- transitioning to an ever expanding settlement -


Isn't it far too premature to be thinking about off-Earth countries? Not really.

Plans are currently under way to establish a reusable transportation system to the surface of the Moon. It can be fairly debated exactly which approach will win out but it seems probable that a permanent lunar base will be established within 5 to 15 years.

If the lunar transport system turns out to use NASA's SLS rocket, Orion capsule, the Lunar Gateway, and someone's lander then each crewed mission will be very expensive and so, at best, an Antarctic science base will be the most that we could hope for. However, if NASA goes with the Falcon Heavy - XEUS-based transportation system recommended by these pages or especially if SpaceX successfully develops its fully-reusable Starship then large numbers of international astronauts and settlers would be able to go permanently to a growing lunar base/settlement.

Countries drawing tax dollars from millions of citizens have far deeper pockets than even the richest individuals (e.g. Jeff Bezos). AS such, one could imagine a rather large International Lunar Exploration Phase (ILEP) with perhaps 300 to 600 international astronauts visiting. The countries would likely wish for many of their astronauts to remain on the Moon in order to represent their citizens in a growing, international settlement. The high flight rate during the ILEP and the infrastructure set up to support the growing base would provide the ideal precursor to initial private settlement of wealthy, highly-motivated individuals helping to establish humanity's first permanent settlement off Earth.

Countries who have signed the Outer Space Treaty are bound to not claim sovereignty over any celestial body including the Moon. However, it would be common practice for countries to demand that others remain a safe distance away from their sites of operations. Although this wouldn't be a claim of sovereign property, in effect, it could amount to the same.

There are a very limited number of so-called "Peaks of Eternal Light" at the lunar north and south poles. These peaks are likely the most valuable places on the Moon because they offer near continuous sunlight and they are close to permanently-shadowed craters where evidence indicates that there is water ice. As such, this territory would be the very first place that any permanent base would be established and one could encircle this region in about 24 hours by driving around it at Apollo 17 rover speeds. Although not a certainty, there could be competition between countries for these locations resulting in conflicting claims to exclusive control.

If America were to establish the first permanent base, and countries were to use the commercial transportation to go to and grow such as base then it could become international in nature but with English as a common language. As older private settlers come, they may not be able to speak English and so one could imagine a Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, Portuguese, etc sections developing. With time, some groups might like to try their hand at starting their own settlements which could be based upon language but could also be based upon religion (e.g. Islam) or politics (e.g. Libertarianism).

The Outer Space Treaty (OST) is binding upon countries who have signed it and not binding upon those countries who haven't signed it. If there were a settlement on the Moon or Mars that politically separated themselves from the country from which they started and declared themselves to be a politically country then they wouldn't be bound by the restrictions of the OST. One would expect that they would claim their own borders which might conflict with the interests of other nations. Border disputes have very frequently been the cause of war between nations. How could this be prevented?

After America defeated the British in their War of Independence, the US received from the British territories around the Great Lakes region. Congress was then faced with the question of how these territories could eventually become states and be admitted into the Union. Their approach was to draw borders for future states and then allow the residents of those areas to vote their own state constitution and leaders upon reaching a certain population. They could then apply for statehood as a free-standing state. Perhaps a similar approach could work on the Moon and Mars.

One could fairly arbitrarily draw borders on the Moon and promote their recognition if even unofficially. As settlers of a certain language, religion, or political persuasion were to start settling the Moon, they would be inclined to settle together so as to strengthen their claim to eventually becoming a politically independent nation in the future. To increase the probability of their being recognized by other nations, they may wish to settle within the pre-defined boundaries and declare their independence when their population reached the pre-defined level. In this way, settlement would be encouraged as would the emergence of new independent nations which could experiment with new forms of government.

By pre-defining the borders of future off-Earth countries, conflict can be prevented and settlement can be encouraged.

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