Over on the Space Business Blog, my good friend Colin Doughan has had a few posts discussing the concept of lunar land grants. While I haven’t had the time to read all of the comments, I do have to admit to having a few issues with the concept proposed:
- The land grant size proposed is too big–about 4x the surface area of California for a single base. While this allows you to raise lots of money off of a pretty crappy land valuation ($40B raised at $100/acre), I still have to wonder if you’d really be able to sell this. I mean, what’s the value other than speculation for any of the land parcels much more than say 10-20 miles beyond the base? Here on earth, where you can breath the air, and where the dust isn’t viciously abrasive, it still takes a huge amount of effort to bring even a reasonable fraction of that land area into productive use. I think a better strategy would be sticking with more reasonable land area grants (say tied to the distance you can travel on the ground in a day or two), with the goal being to charge a higher value per acre over a smaller number of acres.
- I just can’t help feeling this is super premature. Part of why land prices on the Moon in this scheme are assumed to be low is that it isn’t clear how we’d make money on the Moon, and our methods of reaching the Moon are still utterly primitive and barbaric. Once we have things like depots, and have had some robotic landers on the lunar surface, and maybe commercial crew in LEO and a few other things (ie sometime in the next 10 years), we might actually be close enough to a lunar venture that this might be more useful.
- That said, once we’re ready for it, having something like this in place might not be a bad way to help raise revenue for the initial venture. I’m just worried that if we jump the gun too far, the more likely result is going to be people getting burned, and investors getting a bad taste in their mouth for lunar ventures.
Just some quick thoughts.