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Dr. Tony Milligan, Monday, 3-30-15 March 31, 2015

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Dr. Tony Milligan, Monday, 3-30-15


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Guest:  Dr. Tony Milligan.  Topics:  Dr. Milligan’s new book, “Nobody Owns the Moon: The Ethics of Space Exploitation” plus commercial space development ethical issues.  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. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.

We welcomed Dr. Tony Milligan to the show to discuss his new book, “Nobody Owns the Moon:  The Ethics of Space Exploitation.”  Note that at approximately 1 hour 47 minutes into the program we lost our guest.  I took a short break and was able to get him back with us for the final ten minutes of our 1 hour 58 minute discussion.  In the first segment of the show, Dr. Milligan introduced us to the book and the topic from a moral and ethical perspective.  He said that he was in the middle range from not wanting any space development activity for ethical reasons to uncontrolled commercial development as in free market activity.  He said we had an obligation to do it right but defining what right meant was challenging.  I asked him about enforcement and that turned out to be a significant discussion topic for most of our program.  I took an early call from Kris in Wyoming who challenged our guest on all levels given his wanting to put a thorium reactor on the Moon, dispose of thorium waste inside a crater, and fuel a lunar settlement.  Kris and Tony went back and forth on the issues, approvals that should be required, trivial versus non-trivial, who decides or makes the decisions.  Tony cited the Sphinx and Pyramids to make a point which Kris and others rejected during their give and take and the show.  One of the issues that kept coming up was that the celestial item in discussion had cultural significance which Tony worked to define.  Many emails were received and discussed regarding cultural significance issues, the comparisons to terrestrial monuments and a celestial body, plus the point that the development on the Moon or Mars would not be visible from Earth so why should it matter.  See if you agree with Dr. Milligan on the visibility issue.  We talked about Ch. 7 in his book on mining off world.  Trivial and non-trivial pursuits came up again as our guest would not be inclined to approve a trivial pursuit but if it was significant, it would probably be approved.  Of course who decides if a project is trivial or not and then attempts to enforce all of this remains an issue.  Michael Listner called in and largely supported our guest saying this discussion was highly relevant.  We also talked about the NASA ARM mission , lunar protection, and more.

In the second segment, Tim from Huntsville was our first caller. He misread the bio for our guest but wanted to talk about vandalism and other issues but they were descriptive used for another book written by Dr. Milligan.  More emails came in including from Doug wanting to know who or by what process the Moon was assigned value and are there other countries where one could go to do commercial activities in space without regard to the issues our guest was speaking about.  Don’t miss Tony’s response to both of Doug’s questions.  Kirk wanted to know if Tony thought there was a difference in speaking about these issues in Europe as compared to the U.S. , then Doug called to talk with Tony about striking a balance and getting Tony to say what he would and would not be willing to approve.  In this discussion the cultural value of the Moon came up as Doug asked if he would approve this or that project.  Of course this means that Tony, someone else or some organization would have the approval or disapproval power based on certain criteria that may or may not be objective or to the liking of the entrepreneur for reasons totally contrary to the project’s goals.  Doug talked about the rational man standard but even that can be subjective as everyone always believes they are being rational.  I used as an example the current nuclear talks with Iran.  From the Iranian perspective, their demands are rational and in keeping with their “rational man” standards but not ours.  Michael Listner emailed in about the Apollo landing sites NASA guidelines.  Other emails came in including one four part note from Ken.  Tony responded to Ken with one consolidated answer for all his four questions.  Perhaps Ken will post his questions on the blog though I read the email on air.  Tim called back about the time we lost Tony on the call. Tim wanted to talk about Common Heritage of Mankind and benefit sharing plus the UN but Tony was already off the call.  I paused the discussion to get Tony back on the line for the last ten minutes of our show.  When Tony came back on we talked about the differences in the Moon and Mars regarding ethical issues, settlement as being trivial or non-trivial, and that only non-trivial pursuits should be permitted.  In the end, our guest said his book was meant to open these discussions and that all sides should be represented and have a voice, even those poorer nations that cannot access or do anything with space though he did not say they should have an equal voice to the space fairing nations.  As the program was ending, I asked Dr. Milligan about his upcoming book which will be an edited volume on these issues featuring both sides to the argument.  For sure we will invited Dr. Milligan back when that book is available.

