saying to the world "what are you going to do about it?". That is NOT going to happen given the current long term scenario. It has more to lose than to win.

No, it has more to lose by NOT "kicking the board". See, their whole modus operandi is that major state owned enterprises (SOE's) kind of lead the way for a whole economy. These are things like major oil companies. In the "free" world, we have Shell and BP and Exxon; in the ROW they have PEMEX, ARAMCO, CITGO, etc.--these latter are SOE's where all the "profits" go to the "people", in theory.

And for something like developing the Moon, it almost takes the deep pockets of a big nation-state the size of China to get the ball rolling. Otherwise, we're looking at some sort of consortium of Exxon-Halliburton-Rio Tinto-Caterpillar multi-multi-billion dollar conglomerate to make it worth it. And what is the likelihood of that happening?

Well, traditionally, in situations like that, the US government (or whoever) would step in and pony up some cash (or sweet land deals) to kick start private development. Of course, now it looks like NASA, the one go-to department, is going to drop that ball. They could go in there and prove out and pay for the development of things like assessing the mineral content of the Moon making propellant from Lunar ice and things like that (which is why I favor transferring the entire HSF program to USGS; they would actually know what to do with a few astronauts; NASA itself is captured by aeronautical engineers and astrobiologists who don't have a clue about actually producing mineral wealth).

Thus at any rate, it looks like China is going to have both the deep pockets, and the inclination to get whatever value there is to be had out of the Lady of the Moon. The Moon has figured more prominently in their mythology than it ever did in the West. It's theirs by rights. They care about it more than we do.

And if they spend the hundreds of billions of RMB to make it happen, why should they share the spoils with Johnny-come-lately, claim-jumping, carpet baggers, just because the OST says everything belongs to everybody? That's not fair. The spoils belong to whoever makes it happen.

Common heritage of mankind?!? What a joke!!!
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Offline lbiderman

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Plus, China has a way of "reverse engineering" what they want/need.

You got that right. They are absolutely shameless. cf. the Shanghai maglev train.

Anyways....

Consider the attached map: it is from Spudis and Lavoie (2010). It shows the major resources in the north polar region of the Moon. According to international law, Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) are declarable over former res communis on Earth. I have dawn in an approximate boundary of an EEZ of 200 nautical miles around a Moon base located at the North Pole.

As you can see, the customary boundary that's drawn on Earth around isolated places like the Falkland Islands  would encompass the entire North Polar region.

Wrong. The Economic Exclusive Zone is based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. In international law, you cannot expand one charter into another domain. Therefore, the EEZ is not applicable on the Moon.

Huh? Charters are always expanded into other domains. That's how it's done. What was the reason for the 200 nautical mile EEZ limit? Mainly mathematics: 200 is a nice, round number; 100 miles didn't seem generous enough, and 300 would be too much, evidently. But the 200 nautical mile limit, as opposed to, say 300 km, or 250 statute miles was totally arbitrary.

But now that that number is out there, what's to prevent it from being applied to other areas? What IS the appropriate EEZ boundary around a permanently manned Lunar Station?

The thing is, if we apply the Law of the Sea standard, one base locks up the entire polar region. You guys don't realize this, because it takes actually looking at a map of the Moon and punching in some numbers into a calculator. But I make it my business to do little things like that.

Quote
However, in order for the principle to function, there should be no other claims to the same territory (Malvinas/Falklands is the perfect example), and (this is the key) it should be recognized by other international powers (which is highly unlikely).

No, Malvinas only proves my point. The Brits were there first with British settlers. They speak English down there--not Espanol. Therefore, they get to say what happens down there. And guess what? It doesn't matter what "international powers" think about the issue. It's a centuries old fait accompli at this point.

If China gets up there first, Mandarin will be the official language of future Lunar colonies. As it should be.

Quote
Anyway, going back to reality here, the only way China could declare ownership on lunar land is by "kicking the board", saying to the world "what are you going to do about it?". That is NOT going to happen given the current long term scenario. It has more to lose than to win.

No, it has more to lose by NOT "kicking the board". See, their whole modus operandi is that major state owned enterprises (SOE's) kind of lead the way for a whole economy. These are things like major oil companies. In the "free" world, we have Shell and BP and Exxon; in the ROW they have PEMEX, ARAMCO, CITGO, etc.--these latter are SOE's where all the "profits" go to the "people", in theory.

And for something like developing the Moon, it almost takes the deep pockets of a big nation-state the size of China to get the ball rolling. Otherwise, we're looking at some sort of consortium of Exxon-Halliburton-Rio Tinto-Caterpillar multi-multi-billion dollar conglomerate to make it worth it. And what is the likelihood of that happening?

