Houston: Commercial space entrepreneur Robert
Bigelow is worried that the US may loose the new game of
"solar system monopoly" and that China might soon be the owner
of the moon.
The entrepreneur said the ownership of the moon, is up for
grabs, and China is likely to snag it.
Bigelow, the owner of aerospace company Bigelow Aerospace
in Las Vegas, said at the 2011 International Symposium for
Personal and Commercial Spaceflight that by the time America
gets into gear to build its own moon base, large swaths of
lunar territory may already be claimed.
Bigelow`s comments came at a talk that the firebrand
entrepreneur himself warned the audience would be
"controversial" an where he said that Americans were "still
basking in the lunar glory from 40 years ago".
"But we don`t own one square foot of the damn place. NASA
is a shadow of the space agency it once was in the 1960s and
1970s," he said.
In contrast, he argued that China has the motivation and
ability to win the next space race and claim ownership of much
of the moon.
Bigelow argued that international law would allow a nation
to make such a claim, especially if it were able to enforce it
through continuous human lunar presence.
He pointed out that owning the moon would be a windfall
both financially and for international prestige.
It not only offers a jumping off point for further
exploration of the solar system, but it also contains vast
stores of valuable resources such as water and helium-3, a
possible fuel for nuclear fusion.
Moreover, the symbolic and global psychological impact
would be huge, Bigelow argued.
"I think nothing else China could possibly do in the next
15 years would cause as great a benefit for China," he said.
He said in addition to China`s growing technological
prowess, the country has the cash, the lack of debt and the
national will to become the owner of the moon.
Bigelow also predicted that China could claim ownership of
vast swaths of lunar territory by 2022 to 2026.
"Hopefully this will produce the fear factor necessary to
motivate the Americans," Bigelow said.
But while the US could be losing the race to own the moon,
Bigelow pointed out that Mars offers another frontier up for
grabs, contending that the US would do better to put 10 per
cent of the money it currently spends on the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan toward space exploration with the goal of
establishing a presence on Mars.
"America would experience a rebirth of vision, excitement,
science and global prestige," Bigelow said.
However, competition with China is not the only option, he
said. "If the Chinese would have us as collaborators in moon
exploration, space cooperation with China would be a great
idea. A piece of something is better than a piece of nothing".