But does it matter?
One small step for a mine
“What we’re looking at here with the move to private space exploration will be private resource exploitation,” says Denning. “We’ll ask ‘who said you can do that?’ and the answer will be ‘well, no-one said that we couldn’t’. And I have a fundamental problem with that.”
Antarctica is a good parallel. Protected by international treaty since 1959, there would be an outcry if any nation started to exploit the continent’s mineral resources, let alone if a corporation began drilling for oil in the Ross Sea. Is the Moon – another vast shared wilderness – any different?
There is, at least in theory, a United Nations Moon treaty or “agreement”, signed by such spacefaring nations as Guatemala and Romania – but not, conspicuously, by Russia, the United States or China. It bans militarisation, uncontrolled exploitation and ownership. But, really, it is just a bit of worthless paper and is widely considered a failure (unless Guatemala does indeed have a burgeoning space programme that I have somehow missed).
Which leaves us with the Moon waiting to be surveyed, claimed, mined and exploited. A lot of people will not have any problem with that. And do not get me wrong, I love the idea of humanity going back to the Moon and reaching beyond to Mars and the outer planets. But perhaps before we do, we should think about how we do it.
When we return to the Moon, our first priorities should be to explore, investigate and preserve. We have managed to trash the Earth, so, as Denning suggests, should we start acting now to save our Moon?