"Moon opens for business"
September 10, 2002 1:04 PM   Subscribe

"Moon opens for business"
The first commercial trip to the moon has been approved by the US government, according to the BBC. TransOrbital, Inc. received approval to launch its TrailBlazer satellite into lunar orbit in June of 2003; the satellite will not touch down, but instead will orbit the moon and "provide stunning, high-definition (HDTV) video and maps of the lunar surface (at 1 meter resolution), as well as new images of earth-rises over lunar craters." [press release] Another company, Lunacorp, is hoping to send its own satellite up soon.
posted by me3dia (29 comments total)
Honest question: Why is the US government the clearinghouse for permission to visit the moon?
posted by o2b at 1:07 PM on September 10, 2002

Exactly my question, 02b. What exactly gives the US government the authority to approve or deny missions to the moon? Are we the lunar governing body as well as a superpower?

Beyond that, though, whaddya think of the potentials here? Although TransOrbital's first mission will be unmanned, how long do you think it'll be before 2001: A Space Odyssey is state of the art instead of future foretold?
posted by me3dia at 1:10 PM on September 10, 2002

Ultimate honeymoon destination? oh dear, that joke's gonna crater.
posted by DenOfSizer at 1:11 PM on September 10, 2002

02b and me3dia: A DOD budget that's as large as the next 20 highest nations combined.
posted by zekinskia at 1:14 PM on September 10, 2002

Honest question: Why is the US government the clearinghouse for permission to visit the moon?

see answer here
posted by chrisroberts at 1:14 PM on September 10, 2002

o2b, I'm sure someone here can tell us this, but doesn't the U.S. technically own the moon? I mean, we did get there first... and, as Eddie Izzard says, we conquered it through the strategic use of flags.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:16 PM on September 10, 2002

Aha, there we go. chrisroberts can tell me, and apparently his time machine is working rather well as he provided the answer before I finished asking it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:17 PM on September 10, 2002

Thanks, chrisroberts.

To paraphrase: TransOrbital is a US-based company, so the US is responsible for the permissions.
posted by o2b at 1:19 PM on September 10, 2002

Okeydoke. Anyway, back to the other question at hand:
What say you about the commercialization of the Moon? Good/bad/ugly?
posted by me3dia at 1:22 PM on September 10, 2002

Other than the danger and expense, this isn't necessarily all that different from a tourist trip to, say, Antarctica.

If they can send people to get a close-up look at the moon safely, why not? It could be the dawn of a new interest in space exploration.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:31 PM on September 10, 2002

The closer we get to having the "we-didn't-fly-to-the-moon-it-was-faked-Capricorn-One!" nutbars shut the hell up, the better.

Seriously, I'm all for trips to the moon for the common man. It's a dead rock. There is no biological catastrophe that can occur by "man" being on the moon. Just set some rules that:

1) No gigantic name carving
2) No advertisements visible from earth
3) No touching the monolith
posted by grum@work at 1:35 PM on September 10, 2002

3) No touching the monolith

All right, that a spit soda through my nose moment right there. ;)
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:41 PM on September 10, 2002

As it was said on the Simpsons: "The moon belongs to America..."
posted by drstrangelove at 1:48 PM on September 10, 2002

Can we please not pollute the moon like we have this planet?
posted by panopticon at 2:03 PM on September 10, 2002

Can we please not pollute the moon like we have this planet?

Agreed. This is the 21st century. Let us leave mankind's earthly wasteful ways behind by finding new and innovative ways to pollute the moon.

*bows head in silent prayer*
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:09 PM on September 10, 2002

Can we please not pollute the moon like we have this planet?

Better to pollute the moon than here. On the moon there's no ecosystem (AFAWK) to be harmed, so we can leave industrial waste in whopping great piles or puddles and the worst that happens is it's unsightly.

Unless of course a gigantic NUCULAR!!! explosion happens and the moon flies off, leaving us without the services of Martin Landau OR Barbara Bain.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:14 PM on September 10, 2002

Okay, so I know there is not all that much High-Def programing out there, but the moon? I mean it would be cool and all at first, but is this gong to be a 24 hour channel of the freakin' moon? That will be kinda boring after awhile?

So shortly I will be able to get the moon in HD at home, but still no NFL... hmmmm
What kind of crackpot business plan is that?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 2:16 PM on September 10, 2002

I personally have no doubt that the actual future will closely resemble fictional futures such as those portrayed in stories such as 2001: ASO and Asmov's Foundation books in terms of expansion, population control, galactic politics, etc.

