Private Sector Space Exploration

If Bill Gates had a hankerin’ to visit the moon, could anyone stop him?

I mean, obviously he has enough money to build the equipment and pay for the mission. Presumably, the technical information would be available at any large public library.

Are there laws prohibiting private citizens from exploring space?

Not at all. In fact, several companies are exploring the possibility of commercial spaceflight now. You can reserve tickets if you have a few tens of thousands of dollars to spare…

On the other hand, going to the moon would be another question… it would take a sizeable chunk of Bill’s fortune and a LOT of research, but no one, as far as I know, could stop him if he really wanted to do it.

I know that Antarctica and the Moon are both supposed to be communal property of all us Terrans. But what if BG could set up his own moon base, along with enough defensive capability to protect it? Under whose authority could the nations of the world attack?

Personally, I want to claim Mt. Ted Kennedy on Mars and plow it flat!

Well, if Billy-boy set up the base, but stayed on Earth, he could probably be taken care of in whatever country he happened to be in. If he was on the moon, that would be a much bigger problem as no country currently has the resources to send ONE person to the moon, let alone an attacking army. We used up all of our Saturn V rockets in the Apollo program and we would have to develop something along similar lines if we wanted to go again.

An interesting side question to this is:
How easy would it be for someone with Bill Gates’ money to create and support a military force that would pose a real threat to world superpowers?

Impossible. I don’t think 85 billion is enough money to buy even a single air craft carrier, much less a fleet.

Oh, I think $85 billion would buy a nice little fleet. It would easily be enough for all the ships in a carrier battle group, but I’m too lazy too add up the costs for air wing, so I’ll do a quick n dirty calculation: roughly $30 million per aircraft, times 80 aircraft, is $2.4 billion per air wing. $4.5 billion per carrier, $1 billion per major escort, and some more for some other ships. I don’t know diddly about operating costs.

Here’s a source:

By the way, I’m assuming use of Yank billions throughout, i.e. thousand millions.

Wait a minute! Does Bill Gates really have $85 billion? Can I have some? I promise not to use it to buy a private navy to threaten world peace! I’ll blow it all on DVDs and brie! I mean, I knew the guy was rich and all, but $85 billion seems kinda steep.

There are currently 43 countries whose combined gross national products are less than the total assets of the three wealthiest Micro$oft officers (Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Ballmer).

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There’s been a lot of talk about private space endeavors, which is fine with me. But when a consortium of investors mount a mission, it’s their mission. When NASA, or a consortium of similar agencies explore space it’s **our[/b[ mission. Well, sort of. I kinda like that.
Instead of feeding his ego even further, why couldn’t ole Bill donate a couple billion to NASA?

Work like you don’t need the money…
Love like you’ve never been hurt…
Dance like nobody’s watching! …(Paraphrased)

At some point in the 60’s, a whole bunch of countries signed an agreement not to annex any territory in space, our moon or otherwise.

In Arthur C. Clarke’s 2060, a major plot point was that China had not been a participant in that treaty, and had claimed possession of one of Jupiter’s moon’s.

I’ve often wondered what would happen in real life…

You know, I’ve read that the moon is open space as well owned by the ‘whole of planet earth’ or something corny like that. Still, if Gates and his people could get to the moon and hang out there long enough, wouldn’t they be able to establish squatter’s rights? (i.e. if no one throws you off unused land for a lengthy period of time, it becomes yours)

Let me get this straight… Bill Gates flies himself to the moon and refuses to leave. And those of us left here on earth think this is a BAD thing?

Awhile back some people were very upset about the “Moon Treaty” (I don’t recall it’s proper name) because under the “common heritage of mankind” provisions it could be interpreted as banning private enterprise in outer space! The free-enterprise people were furious that by signing the treaty the US acquiesced to the (on paper) socialization of outer space. Hopefully with the Soviet Union defunct and China now heavily into state capitalism, that interpretation of the treaty will be ignored.

We constantly hear that Gates has $100 billion, but that’s the total worth of his stock. How much annual disposable income does Gates have?

There have been a number of international agreements that attempted to reserve space exploration for big governments. I think the Rio conference had something in its declaration to that effect, and I seem to recall the ‘Space Precautionary Act’ that had a lot of libertarians up in arms. A search of the net didn’t reveal anything, though.

Lumpy - not enough for a decent haircut, apparently.


Have you been reading “The Man Who Sold The Moon” by Robert Heinlein again? or perhaps “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress?”

Once commercial interests are involved, the international agreements on Atmosphere and Space, such as theTreaty On Principles Governing The Activities Of States In The Exploration And Use Of Outer Space, Including The Moon And Other Celestial Bodies (1967), will probably be as much respected as the treaties the U.S. Government signed with the native american tribes.

Quand les talons claquent, l’esprit se vide.
Maréchal Lyautey

You might be interested in looking into Beal Aerospace, which I believe is pretty close to the “one rich guy decides to build a rocket” scenario. They’re doing it as a business though. Check out Rotary Rocket ( ) is also a private company developing a launch system - more ambitious but not as rich.

A manned lunar flight is a lot tougher though. It takes an enormous infrastructure and accumulated experience/knowledge to accomplish something like that, especially if one were to start from scratch.