Green Room

Should we cheer a China claim on the Moon?

posted at 1:42 pm on December 16, 2013 by

Glenn Reynolds argues yes — but not because China deserves to sustain such a claim. Instead, Glenn thinks that a bold move to abrogate or bypass the 1967 Outer Space Treaty will spark a “gold rush,” and finally a competitive commercial market for exploration:

Though the landing was a big deal in China, most of the rest of the world responded with a yawn. Moon landing? Been there, done that.

But October Sky author Homer Hickam was more excited. He wondered on Twitter if China might want to make a territorial claim on the moon, noting that the area the lander is exploring may contain an abundance of Helium-3, a potentially valuable fusion energy fuel that is found only on the moon. According to former astronaut/geologist Harrison Schmitt, China “has made no secret” of its interest in Helium-3. Schmitt observes, “I would assume that this mission is both a geopolitical statement and a test of some hardware and software related to mining and processing of the lunar regolith.”

Followed by a mining claim, perhaps. Is that possible? Well, China seems pretty big on making territorial claims lately. And, really, there’s not a lot to stop them. …

What’s so good about it? Well, two things. First, there are American companies looking at doing business on the moon, too, and a Chinese venture would probably boost their prospects. More significantly, a Chinese claim might spur a new space race, which would speed development of the moon.

That’s probably true, although it’s still debatable whether the reward would be worth the costs involved for commercial application.  Helium-3 is rare on Earth as a naturally-occurring element, but it is produced in not-insignificant quantities in the manufacture of tritium for nuclear weapons.  It goes for about $2,000 a liter now, which means that some other potential sources of extracting it — from Earth’s own atmosphere, for one example — might become more cost-efficient than at the height of the nuclear-arms race.

The real value in staking a claim on the Moon, or part of it, is to establish a base for human exploration farther out into the solar system, or perhaps for tourism. That still might get jump-started from arrogance in Beijing, and at least it would beat the dull status quo of the last 40 years.

Recently in the Green Room:

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

The same answer as Reynolds for the same reason.

Though those cheers should be accompanied at the same time with some jeers for their thuggish (South China & East China Seas) and niggardly (Typhoon Haiyan) ways. There is no excuse for either.

cozmo on December 16, 2013 at 2:04 PM

I’ve always felt that stupid treaty should just simply be ignored. Who’s going to enforce it?

NotCoach on December 16, 2013 at 2:07 PM

Really? Let me guess what word got a comment banned…not.

Maybe it was a robo-filter and not a conscious decision.

Good grief…

Test to see if I got banned for using an otherwise usable word.

cozmo on December 16, 2013 at 2:12 PM

Either China or India will be the next nation to land a man on the Moon. It occurred to me over the weekend that there is a new space race in town, and hardly anyone noticed. Both China’s and India’s recent advances need to be viewed in the light of the relationship they have with each other. They aren’t pushing just because. They are pushing because neither want to fall behind their neighbor.

NotCoach on December 16, 2013 at 2:13 PM

They can claim that soundstage till kingdom come.

Murphy9 on December 16, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Narrator: The moon. For several years, she has fascinated many.
But will man ever walk on her fertile surface?
[cut to a shot of Adlai Stevenson at some sort of press conference]
Democratic hopeful Adlai Stevenson says so.

Stevenson: I have no objection to man walking on the moon.
[photographers snap several pictures]
[cut back to the moon where a family plays on the moon's fertile surface]

Narrator: By 1964, experts say man will have established twelve
colonies on the moon, ideal for family vacations.
[a man fishes a comely moon maiden out of a crater. She winks at the audience]
[a chart shows the difference]
Once there, you’ll weigh only a small percentage of what you weigh on Earth.
[cut to a shot of a chubby boy eating pie]
Slow down, tubby! You’re not on the moon yet!
[cut to a shot of the moon, with an American flag superimposed on it. The camera pulls back to reveal some men in spacesuits]
The moon belongs to America, and anxiously awaits the arrival of our astro-men. Will you be among them?
[fini. The film runs off the reel]

The Secret War of Lisa Simpson

Akzed on December 16, 2013 at 2:16 PM

To The Moon, Alice! To the moon!

ExpressoBold on December 16, 2013 at 3:19 PM

Good grief…

Test to see if I got banned for using an otherwise usable word.

cozmo on December 16, 2013 at 2:12 PM

.
Irritating, ain’t it?

ExpressoBold on December 16, 2013 at 3:24 PM

If they put a PF Chang’s up there, they will come……

44Magnum on December 16, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Hey, I’m all for developing the moon! Let’s do it. It’s just sitting out there now, so we might as well get some use out of it.

bluegill on December 16, 2013 at 5:32 PM

…noting that the area the lander is exploring may contain an abundance of Helium-3, a potentially valuable fusion energy fuel that is found only on the moon.

Er… no it’s not. It might be rarer on Earth, but it naturally occurs here and is also artificially generated as well.

Shump on December 16, 2013 at 6:05 PM

I’m in favor of anything that would get this country off it’s a$$.

trigon on December 16, 2013 at 6:29 PM

Alice Kramden had first dibs on the moon a long time ago.

whatcat on December 16, 2013 at 6:48 PM

Either China or India will be the next nation to land a man on the Moon.

NotCoach on December 16, 2013 at 2:13 PM

Maybe SpaceX. But probably China. The world changes.

DarkCurrent on December 16, 2013 at 7:11 PM

Yes. For all mankind.

All ventures into space are in our specie’s interest. I don’t really care who does it or even why. Just that it is done and we gain an increasing competency in space.

Karmashock on December 17, 2013 at 1:47 AM

All ventures into space are in our specie’s interest. I don’t really care who does it or even why. Just that it is done and we gain an increasing competency in space.

Karmashock on December 17, 2013 at 1:47 AM

Chinaman’s got your back.

Murphy9 on December 17, 2013 at 1:59 AM