“We are going to the moon, that is not very far. Man has so much farther to go within himself.” – Anaïs Nin
It’s the stuff of science fiction film; The Earth’s energy resources are drying up, so we turn our eyes to the universe and what hits our eye like a big pizza pie?
Not just a sci-fi concoction, Helium 3 is relatively rare on our blue planet, but rake up and boil just the first three metres of the Moon’s crust and you have more energy than an Energizer Bunny.
Sure, there are some kinks in the process that need more than a little ironing out, but with no radioactive nasties created during the fusion process and an efficiency rate of around 70% (beating coal and natural gas electricity by 20%) Helium 3 really could be the perfect clean energy solution of the future.
Of course, perfection won’t come cheap. While Helium 3 may be “all that” on the energy front, the cost of mining, heating and transporting the stuff back to Earth will add up to one very expensive power bill for the end-user. No matter. We have enough coal to last us at least another 100 years… so, we probably don’t have to worry about it, do we?
Well, that’s not very forward thinking…
And in any case, lunar mining is not as far off as we may think. Some experts say less than a decade away. Indeed, Russia hopes to have a permanent Moon base by 2015 with mining operation to begin in 2020.
Here’s where I get a little worried…
Surely the ones to get their hands on the controls of this lunar mining business will become some sort of super-power. What are the implications of one single group having total control of such a precious and lucrative resource? And who, exactly, owns the Moon anyway?
That second question I can answer… sort of.
The 1967 Outer Space Treaty states that no country can own the Moon. But in the mother of all loopholes, it says nothing about individuals.
Enter Dennis Hope. Down on his luck in the 1980s, Hope came up with an admirably unique solution to his cash-flow problems. He decided to build his own property portfolio – nothing unusual there, except that the property he decided to take ownership of was a bit out there. Like, outer space.
He wrote a letter to the United Nations stating that he owned the Moon and that he planned to sub-divide and sell off large chunks. Whether through misadventure or (as I am inclined to think) total disbelief followed by wild fits of laughter, they never replied.
Now President of the Galactic Government, Hope has since sold one acre lots of the Moon’s surface area to some 4 million or so customers. You can purchase an acre yourself online at the Lunar Embassy website. At around $23 US (not including Lunar tax) it’s the cheapest real estate in the known universe!
President Hope is not especially supportive of Moon mining and would likely be an annoying road block in the business model. Indeed, when China wanted to build a moon base on his “property”, he threatened that without a licensing agreement, their craft would not reach its destination!
Despite his overwhelming confidence about his ownership, I am reasonably sure that legal experts will likely win the point that President Hope cannot actually own the Moon (or the rest of our solar system which he also lays claim to). So despite an amusing detour from my point, we are none the wiser about who really owns it (sorry about that).
So if no one owns the Moon, how do we determine who gets to own and sell the Helium 3? I guess, unless we can make some sort of worldwide cooperative project work, we must adhere to the strict and very sophisticated rules of “Finders Keepers”.
With the US, China, Russia and India all interested in launching Moon mining missions in the near future, an international move might be in order for those of us who want to be closer to the ones holding that particular conch shell…
You know, I hear Russia is nice this time of year…