Green Cheese, Inc.

The Public Plans and Secret Dreams of the Men Who Sold the Moon

The scientific illiteracy is easily refuted: Mining the moon will no more affect the gravitational interplay than mining the earth does. "Amounts of mass affected by mining the earth or moon are negligible compared to the planet's mass, so simple mining is not the issue, in terms of gravity and orbits," says Hartmann.

Nor was TransOrbital Dubya's end run around the law. TransOrbital received standard licensing from the State Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, under 1984's Commercial Space Launch Act. "President Bush, of course, had nothing to do with it, and probably doesn't even know what we're up to," says Blase, the company's chief technology officer. TransOrbital agreed to make footage of the earth available to any government whose land was captured in the images, applied to ship the TrailBlazer craft to Kazakhstan, and sought a license from the FCC. The company started the process in 1998, under President Clinton.

Still, the extension of globalization to a second globe doesn't need doomsday pronouncements or conspiracy theorizing to be a major concern. "If we turn over all cosmic resources to the handful of people who now have the money and technology," says Hartmann, "we guarantee a world in which the wealthy few nations further increase the spread in living standards and consumption rates—which ultimately leads to unrest, revolution, terrorism from the have-nots."

illustration: Jeff Soto

Hartmann instead suggests a model he talks about in his 2002 novel Cities of Gold. "I had my character travel in Europe to contrast with the current American system," says Hartmann. "I look down from the plane and see big cities and small towns, each surrounded by exquisitely beautiful farms and countryside. I ask my Swiss friends why don't people buy up that land around the edge of town and build malls and tacky developments. . . . They say it's in the Swiss constitution that while a farmer owns the land outside a town, the town also has rights about how that land may be bought, sold, or developed."

Now if only some Swiss farmers would launch a mission to the moon.

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