Well, traditionally, in situations like that, the US government (or whoever) would step in and pony up some cash (or sweet land deals) to kick start private development. Of course, now it looks like NASA, the one go-to department, is going to drop that ball. They could go in there and prove out and pay for the development of things like assessing the mineral content of the Moon making propellant from Lunar ice and things like that (which is why I favor transferring the entire HSF program to USGS; they would actually know what to do with a few astronauts; NASA itself is captured by aeronautical engineers and astrobiologists who don't have a clue about actually producing mineral wealth).

Thus at any rate, it looks like China is going to have both the deep pockets, and the inclination to get whatever value there is to be had out of the Lady of the Moon. The Moon has figured more prominently in their mythology than it ever did in the West. It's theirs by rights. They care about it more than we do.

And if they spend the hundreds of billions of RMB to make it happen, why should they share the spoils with Johnny-come-lately, claim-jumping, carpet baggers, just because the OST says everything belongs to everybody? That's not fair. The spoils belong to whoever makes it happen.

Common heritage of mankind?!? What a joke!!!

No. Charters are NOT expanded into other domains. Show me one example of that. The EEZ is not applicable on land, as well as on air, where what you could call "EEZ" is all of the space up to space. Why would it be applicable on the Moon? The charter has a certain spectrum of use, the sea. Everything that itīs not the sea, is not under the charter. You would need another charter to apply it to the Moon, like the EU needs another treaty when they want another area to be integrated. The scenario you are plotting does not need an "Economic Exclusive Zone", itīs based on blunt force: I am here and here I am the Law. That wonīt happen on the Moon, you now why? Simple: it is not enforceable. The Chinese are not going to evict by force an American o European lunar base inside their self-declared EEZ. As a matter of fact, the only thing a proclamation of EEZ or annexation would produce is the localization of American bases inside that area, to contest that proclamation. And please donīt start bringing the idea of a Lunar Peopleīs Liberation Army. China cares above all about China. What is the point of killing a couple of scientists on the Moon and have a war on Earth? They may be bold, but definitely not stupid.
And no: Malvinas was actually a Spanish colony, then Argentine. The British kicked them out by force in 1833, and took the land. The fact that itīs considered a "territory under dispute" is a perfect example that utis possidetis needs uncontest by other powers. Of course there is a de facto British control, but the Moon is not Malvinas, and Argentina is not the United States.
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Offline Warren Platts

Señor, let's say you're right; that still begs the question of whether there ought to be a 200 nm EEZ around a permanently manned base on the Moon. If a country goes up there, spends a trillion CNY to develop the place, shouldn't they be granted a 200 nm EEZ? Who in their right mind would argue against such a proposition?

Article XV of the OST states that "Any State Party to the Treaty may propose amendments to this Treaty." So if anybody were to propose an amendment granting a 200 nm EEZ surrounding a permanently manned facility, shouldn't we all agree to it?

Seriously, what would be the problem with such an amendment? It wouldn't upend the principle that celestial bodies are the common heritage of humankind: like nautical EEZ's the area would still belong to humanity as whole; it's just that the holder of the EEZ simply gets the exclusive economic rights to the area. The purpose is to prevent anarchy from breaking out, to prevent a "tragedy of the commons".

Just because China had an EEZ doesn't mean that foreign companies couldn't also have access to the EEZ; it's just that would have to negotiate with the PRC first, maybe pay a license fee, agree to some technology transfers, ensure that pilots of landers speak Mandarin on the radio, pay a severance tax and things like that.

Sure, China would reap all the profits, but the benefits would trickle down to the rest of the planet, even to places like Uruguay. It would be worth it, because if nobody develops the Moon, nobody gets anything. As a character in Bill White's Platinum Moon said IIRC, "For everyone to eat bread, some must eat caviar!"
« Last Edit: 03/18/2012 10:28 am by Warren Platts »
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Offline lbiderman

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Seņor, let's say you're right; that still begs the question of whether there ought to be a 200 nm EEZ around a permanently manned base on the Moon. If a country goes up there, spends a trillion CNY to develop the place, shouldn't they be granted a 200 nm EEZ? Who in their right mind would argue against such a proposition?

Article XV of the OST states that "Any State Party to the Treaty may propose amendments to this Treaty." So if anybody were to propose an amendment granting a 200 nm EEZ surrounding a permanently manned facility, shouldn't we all agree to it?

Seriously, what would be the problem with such an amendment? It wouldn't upend the principle that celestial bodies are the common heritage of humankind: like nautical EEZ's the area would still belong to humanity as whole; it's just that the holder of the EEZ simply gets the exclusive economic rights to the area. The purpose is to prevent anarchy from breaking out, to prevent a "tragedy of the commons".

