Here Thar Be Monsters!
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Shoot The Moon
That may seem like a silly question, but in the coming year and beyond, it will become a major legal and political issue.
Forty years ago, the US landed six missions on the near side of the Moon. Oddly, those landing places trace out an upside-down pentacle. At each landing spot, they sprinkled some junk around the place, made some tracks in the dust, stuck a flag in it, and left. No one's been back, that we know of. The only presence publicly admitted are some bombings at the south pole by the US and Japanese.
Now, under the Law of Flags and international law, if someone finds an unclaimed bit of dirt and sticks a flag in it and makes some improvements, they can claim ownership. That's why European nations when sailing around for a few centuries sticking flags in things. Apparently, it didn't matter that there were godless heathens living there already, civilization trumped any claim they had. Besides, God was on the side of the Europeans, which is why they were able to rape, pillage and murder everything in sight and get away with it.
Then there's the law of abandonment. If you have a ship at sea, and you abandon it for whatever reason, then it belongs to anyone who occupies it next. Forty years with no follow-on missions, and plaques that read "We came in peace for all mankind." Certainly sounds like an open claim to me. Especially since Richard Nixon signed the plaques.
Let's say you homestead in Alaska. You find a suitable piece of tundra with no title or deed. You notice a pile of very old rubble in the middle with a sign that says, "We enjoyed it while we could." There's a tattered flag fluttering in the breeze, but otherwise there's no sign of humanity for a long way around. Accouding to any law I know of, if you stake it off and start improving it (mainly by cleaning up the rubble that was left there), it's yours. After some amount of time, usually five years, you can claim title to it and no one can say 'boo' about it.
Along come the Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Iranians, and Brazilians. They all have long-term goals in space, with the Chinese recently announcing it is official policy to land men on the Moon. If they do, and in fact, establish bases there with permanent occupation, who has a more legitimate claim to ANY spot on the Moon? The US, who officially abandoned the Moon 40 years ago, or the new nation with current operations there?
Under international law, the law of flags and the law of the high seas, the new nation will have exclusive rights. Part of establishing a claim is on-going improvements and the ability to defend the claim, with force if necessary. The US hardly qualifies under any of those terms. That means that the salvage rights belong to the next person to set foot there. All that gold foil, historic objects and antique electronics would fetch a nice price on eBay. And those moon buggies would be a blast to play with!
NASA has warned everyone not to go near their junk piles, yet they have absolutely no ability to stop anyone. Furthermore, when Apollo 12 landed near Surveyor III and the astronauts went over and started breaking off pieces to bring home, they set the precedent for those that follow. One could simply point to Al Bean salvaging older equipment as the model for doing a similar act years after a very public abandonment.
Certainly, one could raise a ruckus about Apollo 11 dregs. The UN could declare it a sacred place of ancient history, but there's nothing that prevents me from going there and clearing out anything of value, and no one to stop me. Only nobles oblige would stay my hand from dismantling all that nifty stuff to help pay for the trip.
Heck, even Andy Griffith did it in a TeeVee movie years ago, called 'Salavage 1.' NASA even ended up helping him. It was so forgettable that you can't even find stills from the show on Wikipedia or IMdB.
What really has my attention in all this is that it will force the hand of anyone holding back information. To listen to Richard Hoagland, Erol Torun, Mike Bara, or any of that ilke, there's artifacts galore up there, and they ain't all from the Apollo days. According to the scenario, NASA retrieved ancient technology from at least the Apollo 17 site, and quickly lost interest in rockets and other kid toys. For some reason, the Russians abandoned their Moon efforts about the same time, even though they were very close to landing their own guys up there. Even second would be pretty astounding news in such a race. Both of them appeared to bank on the fact that no one else had the tech or tallies to go to the Moon, so it sat as a dead topic for years, except for NASA occasionally trotting out the aging astronauts on anniversary dates.
What will the Chinese (or whoever) find when they get there? Why is NASA suddenly so interested in 'preservation' of historic sites? Why are a half-dozen countries suddenly in such a heat to get there? And what will be the outcome of the legal spiderweb that awaits Mankind's next small step?
I, for one, would love to see a private enterprise land an HDTV camera on a roving platform somewhere near Apollo 17's site, and make the pictures available to anyone who wants to look. Let the world see what's been hiding up there all these years, and what would make NASA lose interest in the Moon so suddenly and dramatically, until this past year. Considering the camera tech that is whizzing around Earth and Mars right now, the fuzzy pictures NASA released of the landing sites last year only prove that they went there. Well, anyone with any sense knew that, hare-brained conspiracies aside. So why can't we see the hi-rez versions where we can read the license plates on the rovers?
There's something up there that someone ain't talking about. This coming year will see some morsels plucked from NASA's plate and exposed.
On the first day of my astrophysics class back in college, Professor Pinski opened with: Humans, when deprived of all time cues, such as the sun, moon and clocks, will naturally adopt a 25-hour wake-sleep cycle. Humans are the only creatures know that have such a cycle. All others are 24-hours. The only planet in the solar system with a 25-hour day is Mars. So where do we come from?
Something to think about as we wait for the Chinese to push things to the breaking point.
Posted by Bernard Grover at 21:05