Could I Use The Moon as a Billboard?

Well, kind of.

Lens Larque sculpts the entire surface into an image of his great Darsh face.

Thanks exactly what I was thinking. Was that explosives? Must read the Demon Princes series again.


I remember “Buy Jupiter” - it turned out that Saturn was a better buy.

On the question of whether we could do this, see the thread Projecting an image on to the moon.

A Slate article about space advertising. The Japanese Moon billboard company has raised quite a bit of money … but nowhere enough to really do anything. And its billboards won’t be visible to ordinary people.

Big sheets of mylar or some such in Earth orbit are another thing. But even then the effect of micro-meteors and space junk ripping it up will quickly ruin it.

These schemes can be limited by national laws. The US has a space advertising law but it’s sort of wishy washy and could easily be repealed. It’s the SpaceX/Virgin Galactic type companies getting cozy with a Pacific mini-nation that could be a problem.

The damage to astronomy and the increased amount of orbital space junk won’t deter people looking to make money.

This. I would like to know if it would be legal to do it.

To my knowledge there are no advertising or “space use” laws that would govern an earthbound laser drawing an advertising image on the moon – assuming that could be done, which appears impossible with current or near-future technology.

There is a law limiting “obtrusive space advertising” IF launched from earth as a physical payload. IOW no giant orbital billboards visible without a telescope:

The OP scenario was strictly about illuminating the moon via a ground-based device on earth – not about launching advertising payloads into space.

However, making a visible image on the moon using an earth-based laser would require a device thousands or millions of times more powerful than anything existing. If such a device could be constructed, that power level, pointing accuracy and adaptive optics would also make it a fantastically lethal weapon. In that case it would probably be quickly limited by national authorities before it ever went on line – not due to advertising laws but because private entities cannot legally own and use weapons of mass destruction.

I imagine if you could pull it off, if it wasn’t illegal, it soon would be.

I can’t imagine many people would take kindly to it.

Right, because as was said above, if you actually had a laser powerful enough to draw a visible image on the moon, it would be a weapon of mass destruction comparable in power to a nuclear bomb.

For the sake of the intent of this thread, lets pretend that a genie gave you a MAGIC projector that was capable of projecting an image onto the surface of the moon that would be visible with the naked eye back here on Earth, and said MAGIC projector was incapable of being used as a weapon. Using this MAGIC projector, would it be illegal to project this image onto the moon?

There is no current law about using a projector, laser or magic to illuminate an advertisement on the moon’s surface. There is only a U.S. (not international) law against launching a payload for “obtrusive space advertising”, generally interpreted as something visible to the naked eye. The intention was to prevent things like 1 km square mylar billboards in low earth orbit.

That law is solely a U.S. law limited by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation’s authority to regulate commercial space launch vehicles. To my knowledge there is no similar international treaty in force, nor any law about space advertising which does not require a launch vehicle to achieve.

I remember a 2000AD cartoon - likely Judge Dredd - where some rich guy bought a few seconds of having a picture on the moon as a romantic gesture.

Relatedly, in the animated The Tick, villain Chairface Chippendale tried to carve his name on the moon with a superlaser, and got a third of the way through before being stopped. Behold!

Smapti beat you to that, in post 14.

On a slightly smaller scale, the documentary Racing Extinction featured this:

Cobra Commander put his face on the moon with a giant laser in one of the 1980’s G.I. Joe cartoons.

No actually, it was just a thought I had and I’m sure millions of people have independently had the same thought. Although maybe I heard about the book sometime and I had retained some subconscious memory of it.

To avoid all nitpickery, let’s imagine the logo just appears on the moon. Illuminated like a full moon but with a company’s branding shining out as bright as a logo on a TV advert. The company admits to commissioning it, refuses to say how they’ve achieved it, and - despite outrage from across the world including from every major religious leader - insist they will not take it down. Are they breaking any laws or not?

If I’m reading the responses correctly - and thank you for them - it looks like they aren’t except via some indirect method such as the possession of killer lasers and suchlike.

No doubt laws would be created adapted or reinterpreted in short order.

Anyway, thought it would be fun to explore. The first reply alone, with the xkcd link, gave me all the joy I could ask for!

Anyone capable of creating a logo thousands of miles across that is brighter than the reflected sunlight on the moon doesn’t have to worry about laws. They can simply overthrow every government on Earth and become absolute rulers.

I remember an old comic book with space stories. Due to sunspots or something, all TV broadcasting on Earth became impossible. The solution was to project programs onto the surface of the Moon. Three channels were projected simultaneously: drama, comedy, and news. With special glasses, you could view one channel and filter out the others.

Man, that’d be a tiny screen to watch TV on.