Just because China had an EEZ doesn't mean that foreign companies couldn't also have access to the EEZ; it's just that would have to negotiate with the PRC first, maybe pay a license fee, agree to some technology transfers, ensure that pilots of landers speak Mandarin on the radio, pay a severance tax and things like that.

Sure, China would reap all the profits, but the benefits would trickle down to the rest of the planet, even to places like Uruguay. It would be worth it, because if nobody develops the Moon, nobody gets anything. As a character in Bill White's Platinum Moon said IIRC, "For everyone to eat bread, some must eat caviar!"

I see your point, but I donīt see it happen. An example is Antarctica. Every country with a permanent base there spent (and continues spending) fortunes to keep them functioning, and even though there are claims to the land, those claims are maid to the Antarctic Treaty Organization, and have zero effect to the planet. Of course, the problem with the example is that there is no commercial exploitation on Antarctica.
Regarding a modification of the OST, anyone can propose an amendment, but I seriously donīt see it going through. The main opposition is going to be from the "second wave" countries, those that currently donīt have the technology to reach the Moon, but they expect to have it in some years (think of Brazil, India, South Korea, Israel), considering that the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Union are already on the Moon by the time the proposal is presented. Those countries donīt have any incentive to allow that modification, because it would leave them on the doorstep of the profits. Something similar happened with the NPT, but the advanced countries managed to force itīs acceptance on that case, and I donīt think they would manage to do it again.
Anyway, all of this is just guesses.
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Offline Warren Platts

Hm... I see what you're saying. And those are good points.

But consider the potential for conflict as things stand now. Let's say for the sake of the argument that there are indeed vast gold deposits in the polar cold traps (and I'm the first to admit that this is pure speculation based on very little evidence). Now think of everything that needs to be done in order to get that gold back to Earth: the depots, the heavy-duty reusable landers, Lunar propellant production, and then all the gold refining stuff. You're looking at at least $50B USD for DDT&E costs and another $150B to deploy it all at a minimum. That would be about a trillion CNY.

Now there's a Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE) that's happily churning out the gold bars, and China is now the world's largest gold producer as a result. They're careful to restrict production to carefully manage the price of gold: they'll drive the price down a little bit to drive out marginal producers on Earth, but still keep it around $50K/kg to keep the Lunar operation profitable.

But now all the heavy lifting and risk taking has already been done. So what's to stop "the Big Australian", BHP Billiton, from getting in on the act? Under the OST as it stands now, there's nothing to prevent BHP Billiton from setting up shop literally on the other side of the crater of the Chinese operation. See the potential for crisis: now the Chinese SOE has to split the market with a "claim jumper" who didn't help pay to develop the prospect; not only that, by ramping up production, there would be a danger that the price of gold would collapse and drive the entire Lunar economy out of business.

So (A) it is seemingly unfair that a company that took none of the risks gets to profit from the hard work done by the Chinese SOE; and (B) destroying a profitable Lunar economy is a practical result that no one wants to see.

Now for some reason I was thinking that the OST allowed safety zones to be declared around manned facilities, but as I look at it again today, I see there really is no such provision. On the other hand, declaring safety zones aren't specifically prohibited. Similarly, NASA's no-trespassing zones like the 40 acres it claimed around the Apollo 17 site are not specifically disallowed under the OST. Thus although Article II specifically states that the Moon is "not subject to national appropriation", apparently self-declared zones where activities can be limited are in fact compatible with the OST.

E.g., NASA is not contesting that the Moon is the common heritage of mankind by declaring it's 40-acre no-go zone, nor is the 40 acre no-go zone a form of national appropriation. Scientific research near the site isn't prohibited, and free access is guaranteed to all, except for the 40-acre core zone. Presumably study of the site through remote sensing isn't prohibited by NASA.

So consider this: Article III states that explorers "shall carry on activities ... in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international co- operation and understanding."

Now, there are space lawyers on this forum that know more about this stuff than I do, but I believe a case can be made that an anarchic, free-for-all, gold rush on the Moon is not conducive to maintaining international peace and security, nor would it promote international cooperation and understanding! So, contra Professor Hickman, I believe that a Chinese SOE could declare an EEZ and still stay within the letter of the OST; in other words, China would not have to withdraw from the OST in order to declare a 200 nm EEZ.

