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Jon Goff, Friday, 3-15-13 March 16, 2013

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Jon Goff, Friday, 3-15-13


Guest:  Jon Goff.   Topics:  The Lunar Patent concept and Altius Space Machines company updates.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information.

We welcomed Jon Goff, President and CEO of Altius Space Machines, back to The Space Show for this 60 minute discussion focusing both on the idea of a lunar patent and Altius company projects and updates. I suggest you read and follow along with these websites and blogs:  http://selenianboondocks.com; http://altius-space.com, and Jon’s blog article about the lunar patent concept http://selenianboondocks.com/2013/01/random-thoughts-columbus-article-link-and-lunar-patents.  For the first part of our hour long discussion with Jon, we focused on the lunar patent idea.  Jon got the idea to write about it on his blog from Mike Mealling’s own blog post on his RocketForge blog, “Lessons in exploration from Columbus and the Spanish Crown” at http://rocketforge.org/2013/01/10/lessons-in-exploration-from-columbus-and-the-spanish-crown.html.  Jon spent time with us going over the history of how and why the Spanish crown put forth the Columbus expedition which he said was all about getting patents along the trade routes.  Jon applied this concept to lunar development explaining how it might work.  He also suggested this might be an end run around the absence of property rights and the terms of the U.N. space treaties.  Listeners asked questions about how a patent might work, would it need to be issued by an international entity to be enforceable, and how could it be enforced.  This brought up the question of benefit sharing and terms & concepts such as those found in the Moon Treaty.  Jon said he was interested in feedback, especially from the space legal community so please share your thoughts on The Space Show blog.  During the balance of our time with Jon, he told us about his company plans, new ideas, SBIRs, and SAA agreements to develop a new breed of robotic arms.  We talked about tools for satellite service and possible ISS free flyers.  Jon told us about their project with Nanoracks, DARPA, and JPL.  He also described MINION which is a project with NASA LArc for an extendable/retractable arm that could operate inside the ISS. You can read about this project on Jon’s Selenian Boondocks blog.  A listener asked him about using Kickstarter for funding new projects and another listener was interested in hearing more about Jon’s plans for Altius in the future.

If you have comments/questions for Jon Goff, please post them on The Space Show blog.  You can reach Jon through the Altius website, his blog, or through me at drspace@thespaceshow.com.


1. DougSpace - March 16, 2013

I missed the first five minutes of Jon’s presentation so didn’t fully understand his lunar patent concept during the program. But, having listened to the first part of the program I find it and interesting concept worth getting input from our space law friends. It seems to me that this approach could be conducted unilaterally by the US so long as the 10% of profit (such as from their taxes) came only from the income from later US companies. I’m no lawyer but it does seem to me to get around international space treaties since it has no bearing on ownership of outer space property. However, this concept presumes the lack of a Zero-G/Zero Tax law.

But I think that this concept still doesn’t really help the problem that companies have risking a lot of capital up-front before they hopefully start to get return-on-investment. If that up-front money runs into the billions then I question whether anyone would be willing to risk that much of their own money even if they had some hope of super-normal profits. This is why I prefer the payment-for-each-milestone-met approach since the companies can make real progress towards the goal of lunar development without having to go so far out on a limb.

2. quantumg - March 16, 2013

When proposing new taxes, one should never say from whom the taxes will be extracted. Here’s how Jon’s “lunar patent” would be sold to the public:

“To encourage greater commerce on the Moon, the US federal government is offering to pay the majority of lunar launch costs and lunar facility leases for commercial lunar operations. This offer will be valid for the first 10 years of lunar commercialization, which is defined as starting with the establishment of a permanent lunar base by any US commercial entity.”

More detail could be added as to what exactly the government is “subsidizing”, but the initiative is sold as a means to reduce the cost of lunar commerce.. not as rewarding first movers. The first movers are required to get the kickoff to happen but it’s up to them to ensure that the government kickbacks come to them and not some latecomer. Thankfully, that’s how markets work.

As for where the government gets the money from to do this? That’s something the politicians rarely bother to talk about, but an economic analysis might indicate that the increased tax revenue of lunar commerce will more than make up for the 10 years of subsidies.

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