Explanation of the Luna Project Organization

How is it to be done?

The Luna Project is set up as a voluntary, coöperative, and temporary effort. No one is required to participate, but everyone who desires its ends and is willing to accept its conditions is invited to participate. It operates by pooling contributions of all manner of resources from its divers participants, based on mutual agreements and arrangements. Once its objective is accomplished, it will dissolve or change into whatever forms are appropriate to the situation, as things which are kept after they have accomplished their purposes tend to outlive their usefulness.

Space activity in this day and age requires enormous resources, and the question may be raised whether anything but a government or an enormous commercial enterprise can accumulate those resources. Our answer is yes. If only one third of one per centum of the American public, for example, is sufficiently interested in space to contribute a thousand dollars, the total sum of $1 000 000 000 is enough to do more than a little with. The United States population is only a part of the industrial world, and the European countries, Japan, Australia, &c. may be expected to contribute in proportion.

Furthermore, we suggest that space interest among the general public is much more widespread than the figure quoted, but is in a state of latency. In other words, as long as manned space flight remains an engine for turning money into disappointment, there will be little enthusiasm ; but as soon as concrete progress begins toward some goal immodest enough to inspire the soul, several per centum of the population will turn out in support. Some will provide money ; engineers and skilled labourers, artists and designers, will furnish their work ; others will supply materials, yet others moral support and simple time. In this way, the goal will be accomplished more surely than any edict of government or management could provide, by the efforts of those who desire it. We may hope they will be too proud to let it fail when they would have none but themselves to blame.

A coöperative effort, as the above implies, requires publicity in order to succeed. Those who would support it cannot if they never hear of it. The local, national, and international space societies must spread the word to their members. Authors must talk to the science-fiction fans, and fans to each other. Popular science writers must talk to the technically-minded public. Everyone must talk to his neighbour. Newsletters, meetings, and mailing lists can accomplish more than a little, but parades, rallies, and public lectures are vital also.

The largest body of resources will accomplish nothing if it is not used, and used well. To the power of public support, then, we join the efficiency of self-organisation. Each individual participant will have some idea in what phase of the enterprise he can be of most use, and will find his way there. The participants in each phase of the effort, accordingly, will allocate work among themselves, and will keep each other from diversions into error or trivialities. Under such circumstances, "management" can be almost entirely dispensed with, aside from facilitating communication among the sections.

It may seem strange to specify that the organization of the Project will be temporary, when the activities envisioned will certainly result in tangible assets on Terra. To dissolve the Project once the lunar settlement is well-established creates the problem of disposing of property, and prevents using the established structure for further work. On the other hand, an organization devoted to some goal becomes redundant once that goal is reached, and it seems reasonable that it should not persist in its original form. This point is reinforced by the observation that organizations which persist too long tend to become devoted to maintaining themselves, rather than to their original goals. We suggest and expect, therefore, that once the project is complete, its participants will have different ideas of what ought to be done next ; some will want to go one way and some another, and as long as they remember the principle of voluntarism, they will make amicable compromises, arrange matters to suit their various needs, and move on with their lives.

Why do it this way?

It is more than fifty-five years since Sputnik, forty since Apollo 17. The government project model has become ever less effective at delivering progress in space, and the potential of the commercial model remains largely unrealized. To escape this predicament, we turn to a third model which can mobilize the needed resources : the subscription drive.

Government activity depends upon political will, a substance as ephemeral as it is elusive. Even if there is the resolve to accomplish something, the mechanisms employed frequently fail of results ; the resources disappear into an opaque tangle of warring bureaux and are never seen again. In any case, for a small group of people (the space enthusiasts) to convince a second small group (the legislature) to force a large group (the population) to take an action (send an expedition to Luna) does not seem, on the basis of available evidence, at all easier than for the small group to do for themselves. The Western space agencies seem to have become forces for frustrating any real progress, while Russia is too impoverished to do anything except on a cash for service basis, and the less said about the Chinese military programme, the better.

Business enterprises of any scale are subject to the same sort of internal disorder which afflicts governments, with overall goals unclear, and managers working against each other rather than for a common end. Moreover, they cannot invest large sums in anything incertain ; for a company to continue to exist, it must make money, and in today's climate that means returns this year, or this quarter, not five years away, or twenty. We assert confidently that the Luna Project will be of immense value to mankind, and that it will result in substantial commercial benefits within a few decades, but there is no way to forecast even the precise nature of the profits to be had, not to speak of where they will fall. Owners and managers today are interested in profits, not in products ; while there are profit opportunites in space, those which have so far been realized have been modest projects with modest returns, and there is a pervasive unwillingness to risk capital on anything really large. They will not pay for it.

The direct participation of those who desire to accomplish an end is inherently more efficient than other methods of organizing resources — it, so to speak, eliminates the middleman. Like the political and commercial methods, however, it has conditions of applicability. Unlike a business enterprise, a subscription effort does not have to make a profit, since the action it performs is the goal of the subscribers ; unlike government effort, there is no need to convince anyone except those who desire the action. By the same token, that action must itself satisfy the subscribers sufficiently to compensate their outlays. At present, the most common subscription project is "open-source" computer software development, which typically does not require an excessively large commitment from any individual, and does result in a product which the participants are able to use. The other plausible model requires a truly grandiose project, capable of inspiring the human soul, to achieve which is sufficient reward.

The first criterion, then, is desirability. The second is credibility. This is less of a factor in low-impact, low-risk projects, but it is the determining factor in high-impact projects. It is not sufficient for people to believe that what is proposed can be done ; they must believe that it will be done. They will not throw away their resources on something incertain, but if success seems likely contributors will flock to furnish the labour, money, &c. needed to ensure completion. Government support may also be forthcoming, if the matter becomes a political issue, and commercial investment may appear from parties expecting to reap a direct or collateral benefit.

This is the rationale for dividing the Luna Project participants into Subscribers and Contributors. The subscribers devote themselves entirely, one might even say fanatically, to the difficult work of the initial stages, in order to make it appear likely that something will really happen. They create the credibility which will attract the contributors. It is clear that the subscribers may require a special incentive, above and beyond the desire to see Luna settled and Man flourish in space, since in abandoning other work and turning over all their resources and efforts to the Project they risk being ruined even if it succeeds. Since that success would be impossible without them, they ought also have a special share in its benefits.

The stipulation that only subscribers are eligible for places in the expedition follows naturally from these considerations. It is not wholly clear that this condition will be maintained. The number of subscribers may be less than the size settled upon for the expedition (although in this case they may not be sufficient to ensure success), and some subscribers may judge themselves not suitable to go, or be found unfit to go. Nevertheless, the condition is made now, in the full expectation that it will be carried into effect.

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