Think about it: the EEZ wouldn't prohibit any of the other positive activities spelled out by the OST: e.g., Article I states that there shall be freedom of scientific discovery, and that there be free access to all areas of the Moon, but an EEZ per se would not affect these sorts of activities. People would still be allowed to conduct scientific research on the cold traps, and move around, they just would be prohibited from conducting economic activities. The resources there would still be the common heritage of mankind, but the Chinese SOE would enjoy the sole right to exploit those resources. Once those resources are sold on Planet Earth, however, it's a boost to the whole global economy and so everyone benefits as it all trickles down.

Thus, the argument is this: that the OST does not specifically prohibit self-declared zones that place restrictions on activities: presumably NASA's space lawyers have already checked this out; otherwise they wouldn't have claimed the 40 acres around the Apollo 17 site. Since self-declared EEZ's are not specifically prohibited, then presumably they are allowed. Indeed, the argument is that EEZ's are necessary in order to promote international peace and cooperation--without it, anarchy and environmental contamination would ensue.

Naturally, the size of the EEZ should be that which best promotes international understanding and cooperation: the 200 nm limit is already on the books on Earth, and it would be big enough to lock up the entire north polar region.

Again, EEZ's are not forms of "national appropriation": e.g., the nautical EEZ's on Earth are still international waters; anybody is free to sail through them: people just can't fish or drill for oil without permission. The resources there are still the "common heritage of mankind", but in order to prevent anarchy and collapsing fish stocks, the country holding the EEZ gets to regulate how those resources are managed. It's only fair.

What about enforcement? Well, if anyone tried to do any claim-jumping beyond fair-use, scientific sampling, the interlopers would simply be arrested and sent home unharmed. While the OST specifically forbids military operation on the Moon, it does not specifically forbid the use of police forces. E.g., NASA has it's own SWAT team with the power to arrest people: presumably if anybody monkeyed with the Apollo 17 site, NASA would have the power to arrest them for violating NASA's regulations. Similarly, if China were to declare a 200 nm EEZ, they would have the power to arrest anybody conducting economic activities within the EEZ.

If potential claim jumpers decided to up the notch and resist arrest through force of arms, that would arguably be a military action and would be forbidden by the terms of the OST.

Again, declaring the EEZ wouldn't be a form of national appropriation any more than EEZ's on Earth are forms of national appropriation. Freedom of movement and scientific research would still be allowed. The resources would still be the common heritage of mankind, just like they are in terrestrial EEZ's.

You heard it here first! ;D
« Last Edit: 03/18/2012 12:51 pm by Warren Platts »
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Offline QuantumG

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But now all the heavy lifting and risk taking has already been done. So what's to stop "the Big Australian", BHP Billiton, from getting in on the act?

China buys most our ores.. one word that they might stop and they get anything they want.
Human spaceflight is basically just LARPing now.

Offline Warren Platts

But now all the heavy lifting and risk taking has already been done. So what's to stop "the Big Australian", BHP Billiton, from getting in on the act?

China buys most our ores.. one word that they might stop and they get anything they want.


Exactly. China throws a lot of weight around all over the planet. So really, if China were the first to get up there and they declared an EEZ, it wouldn't be in anybody's interest to challenge them. Others would feel they were better off focusing their efforts on Mars or asteroids, rather than taking on the Chinese head on.
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Offline lbiderman

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Hm... I see what you're saying. And those are good points.

But consider the potential for conflict as things stand now. Let's say for the sake of the argument that there are indeed vast gold deposits in the polar cold traps (and I'm the first to admit that this is pure speculation based on very little evidence). Now think of everything that needs to be done in order to get that gold back to Earth: the depots, the heavy-duty reusable landers, Lunar propellant production, and then all the gold refining stuff. You're looking at at least $50B USD for DDT&E costs and another $150B to deploy it all at a minimum. That would be about a trillion CNY.

Now there's a Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE) that's happily churning out the gold bars, and China is now the world's largest gold producer as a result. They're careful to restrict production to carefully manage the price of gold: they'll drive the price down a little bit to drive out marginal producers on Earth, but still keep it around $50K/kg to keep the Lunar operation profitable.

But now all the heavy lifting and risk taking has already been done. So what's to stop "the Big Australian", BHP Billiton, from getting in on the act? Under the OST as it stands now, there's nothing to prevent BHP Billiton from setting up shop literally on the other side of the crater of the Chinese operation. See the potential for crisis: now the Chinese SOE has to split the market with a "claim jumper" who didn't help pay to develop the prospect; not only that, by ramping up production, there would be a danger that the price of gold would collapse and drive the entire Lunar economy out of business.

So (A) it is seemingly unfair that a company that took none of the risks gets to profit from the hard work done by the Chinese SOE; and (B) destroying a profitable Lunar economy is a practical result that no one wants to see.

