cosmic war

FOR THE SPACE BUG: DID, OR DID NOT, THE FEDERAL AVIATION ...

February 7, 2015 By Joseph P. Farrell

Now this one is interesting for all the space bugs (like me) out there. Indeed, so many of you sent me articles on this one that I cannot possibly thank you all. But the problem here is, no sooner had one story appeared (on Reuters), than the next day it was countered by another. As to what all this might mean for our high octane speculation proclivities, that will have to wait until after we look at the articles.  Here's the first article, run by Reutersm, and the title says it all:

Exclusive - The FAA: regulating business on the moon

Now, in case it's not clear what's happening, here, in my opinion, are the relevant paragraphs:

"The United States government has taken a new, though preliminary, step to encourage commercial development of the moon.

"According to documents obtained by Reuters, U.S. companies can stake claims to lunar territory through an existing licensing process for space launches.

"The Federal Aviation Administration, in a previously undisclosed late-December letter to Bigelow Aerospace, said the agency intends to “leverage the FAA’s existing launch licensing authority to encourage private sector investments in space systems by ensuring that commercial activities can be conducted on a non-interference basis.

"In other words, experts said, Bigelow could set up one of its proposed inflatable habitats on the moon, and expect to have exclusive rights to that territory - as well as related areas that might be tapped for mining, exploration and other activities."(Emphasis added).

Now, before we get to our high octane speculation of the day, this announcement did not come without considerable amount of tacking against the gale of criticism that they simply had to know would come from the international community. Hence, we have the following bureaucratic shuffle, two steps forward, one step back, step to the side, two steps forward (you get the idea):

"However, the FAA letter noted a concern flagged by the U.S. State Department that “the national regulatory framework, in its present form, is ill-equipped to enable the U.S. government to fulfill its obligations” under a 1967 United Nations treaty, which, in part, governs activities on the moon.

"The United Nations Outer Space treaty, in part, requires countries to authorize and supervise activities of non-government entities that are operating in space, including the moon. It also bans nuclear weapons in space, prohibits national claims to celestial bodies and stipulates that space exploration and development should benefit all countries.

“"We didn’t give (Bigelow Aerospace) a license to land on the moon."

("No, of course we didn't, silly. We're just sort of kicking ideas around with them.")

"We’re talking about a payload review that would potentially be part of a future launch license request. But it served a purpose of documenting a serious proposal for a U.S. company to engage in this activity that has high-level policy implications,” said the FAA letter’s author, George Nield, associate administrator for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Transportation."(Emphasis added)

("See? It's all just theoretical at this juncture. We're talking about a future license request. Just kicking ideas around" {Insert unctuous bureaucratic sweaty smile here.})

So, not to be outdone, a professor of space law at the University of Mississippi, Joanne Gabrynowicz, , had to be brought in to clarify the matter further, and in one version of the story out there, she even received her very own article:

Is the US Leasing Out the Moon to Corporations? We Asked a Space Lawyer

In this version of the waltz, the "we're just kicking things around for ...well... kicks" is given a new twist, the "we need to start talking about it now because we have some companies that might actually be able to pull it off":

“I’ve been in the space law business for 30 years,” Gabrynowicz told me. “What we have now, for the first time, are companies that have credible leadership teams who have good track records in other businesses. We have some real credible contenders for the first time.”

And because of this, "we're just trying to initiate the discussion part of the process" meme:

"According to Joanne Gabrynowicz, a prominent space lawyer and professor emerita at the University of Mississippi, the FAA is not making some kind of impulsive, extraterrestrial land grab, but rather initiating a discussion about the inevitability of commercial development beyond Earth.

“'It sounds like they are catalyzing a conversation, because right now, there are so many unanswered questions for a company going on the Moon,' Gabrynowicz told me over the phone."

Relax, go back to sleep, Watch SeeBS, Faux news. See. Hear. Obey.

Except I strongly suspect (as you might have guessed), that this wasn't going on at all, and that the backpedaling on this one is so fierce precisely because the FAA did make a grab for space jurisdiction, before being slapped down by the Department of State, for according to the original article we have this problem, and this requires some reading between the lines:

"However, the FAA letter noted a concern flagged by the U.S. State Department that “the national regulatory framework, in its present form, is ill-equipped to enable the U.S. government to fulfill its obligations” under a 1967 United Nations treaty, which, in part, governs activities on the moon".(Emphasis added)

Translation: We have no visible public space program to speak of, and no publicly visible means of protecting any American commercial enterprises that may set up shop on the Moon, so we have "no national regulatory framework" at present. (Translation: No one knows which Federal Agency will or should have this jurisdiction.) In other words, the FAA is just making an "administration-jurisdiction" grab, perhaps because it senses its growing bureaucratic obsolescence as space planes are staring them in the face. But I doubt that this is the ultimate or deepest explanation of what may be going on here.

The real problem is, as the State Department statement implies, is first of all the lack of any public capability to provide a "regulatory framework." Commercial enterprises, particularly those in space, would require protection, as I've suggested here over and over. Indeed, the mere fact that so much international financial clearing is space-based means that military protection of those assets is an inevitability, and this, like it or not, means the eventual weaponization of outer space, if indeed it has not already happened covertly. To think otherwise is simply a form of understandable sentiment, but ultimately, an irrationality. So let us go deeper: there has been, as most readers here are familiar, a flurry of stories in the last year, about space: new space drives and new propulsion systems, cold fusion, small "truck sized" fusion reactors, and so on. There have also been spectacular failures of private-corporate space systems. Probing deeper, one finds scattered all over the USA once-military facilities that have been converted into "space-ports."  And there are those curious stories about hidden technologies and, indeed, hidden space "fleets." Even the Russians, you'll recall, got involved last year in a bit of curious language, by referring to their space ships and not their space capsules.

My suspicion here is thus rather different than Professor Gabrynowicz's, namely, that the grant of such licenses is not being withheld because "the national regulatory framework, in its present form, is ill-equipped to enable the US Government to fulfill its obligations," but rather, that such a license cannot be granted yet because the real problem is how to reveal those possible hidden space capabilities, or, alternatively, how to keep them secret from corporate prying eyes. In the meantime, the FAA, which most likely does not have any awareness whatsoever about the possible existence of such secret space(and military) capabilities, has been told to shut up and keep quiet, and if anyone asks, tell them "We were just trying to initiate a discussion."

See you on the flip side...