One of These Days, Bush, Right to the Moon!

NASA's restructuring sounds good, but there's more Halliburton-style lunacy behind it


Raking it in: Harrison Schmitt manipulates the lunar rake during his Apollo 17 moon walk in December 1972.

If you don't think Halliburton and other Bush regime corporate cronies are going to be mining the moon, then you don't know Jack Schmitt.

I'm talking about Harrison H. "Jack" Schmitt, the last human being to walk on the moon.

Word out of D.C., courtesy of this morning's Washington Post, is that the new NASA administrator, Michael D. Griffin, is cleaning house, getting rid of a lot of political appointees and bringing in more scientists and engineers.

It's the right thing to do, but for the wrong reason: George W. Bush's big push to conquer the moon and Mars. The Post story by Guy Gugliotta explains:

    Senior NASA officials and congressional and aerospace industry sources said [June 10] that Griffin wants to clear away entrenched bureaucracy, and build a less political and more scientifically oriented team to implement President Bush's plan to return humans to the moon by 2020 and eventually send them to Mars.

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But what Gugliotta doesn't explain is what underlies this noble pursuit.

Just over 31 years after Jack Schmitt walked on the moon, Bush announced on January 14, 2004, his big plans to conquer space—you understand, of course, that his handlers mean that in terms of mining minerals and gases on the moon as soon as possible. The White House's plans are preserved on a special page called "A Renewed Spirit of Discovery."

For many of us, a "renewed spirit of discovery" may mean exploration of the Downing Street Memo. The minute I found out in the British press about that revealing memo, on April 30, I felt like going Ralph Kramden on Bush's ass—you know, bang, zoom, right to the moon.

The space stuff just heaps on the annoyance. For the Bush regime's corporate pals, space exploration means firing unproven nuclear rockets into space, landing on the moon, staking a unilateral claim to it, and setting up mining operations to extract, at a huge profit, such valuable resources as helium-3.

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, laid out a lot of this background in a January '04 story posted on

Space exploration is a wonderful thing, but Gagnon points out several aspects of this particular lunacy. Nuclear rockets would cut the flying time to Mars in half, and the Bush regime already has announced a $3 billion effort to increase the number of launches of nuclear-powered vehicles into space. Gagnon quotes CUNY physicist Michio Kaku (co-founder of String Field Theory) as saying:

    "The recent disaster involving the Columbia shuttle crew was bad enough. If it had contained a nuclear rocket, it would have been the death blow to the space program. Having radioactive uranium reactor parts sprayed over Texas and much of the southwest would have doomed the entire space program. The nuclear booster rocket has gone through many stages of development in the past, and all of them have been canceled with good cause."

But once we get there, we can't just mine the moon and keep all the profits ourselves, can we? I mean, there's the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The eternally witty Gersh Kuntzman tackled this topic in a January '04 MSNBC piece on Bush's schemes, "Spaced-Out Invaders":

    … the biggest problem as I see it is that mining the moon for U.S. profit violates the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (not that the Bush Administration has shown much loyalty to international treaties).

Guess Kuntzman is thinking of the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court, and so on.

Just about every other nation has ratified the Outer Space Treaty. But there's also a Moon Treaty, and the U.S. and most other countries have ignored it.


Ready for a haul: Above, the Lunar Roving Vehicle used by Apollo 17 in 1972. Below, the Halliburton/KBR money-hauler (that's what I call it), used to rake in billions in Iraq.
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Kuntzman brightly sums up the fuelish dreams that cause U.S. officials to ignore this set of treaties:

    Someday, we'll get fuel—if we give the sun, the moon and the stars to companies like Halliburton. Former astronaut Harrison Schmitt (the last man to leave his footprints on the moon) said that private companies would gladly rape the moon if they can be assured of "a competitive rate-of-return." (In other words, taxpayers pay for the rockets, NASA provides the know-how and private companies skim the profits.) Schmitt added that scratching the surface of the moon is just scratching the surface. There's a lot more helium-3 on Saturn and Uranus. Watch out, my friends, these people are so desperate to make a buck they're even looking at Uranus!

schmitt-mug-130.jpgAh, so that's where former astronaut Schmitt, now 69 (left), comes down to earth. More soberly, Gagnon fleshes out the future:

    In a New York Times op-ed piece called "A New Pathway to the Stars,"space writer Timothy Ferris wrote on December 21, 2003, that "another possible energy source of the future—nuclear fusion reactors burning clean, safe helium 3—has its own lunar connection. Helium-3, rare on Earth, is abundant on the moon. When fusion reactors start coming on line, lunar entrepreneurs may stand to make the kind of money their predecessors raked in during the gold rush and the oil boom."

    Harrison Schmitt, the former Apollo astronaut who also served a term as U.S. senator from New Mexico, is not ignoring the issue. In an op-ed published in the aerospace industry publication Space News entitled, "The Moon Treaty: Not a Wise Idea," Schmitt stated, "The mandate of an international treaty regime would complicate private commercial efforts and give other countries political control over the permissibility, timing and management of all private commercial activities. … The strong prohibition on ownership of 'natural resources' also causes worry."

Schmitt is hardly a disinterested observer. Don't think of him as an astronaut talking. Ignore the fact that he's the only scientist who's ever been sent to the moon by the U.S. Think of him as another greedy bidnessman. Schmitt is a board member of Orbital Sciences Corporation, where former Secretary of the Air Force Jim Roche, a key figure in the Boeing scandal, also just landed after he was kicked out of the Pentagon.

Orbital Sciences recently was briefly shut down for a fraud investigation, as I pointed out June 7.

I told you you didn't know Jack Schmitt.

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