Now for some reason I was thinking that the OST allowed safety zones to be declared around manned facilities, but as I look at it again today, I see there really is no such provision. On the other hand, declaring safety zones aren't specifically prohibited. Similarly, NASA's no-trespassing zones like the 40 acres it claimed around the Apollo 17 site are not specifically disallowed under the OST. Thus although Article II specifically states that the Moon is "not subject to national appropriation", apparently self-declared zones where activities can be limited are in fact compatible with the OST.

E.g., NASA is not contesting that the Moon is the common heritage of mankind by declaring it's 40-acre no-go zone, nor is the 40 acre no-go zone a form of national appropriation. Scientific research near the site isn't prohibited, and free access is guaranteed to all, except for the 40-acre core zone. Presumably study of the site through remote sensing isn't prohibited by NASA.

So consider this: Article III states that explorers "shall carry on activities ... in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international co- operation and understanding."

Now, there are space lawyers on this forum that know more about this stuff than I do, but I believe a case can be made that an anarchic, free-for-all, gold rush on the Moon is not conducive to maintaining international peace and security, nor would it promote international cooperation and understanding! So, contra Professor Hickman, I believe that a Chinese SOE could declare an EEZ and still stay within the letter of the OST; in other words, China would not have to withdraw from the OST in order to declare a 200 nm EEZ.

Think about it: the EEZ wouldn't prohibit any of the other positive activities spelled out by the OST: e.g., Article I states that there shall be freedom of scientific discovery, and that there be free access to all areas of the Moon, but an EEZ per se would not affect these sorts of activities. People would still be allowed to conduct scientific research on the cold traps, and move around, they just would be prohibited from conducting economic activities. The resources there would still be the common heritage of mankind, but the Chinese SOE would enjoy the sole right to exploit those resources. Once those resources are sold on Planet Earth, however, it's a boost to the whole global economy and so everyone benefits as it all trickles down.

Thus, the argument is this: that the OST does not specifically prohibit self-declared zones that place restrictions on activities: presumably NASA's space lawyers have already checked this out; otherwise they wouldn't have claimed the 40 acres around the Apollo 17 site. Since self-declared EEZ's are not specifically prohibited, then presumably they are allowed. Indeed, the argument is that EEZ's are necessary in order to promote international peace and cooperation--without it, anarchy and environmental contamination would ensue.

Naturally, the size of the EEZ should be that which best promotes international understanding and cooperation: the 200 nm limit is already on the books on Earth, and it would be big enough to lock up the entire north polar region.

Again, EEZ's are not forms of "national appropriation": e.g., the nautical EEZ's on Earth are still international waters; anybody is free to sail through them: people just can't fish or drill for oil without permission. The resources there are still the "common heritage of mankind", but in order to prevent anarchy and collapsing fish stocks, the country holding the EEZ gets to regulate how those resources are managed. It's only fair.

What about enforcement? Well, if anyone tried to do any claim-jumping beyond fair-use, scientific sampling, the interlopers would simply be arrested and sent home unharmed. While the OST specifically forbids military operation on the Moon, it does not specifically forbid the use of police forces. E.g., NASA has it's own SWAT team with the power to arrest people: presumably if anybody monkeyed with the Apollo 17 site, NASA would have the power to arrest them for violating NASA's regulations. Similarly, if China were to declare a 200 nm EEZ, they would have the power to arrest anybody conducting economic activities within the EEZ.

If potential claim jumpers decided to up the notch and resist arrest through force of arms, that would arguably be a military action and would be forbidden by the terms of the OST.

Again, declaring the EEZ wouldn't be a form of national appropriation any more than EEZ's on Earth are forms of national appropriation. Freedom of movement and scientific research would still be allowed. The resources would still be the common heritage of mankind, just like they are in terrestrial EEZ's.

You heard it here first! ;D

Ok, I see where you are going. I believe, in that scenario, that an exclusion zone might, and stress might, be compatible with the OST, but forget about 200 nm. Think closer to 15. And I repeat something I said a couple of posts ago: Chinese are bold, not stupid. They wonīt try any of this if they are not 100% sure they can get away with it. I donīt think they can create the logistics of an EEZ on the Moon, meaning, that they can collect royalties: that is definitely not going to be accepted by the rest of the OST members. Most likely, it will be an exclusion zone, like "this is my area of work, please donīt get in here", as a gentlemen agreement. But again, all of this must be worked out before it can be implemented.
"If I wanted to lead a bunch of robots that could only follow orders, I would have joined the Army!"
Captain Alvarez (Uruguay Marine Corps) in Congo (MONUC Deployment), March 2007

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