LET’S CLAIM THE MOON – NOW! (Feb, 1957)
LET’S CLAIM THE MOON – NOW!
We can beat the Reds with this plan for shooting our flag to the Moon by rocket.
By Pierre J. Huss
THE RUSSIANS, by their own admission, are getting ready to claim possession of the Moon. By 1970, judging from known Soviet plans for shooting rockets into the skies, the Moon will become sovereign territory of the Soviet Unionâ€”a “suburb” of Moscow. Obviously, then, now is the time for us to stake out our claim to the Moon if the interests of free mankind are to be safeguarded for future generations. Otherwise, the Russians will beat us to the punch by grabbing first and talking afterward.
American ingenuity and enterprise and our scientific and technical know-how should be mobilized into a giant effort to overcome the obstacles and give the U. S. the honor and glory of staking out a claim to the Moon by planting the Stars and Stripes on lunar ranges and valleys via rockets!
The Moon is so great a prize in shaping principles concerning space and interplanetary rights that now is the time for the U. S. Government to act boldly. Congress should issue an immediate proclamation establishing jurisdiction over the Moon by right of first contact. The flag could follow as the clincher.
The first contactâ€”and even the Russians haven’t claimed thisâ€”was made with the Moon by the United States Army Signal Corps on January 10,1946. Lieutenant Colonel John H. DeWitt made the historic contact by radar at Evans Signal Laboratory, Belmar, N. J. The powerful radio impulse shot at the Moon echoed back in two and one-half seconds, a round-trip of 477,000 miles. Here, then, is the first legal basis on which the United States Government can pin a technical claim of jurisdiction.
With the right of jurisdiction established, the U. S. Army Signal Corps, or any other interested governmental branch, should be assigned by Congressional mandate to create a continuous pattern of contacts with the Moon by radar, giving out regularly prepared reports on the lunar areas at which the contact took place, and the exact time and duration of the response. Surely our international law experts could base a valid ownership claim from this consistent contact with the Moon.
But there is talk in diplomatic circles that the Russians are getting ready to argueâ€”once they get a firm start on their Moon projectâ€”that insofar as both terrestrial and celestial properties are concerned, possession is the only basis for a claim of ownership. That contention probably will hold good if put to the test, especially if Soviet weapons and military positions appear on the Moon before the U. S. is able to transport human beings to our nearest neighbor in the skies.
It must be stressed here that while possession is nine-tenths of the law, the landing of men on the Moon to claim that barren but strategically important satellite is not necessary to establish possession. Columbus stuck the Spanish flag into the sands of a West Indies beachâ€”and we or the Russians would be perfectly within the concept of international law to claim possession of the Moon by shooting our national flag there by rocket.
It has been said by leading American rocket specialists that, given a billion dollars to finance a Moon project, an attempt to shoot radio-controlled missiles up there could be made within a comparatively short time. On that basis, what is wrong with collecting a billion-dollar fund by voluntary contributions from hundreds of our great industrial concerns, with each dollar collected to be matched by an equal amount from the government? There are rocket experts in the United States who say that with such a gigantic and concentrated effort, we could shoot the Stars and Stripes to the Moon before the Russians get off the ground.
Back in 1946, when the U. S. Army disclosed it had bounced radar signals off the Moon and raised hopes that a rocket might be shot up to the satellite within a few years, the Soviet delegate to the U. N. got panicky (during the Assembly’s September session) and hastily called a meeting of his Red colleagues. Dmitri Manuilsky, a shaggy old man from the Ukraine and a real power in the Stalinist regime, proposed and drafted for approval by Moscow a resolution declaring the Moon subject to U. N. trusteeship. The purpose was not directed at safeguarding the interests of mankind. It was to thwart any claim to territorial possession of the Moon by the U. S. Manuilsky, hopped-up by the U. S. disclosure of contact with the Moon some months earlier, naturally feared that the United States was on its way to space travel and would beat Russia to the Moon.
Moscow considered the idea of introducing such a resolution for some weeks. Eventually, after closely studying reports of Red agents on American capabilities of reaching the Moon by manned and unmanned rockets, Moscow cooled Manuilsky down. Today, the shoe seems to be on the other foot. All available evidence leaking out from behind the Iron Curtain points to the fact that the Russians may win the race unless the U. S. gives top priority to claiming the Moon as the guardian of mankind’s interests.
U. S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, although hemmed in by international diplomatic tradition, has set the ball rolling by recognizing the existence of the legal space question. To acquaint himself with the strange new problem, he appointed one of his top aides, Hermann Phleger, to the task of studying all legal problems of sovereignty likely to arise in the immediate future on the matter of international rights in upper space. This field is so new and so complicated that before long Mr. Dulles may have to face the question of creating a special section in the State Department assigned to dealing only with matters of space rights and sovereign principles in the heavens.
In international law, the accepted principle has been that a seaboard nation’s sovereignty extends three miles out to sea. A conference of American nations held last April in the Dominican Republic discussed the question whether this limit can be extended to 200 miles out. So then, can the three-mile or 200-mile sovereignty rule be applied vertically to the skies? Can freedom of the seas be applied to the upper stratas of the atmosphereâ€”freedom of the air? The urgency of answers to these questions daily becomes more apparent.
One cause behind this urgency, of course, is the race between Russia and the U. S. to get their unmanned satellites into the sky. The Russians have been exceptionally vociferous in their claim that they will beat us with bigger and better satellites. Whether such devices, rotating on fixed paths, can escape international incidents remains to be seen. Each time a man-made object circles the earth, it technically violates the sovereignty of countries below. Much depends on whether the question of how high is up can be solved amicably, or whether the Russians, for instance, will obstruct us with accusations of military peeping.
The most disturbing element in this whole situation is that the Russians are talking in positive terms of hopping off into space very soon. They don’t care whether we believe it or not, or call it propaganda. The U. S. experts, on the other hand, keep stressing the cost of any major heavenly exploration and give the impression that three to five decades must pass before space-hopping to the Moon or any of the planets can start.
The latest statement from the American side comes from John J. Crowley, director of the Pentagon’s guided missiles development project. He insists that a manned earth satellite equipped to accommodate 80 scientists and traveling 18,000 mph in the sky, must first be put into operation at an altitude of 1,000 miles. Crowley stated:
“Such a space satellite could be a reality in 10 to 15 years. In the next 10 years thereafter planes and ships could be perfected so as to make the trip to the Moon and return. Once on the Moon, the adventure really begins. The Moon becomes our space satellite from which we can launch ourselves into outer space to explore Venus at its closest approach 26,000-000 miles away.”
Most American rocket experts and science engineers estimate 30 years before we reach the Moon. And in practically every calculation the staggering cost of building lunar rockets is cited as the obstacle.
The latest statement from the Russian side is glimpsed in an article in the Soviet Weekly written by Y. Khlebtsevich, chairman of the Scientific-Technical Committee for the Moscow Astronautics Section. In his opening paragraph, he states:
“Flights in interplanetary space and to the Moon, it appears to us, can be realized within the next five to ten years. The real possibility of such flights is based on a firm scientific foundation.”
Khlebtsevich then concludes with the following:
“No longer are there any difficulties of principle in the mastering of the Earth’s nearest satellite with the help of radio-controlled rockets and tank-laboratories. This is why it is possible to conquer the Moon within the next five to ten years.”
From the foregoing, and similar intelligence out of the Soviet Union, the risk of America losing the race into space and therewith the honor of first reaching the Moon seems to be very great. So why don’t we start now by making a giant effort to plant the U. S. flag on the Moon through a series of rocket shots.