Buying land on the moon may not be a bad idea
It would be wise to have a plan B, should earth become the target of a massive asteroid collision or irreversible climate malfunction.
"Madam, a man from my state has bought land on the moon," asserted my driver as he drove in the spirited Dubai traffic. Staring out at the speeding Usain Bolts on wheels, I replied, "That can't possibly be true. This has got to be fake news that you keep reading."
While I was quick to dismiss his celestial factoid, I became restless. So, I whipped out my phone and googled "people who have bought land on the moon."
"You have got to be kidding me!"
Google presented a steady stream of search results revealing an entire lunarchy of moon enthusiasts. A new breed of landed aristocracy owns real estate on the moon, ranging from common folk, to celebrities and even former US presidents such as George H W Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.
On further probing, I discovered an extraterrestrial real estate agency whose boss Dennis Hope has exploited a loophole in the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty that declared that no country could own the moon but did not explicitly state individuals. When Hope got no response from the UN to his presumptuous claim to the moon, he set up Lunar Embassy that has been in the business of selling lunar land since 1980.
While UAE real estate agents may not be gung-ho about the lunar land rush, globally many agencies claim to be authorised sellers, generously carving up the moon, and offering acres of land to moon enthusiasts, complete with land deeds and Lunar Constitution Bill of Rights. Their legal standing may be fuzzy, but they are selling a piece of lunar dream that we have nursed since Yuri Gagarin's space travel. Our fascination with the moon stems from our admiration of what is by far the most dazzling celestial object in the night sky. The grey clouds of pollution over the years have not made our fascination the least bit foggy. Someday, a whole cross-section of humans will travel to the moon or Mars as tourists, or perhaps live there or at least have their own holiday retreat. Does it sound like science fiction? Not if you listen to the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
Amazon's CEO who also owns Blue Origin, a private rocketry firm, recently announced plans for a lunar lander called Blue Moon. Last year, Elon Musk's SpaceX announced the first private passenger it plans to fly around the moon. He envisions human settlements on Mars. Their technological ambitions bordering on capitalist imperialism is giving wings to numerous extraterrestrial initiatives.
Private enterprise is experimenting with rocket science that was until recently the preserve of state-run space agencies of a handful of countries. Now more countries are embarking on space missions. The UAE plans to send a rocket to Mars during a brief window in July 2020 when it can lockdown the shortest travel time to Mars. Our dreams of colonising other planets seem to have come alive from the pages of science fiction books. Today, it all seems plausible, and almost within our grasp.
Will humans be able to take that proverbial leap of faith? There is already an untapped market of the rich; more specifically the mavericks among the rich who have been there done that on planet earth, and are yearning for extraterrestrial experiences. We will also try to address pressing human problems.
If the earth starts to spin out of control in terms of climate change, then how different is it to set up climate change refugee camps on the moon or Mars? This would ensure a continuity of the human civilisation should we face imminent mass destruction. Others would land up on the moon to escape a variety of ideological persecutions.
Perhaps we would like to press the reset button on our civilisation and start afresh just as the British and the Europeans flocked to the New World that we now call the Americas. There could be the odd Julian Assange who may defect to the moon, to evade earthly law enforcement agencies. The skilled expat community in these space cities may also include robots and cyborgs who would be far better equipped to operate in the new environmental conditions.
But Bezos is really trying to create human friendly settlements in outer space, perhaps a luxurious one. The space tech innovators are working on a sustainable solution for interstellar travel on spaceships. Bezos reckons that such spaceships could carry 100 passengers at a time. Once we sort out the logistics, the economics will need to be worked out because higher wages are a big draw for human migration. We will possibly develop interplanetary trade of minerals from various planets in exchange for essentials from the earth.
We are dreaming of a universe that is full of possibilities for humans. It would be wise to have a plan B, should the earth become the target of a massive asteroid collision or irreversible climate malfunction. On the eve of Eid Al Fitr, when we admire the crescent moon in the sky, we might consider the wild possibilities of being there some day.
Shalini Verma is the CEO of PIVOT technologies