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« One More Reprise | Main | Even More On Sinofantasies »

Moon War

It would be delightful to have a war on the Moon. It would be a good way to spark development and settle on a sensible property rights regime. I don't see, however, the Chinese spending $80 billion on the Moon much less $10 trillion or so to plant a base with 5000 km anti-spacecraft range and the techs to operate it. Unless there is an alternative way to get to the Moon than big dumb government programs, I see the Chinese as less likely to lift a finger to take the Moon than Quimoy or Matsu off their coast.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at November 09, 2005 09:26 AM
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Sam, actually there was an unofficial shooting war over those islands in the late 50s when US and Chinese jets tangled in those areas. And how does Tawain figure into your analogy?

Posted by Mark R Whittington at November 9, 2005 09:31 AM

By the way, where do you get the 10 trillion dollar figure? Just curious.

Posted by Mark R. Whittington at November 9, 2005 09:37 AM

A war over the moon... those are some awfully long supply lines.

Posted by Ed Minchau at November 9, 2005 09:53 AM

While I'd avoid using a word like "delightful" a war on the moon would certainly do big things for regular travel into space. At the end of hostilities, the near-Earth infrastructure would likely still be there available for use. The moon may have a few extra craters, though.

Posted by Tom at November 9, 2005 10:35 AM

Not to mention the possibility that such a war would escalate to fighting on Earth.

Posted by Mark R. Whittington at November 9, 2005 10:42 AM

So, Mark believes the Chinese will take over the Moon unless NASA gets there first, and the UN will support them.

Private entrepreneurs would have to leave the Moon, because in Mark's fantasy world, people actually listen to the UN.

So, what does Mark think NASA would do to stop this?

In Mark's fantasy, protecting the lives and property of American citizens is the mission of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In the real world, it is the job of the military and police.

Mark's "Vision of Space Exploration" does not include the development of a Military Space Plane or any role for the US military in manned spaceflight. In the current "Vision," the only PC way of going into space is to spend tens of billions of dollars recreating Project Apollo. Reusuable vehicles like Military Space Plane are unfunded and incorrect. There's a striking parallel to the way Kennedy (who Mark often cites as a role model) allowed DynaSoar to whither while backing NASA as the sole US manned space program. Mark's Vision could be descrbed as "billions for science, but not one penny for defense."

Of course, anyone who thinks government's role is to provide for the common defense rather than running national airlines is an "evil libertarian." :-)

Posted by Edward Wright at November 9, 2005 11:43 AM

Dynasoar was actually a NASA project. Anyway, Mr. Wright's points seem valid to me. I don't expect the US to simply roll over on this, nor do I believe that NASA is the agency to defend us from Chinese expansion.

Posted by Leland at November 9, 2005 03:03 PM

When China claimed the Taiwan straits, Reagan drove an aircraft carrier through them. If China (or anyone else) claimed the Moon, the US would pretty much ignore them, kind of like it is ignoring Greg Nemitz. If that someone saw fit to start killing US citizens on the Moon or anywhere else, it would get the treatment that Libya or Afghanistan got. Like Mark says, wrath can be delivered locally here on Earth.

The Moon's GDP is zero. Taiwan's is a lot. China has not invaded Taiwan for all their mutual bluster. China does not even claim the Moon and is a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty which specifically renounces territorial claims.

My recommendation--anti-war efforts should probably not be focused on the Moon if they want to save any lives.

Speaking of which, for the next dozen years or so, a Lunar war would be a time-delayed version of the popular TV program robot wars. It might get very high ratings, but probably a lot less consequence than pirating Microsoft Office or Jessica Simpson albums or any other developed, capitalized property.

(I did a back of the envelope calculation that a permanently manned military base using big dumb government programs at tens of thousands of dollars to LEO--China's costs will go up as it's contractors learn to capture the government--would probably cost a dozen times what NASA is proposing for Son of Apollo per year discounted to 10 years.

(Lunar development requires high utilization facilities, paying customers, and advanced technology such as Lunar elevators, cyclers, tugs, in situ resources, lean commercial providers and so on to be economically reasonable.

(An innovative approach might have the Moon well on the way to 10,000 population for $50 billion/year for 20 years spent in this manner.)

Posted by Sam Dinkin at November 9, 2005 09:16 PM

China does not even claim the Moon and is a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty which specifically renounces territorial claims.

They're also the chair to the Human Rights Commission of the UN (or were). They can renounce all they want, until they get there. Then treaties can be broken. I don't think they have the ability to get to the moon before we do, even with our arguments over how to get there. When we do get there, we'd best be prepared for a political firestorm, because the accusations will be flying as soon as the first semi-perm structure is built.

Posted by Mac at November 10, 2005 06:20 AM

True that China could abrogate the Treaty, but they claim Quimoy, Matsu and Taiwan and have no treaty that says they can't. They have even threatened military action if Taiwan declares independence. Don't you think they would abrogate the Treaty and threaten to claim the Moon if that was indeed something they wanted to do? They don't seem shy about telling the world what they want. But so what if they do? Why would any governtment be stupid enough to kill an American astronaut to protect their claim?

Again, this begs the question of why someone would invest military assets on defending an empty desert. First comes the explorers, then the settlers, then there is something worth defending.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at November 10, 2005 09:04 AM

Simple, we put their flag on the west side of the Moon and Our flag on the east side of the Moon. Then, each team has to take their appropriate sides and return the flag to the meridian. Whoever, wins the match gets to pick one of several prime plots of land at the poles. Then, play again for the next plot and so forth.

Posted by Josh Reiter at November 10, 2005 12:29 PM

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Posted by Richard at November 10, 2005 11:33 PM

The moon cannot make as much money as mars and thats why Bush shot down all the other landers with lasers.

Problem is he won't terra form mars because the money is'nt there. It's too cheap, so we go to the moon again.

Posted by anonymous at November 14, 2005 06:51 AM

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