Post your comments/questions on TSS blog above. You can reach Dr. Milligan through me or his University of Hertfordshire website.  If you buy his book, please do so through the OGLF Amazon portal so that Amazon will contribute to The Space Show. Instructions are on all website archived summaries as well as the blog archive summaries.



1. Andy Hill - April 8, 2015

I was a bit surprised that most callers seemed to think that it would be ok for humanity to do almost anything necessary to achieved a spacefaring civilisation. Dr Milligan’s viewpoint, while being as valid as anyone else’s, carries no more weight than any other.

All the guest was really saying was that we should consider the consequence of our actions as we try to move off planet. For instance open cast mining the moon is probably not anymore desirable than it is on the Earth. Large clouds of dust would not be great for machinery or lunar telescopes. I think we need to be smarter than we have been so far on Earth and create efficient processes that have a minimal impact on their surroundings.

2. DougSpace - April 1, 2015

Guidelines for the preservation of Apollo sites is a precedence for the protecting of culturally-valued off-Earth locations. But it is a pretty limited precedence. The Apollo sites are obviously of historic value as is the Chinese Yutu landing site. We would be understandably upset if they took our flag and they would be upset if we took their rover. But few if anyone questioned the ethics of leaving the junked landing stages on the “pristine” lunar landscape. But plenty of people would be upset if a large MacDonalds logo were dug into the surface of the Moon.

So, there’s a balance here. Human activities on the Moon are acceptable provided that they don’t go to such an extreme such that a lot of people start getting upset.

What I would say is the only near-term relevant thing that I can think of is whether the Moon’s “atmosphere” should be preserved for scientific study. I understand that a handful of landers would dilute the lunar atmosphere beyond analysis. But, place that one scientific point up against just about any development and I think that development wins.

3. J Fincannon - April 1, 2015

Ken makes some good points.

I love philosophy and ethics and morality. It’s so easy to work yourself into a corner. For instance, is it ethical to “sacrifice” mice, rats, monkeys to advance science in some willy-nilly way which may or may not have some positive impact on a person’s life? The medical and science community would say its fine because you are “advancing science”. But you are building all that on piles of dead animals, which most tender hearted folk would frown upon. At least when writing a paper on the subject, they should offer some tribute to the animals (which I never see of course).

Another example is development of civilization. If people had to consider their impact on the beautiful handiwork of nature that their ancestors appreciated for millennia, then perhaps they would not have built cities or developed agriculture. After all, why do we need more people? We are fine with a small human population sustainable by foraging and hunting. I guess it depends on what you think Mankind’s purpose is.

I think it boils down to making things harder than we need to. If we throw so many regulations and restrictions into the mix, things will not get done. If we have to worry about polluting a surface from a discarded piece of hardware, dumping our cells into the possible biosphere of Mars or the Moon, putting messy old footprints on the nice surfaces, then we might as well not go.

David pointed out that it might be dangerous to do things like ARM, because even a boulder moved into lunar orbit could upset some equilibrium in an unknown way. This seems highly unlikely, but he mentions “we might not know what it can do”. This could freeze all activity in every area, because we can always say there is some unknown thing that can happen. The Large Hadron Collider would never have been built, etc.