It all depends on technology enabling easy transport. Which will come, but I don't know when.

I also think that when it becomes easy to ship our waste to the moon, it will be just as feasable to ship it to the sun.

Can anyone think of a reason not to just vaporize it?
posted by o2b at 2:20 PM on September 10, 2002

It's a dead rock. -- It seems the moon's maybe not quite as dead as we thought (scroll down to the first sidebar): "...This tidal distortion, caused by gravitational pull from Earth and the sun, indicates that the moon's innards are at least partially molten. "

Which is not to argue that the moon has a precious ecosystem we should preserve, or anything like that... Just interesting, is all. And maybe a potential power source for colonies?
posted by nickmark at 2:54 PM on September 10, 2002

What if it's a stepping stone to Mars? Picture if you will a functional space elevator sending tons of hardware up each week. A Martian FLEET is assembled, departing NOT from Earth orbit, but from a lunar one, laying return cable enroute, so that supplies can be shipped to near Mars destination point on a (Martian) annual basis.
Then just a short hop to the Martian elevator and descent.
posted by kablam at 3:03 PM on September 10, 2002

Actually, the moon belongs to Jenaro Gajardo Vera (spanish) . Nixon actually asked for his permission before the first landing.
posted by signal at 3:03 PM on September 10, 2002

Can anyone think of a reason not to just vaporize it?

Sending waste into the Sun won't affect the Sun much. We're pretty sure there are no ecosystems there to destroy :)

Even after we have safe and cheap space flight, I don't think waste will be sent to the Moon or the Sun. We do have reasonably safe and cheap aviation but we don't send nuclear waste by air. It's an unnecessary risk.
posted by Triplanetary at 3:06 PM on September 10, 2002

Well, sure, triplanetary, but we don't fly nuclear waste because we have ground alternatives. There's no way to get to the sun without space flight. I can't see it, though. The level of technological advance required to efficiently send garbage to the sun would probably generate some better way to do it that doesn't fight "man's oldest enemy": gravity. (See guys, when you push an old car over a cliff into a ravine, you're actually working in harmony with the natural order of the universe.)
posted by Wood at 3:41 PM on September 10, 2002

About the guy who owns the moon - can someone explain that to me? How can that be? How did he 'register' it?
I used Google to translate the page from Spanish. Fun to read :)
posted by ac at 3:44 PM on September 10, 2002

1) No gigantic name carving

Damn! i was so hoping to write 'Cha' big enough for the whole world to see.
posted by quin at 4:37 PM on September 10, 2002

Once we get our Space Elevator working, we can lift the radioactive waste safely into space.

Then we can shoot it at the sun. Hurray!
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:48 PM on September 10, 2002

I'm no astrophysicist, but isn't the idea of sending stuff up (e.g., waste) a really, really expensive and impractical one?

I'm 100% for space exploration, still, even though in market terms it is currently super impractical. Before talking about sending payloads *up*, I'd be talking about what we can send down. E.g., energy, minerals, even water. I'm not on top of the other applications that people are looking at, like free industrial vacuum for manufacturing, crystal growth for superconductors, or health stuff that I know is getting lots of attention, but these also seem like much better targets for early phases. Let's focus on what has the most potential to return profits at first (and therefore attract investment capital) and *then* toke up the ol' pipe dream. I'm all for sending waste into the sun, but let's take it logical step by step.

Please please please do not read as an anti-moon mission or anti-space post; I actually think getting into space is the single best way we can preserve the species and planet.

Also -- what about "Baby Boomers in Space." What better environment for old people worried about breaking fragile bones? Low stress, low gravity moon retirement homes. Come to think of it, the more distance we can put between us and the baby boomers, the better, even if it is not cost efficient to boost them up. ***k it, let's just get them off-planet as fast as we can...
posted by Kneebiter at 5:56 PM on September 10, 2002

An interesting take on the Outer Space Treaty.
posted by daveg at 12:16 PM on September 11, 2002

Does anyone realize how important and amazing this is! So far only two entities on the planet have been able to place something on the lunar surface, both of them continental empires (US/USSR.) Only a handful of other, hugely organized and advanced states, (EU ESA/Japan) have been able to place something in its orbit. Achieving lunar orbit and landing is a stated goal of both the Indian and Chinese space programs.

And here a privately owned company is planning to do this. This is amazing!
posted by pjgulliver at 1:56 PM on September 11, 2002

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