By Nathan Barton
How much power do human governments have? And specifically, how much power do SOME human governments have? I think that it is clear that too many people, not just those IN these various governments, think that government has a lot more power than it really does, and even more than any government should have.
Consider this article in Raw Story. It seems that a private company, Moon Express, wants clearance by the FedGov to fly to the moon in 2017. “U.S. government agencies are working on temporary rules to allow Moon Express to land a spacecraft on the moon next year, while Congress weighs a more permanent legal framework to govern future commercial missions to the moon, Mars and other destinations beyond Earth’s orbit, officials said. Plans by private companies to land spacecraft on the moon or launch them out of Earth’s orbit face legal obstacles because the United States has not put in place regulations to govern space activities, industry and government officials said. … The issue is coming to a head in part because of a request by Florida-based Moon Express for permission from the U.S. government to land a spacecraft on the moon in 2017. So far, only government agencies have flown satellites beyond Earth’s orbit.”
There are lots of things about this that bug me, and should bug a LOT of people. It indicates that even companies that are eager to get out and explore, and to risk large sums of money and perhaps even lives, are so fearful of government, so brainwashed, that they think they must have permission from some government to go someplace. Yes, it is true that only government agencies (and very few of them, from very few governments) have flown spacecraft “beyond Earth’s orbit,” for certain definitions of “Earth’s orbit.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, because I’m just an engineer and not a “real scientist” (as I was reminded a couple of days ago by people opposed to a project I’m working on), but last time I checked, the “Moon” (Luna) was in orbit around the Earth. And last time I checked, “Earth’s orbit” is around the sun. Right? At about 238,000 miles, as I recall. So, is it Raw Story or some “government agency” that defines “Earth’s orbit” as being some set distance from the surface of our planet? Is there some law passed by the UN General Assembly or US Congress or the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam or the Constituent Assembly of Nepal that defines “Earth’s orbit” as being, say, 1,000 miles above sea level, or beyond Clarke Orbit (geosynchronous altitude, about 23,000 miles)? Is it a case of “you can’t do that unless you have permission?” Says who? Or are the writers and editors of Raw Story just so stupid that they can’t remember high school science? (Or what passed for high school science back in the 1970s)
And why is it the United States – the FedGov – that this company “Moon Express” needs permission from, and NOT from one of the other 200 or so “sovereign” governments which exist on this planet? Is it because the company apparently is based in Florida? If so, why not get permission from Tallahassee? Or move the company to Belize or Grenada or Jamaica? If you MUST get permission from a “spacefaring nation” (which the FedGov is NOT at the moment), why not permission from Russia? Or China? ANY “sovereign” nation should have the inherent authority to give permission to go to the moon, it would seem.
Except, WHO NEEDS PERMISSION? Even if Congress passed a law saying that you must have permission of NASA or FAA or DoD to go to the moon, BY WHAT AUTHORITY can they require that? Because they have the power to enforce a prohibition on doing it? Except, of course they do NOT have any power, any ability to stop people from going to Luna. There are no USGC cutters in lunar orbit, no USAF or USN warcraft between Terra and Luna. Yes, they may have the power to prevent someone from flying off the surface of the earth into ANY orbit, at least from American territory and territory occupied by (sufficient) FedGov military forces or those of American allies. And they may have the de facto power and “right” to prevent launches from most of the oceans – maybe. But legal authority? None. Nada. Zip.
This is NOT a new issue. Robert Heinlein addressed the issues facing a fictional businessman, D.D. Herriman, as I recall, in a story “The Man Who Sold The Moon.” But Heinlein’s then future fictional society was far more sophisticated than ours, and there are no orbiting nuclear bombs, no gigawatt power plants in orbit, and no teeth to the UN (for all of which I am grateful).
Moon Express, and no other company, has any legal or moral obligation to get permission from ANY government agency to go to the moon. And no government agency has ANY legal or moral authority to prevent anyone from going into orbit around the earth or around the sun, or around any other piece of rock in the Universe. And frankly, I don’t think that they have the actual physical power (guns! Missiles! Lasers!) to prevent someone determined enough from leaving the earth either. Much less traveling to anyplace allowed by the laws of physics and their equipment (vehicle). For companies like Moon Express and for media like Raw Story to tell us otherwise or to act like any of these things are true is dishonest, disgusting and the sign of slavish rejection of human liberty.