The guest suggested it’s alright to have a small base as long as “we clean up and not pollute”, I suppose referencing the junk/waste Apollo dumped prior to lunar liftoff. For one thing, what does he do to an offending “junk” asteroid that hits the lunar surface? Not only would it uglify it, but it is a lot more “junk” than anything humans can generate (look at just the interplanetary dust, 80 tons/day for Earth!). I suppose we need ARM to prevent such objects disfiguring the Moon. For another thing, in archeology, it’s the “junk” (such as in middens) of all the prior civilizations that elucidate our knowledge of them. What would have happened if they all had been diligent on “cleaning up their junk”?

I shall have to take a look at the book, although it sounds somewhat infuriating.

DDAY - April 3, 2015

“For instance, is it ethical to “sacrifice” mice, rats, monkeys to advance science in some willy-nilly way which may or may not have some positive impact on a person’s life? The medical and science community would say its fine because you are “advancing science”.”

That’s not true at all. There are actually guidelines for the use of animal subjects in medical and other research. You can look that up. For instance, there was a major study several years ago that produced a report recommending ending the use of chimpanzees in medical research in the United States. That’s being implemented.

J FIncannon - April 10, 2015

What do you mean “that’s not true at all”? Have you read recent animal test studies? Yes, the organizations have “guidelines”. But it still boils down to performing weird and unpleasant experiments on vast numbers of living creatures. These animals are “sacrificed” at the end of or during the experiments. The researchers may be doing valuable work, but maybe they do not appreciate their subjects adequately.

is an example. It more than likely is following all the “guidelines” to the letter. It states “Specifically, animals were injected with BrdU and trained one week later on trace conditioning, as in the previous study, and then sacrificed at differing time points after they had learned.” “Sacrifice” is perhaps the most clear term for killing the animals. Most of the time the scientists only infer it (obviously if they are making slides of brain tissue, the animal was “sacrificed”, but they don’t state this directly). Maybe I am an old softy, but I think they should at least give some tribute to these critters (e.g. 310 mice gave their lives for this research). Nuf said.

4. Ken Murphy - March 31, 2015

These were the questions I posed, which I honestly felt were inadequately addressed:

1) How can the Moon be considered a cultural ‘artifact’ when it is not manmade, as the pyramids and sphinx are?

(Dr. Milligan conceded that using object/artifact interchangeably was not entirely apt)

2) Is it less ethical to strip mine the Earth than the Moon?

3) Why should those who have control over terrestrial natural resources have a say in the introduction of new resources?

4) Do not forests and rivers and greenspaces have a greater cultural value to humanity than a sterile, irradiated, vacuum-entombed rock in space?

5) Is the ‘integrity’ of the Moon more important than the ‘integrity’ of the Earth?

I6) f needed resources can be delivered from space instead of torn from our own planet, do we have a moral obligation to do so in order to allow for the environmental remediation of our own biosphere?

7) If resource extraction off-Earth allows for the spread of the terrestrial biosphere into the Solar System, why should we not do so?

8) If the cultural nature of the Moon lies in things like the Lunar calendar, ‘the lesser light to rule the night’, mythical goddesses (Diana, Selene, Kaguya, Sinn, &c.), how would these things be damaged by human activity?

5. Michael J. Listner (@ponder68) - March 31, 2015

Kudos to David for bringing Dr. Milligan on the Show. The discussion was highly relevant to the future of outer space development. and should bear significant consideration.

The 900 lb gorilla in the room was how do you implement and enforce guidelines for altering celestial bodies. To that end, I would suggest the environmental implications of a private space activities could be addressed in the case of United States entities through the issuance of a launch license. Ultimately, the potential environmental impact of a private outer space activity could be a factor in the decision to grant a launch license. Furthermore, it is likely that Congress could grant the FAA “on-orbit authority” for private space activities very soon. The FAA could use this authority to ensure that private space activities abide by pre-agreed environmental standards for their activities.

What Dr. Milligan had to say during his appearance is not entirely new as their has been discussion about the preservation of the outer space environment and to an extent that preservation is covered in the OST. Certainly what Dr. Milligan proposed is potentially applicable to future endeavors and may have a place in the current debate over space debris.

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