Mining the Moon: How to defend against mine fields in Cislunar orbit.
By Samson Williams, Anthropologist, MilkyWayEconomy
A 1 ounce, 3/4" inch, stainless steel ball bearing traveling at 8 kilometers per second, in vacuum, has the kinetic impact equivalent to X pounds per square inch. Solve for X.
TL;DR: It costs roughly $35M dollars to lay a minefield in Cislunar orbit, using one ounce, ¾ inch stainless steel ball bearings as dumb kinetic mines. For half that amount, an adversary could mine LEO for the purposes of asset denial.
Introduction - The Inaros Factor
In the Space Race 2.0 most assume that it is a technological sprint to the heavens. At MilkyWayEconomy, we contend that the Space Race of the 5th Industrial Revolution, that is The Space Economy, is in fact a socio-economic marathon, not a technological sprint. How can this be? Simple. By and large, Empires do not fall to technology. Empires are far more likely to collapse due to internal social, economic, political and cultural unrest.
For historical context, Rome did not fall to a superior army or technology. The Mongol Empire did not meet its demise on the field of battle. Fast forward to the 20th Century and the sun didn’t set on the British Empire due to a shadow caste by technology or innovation; rather the social shade of a non-violent, holy man, wearing a loincloth. America did not win the Cold War, as much as the USSR lost it to its people’s desire for Levi Jeans, David Hasselhoff cassettes and hope. Even today, democracy, Lady Liberty and the United States find themselves in their most fragile state since July 5, 1776; again not due to technology or a competitor’s innovation. Rather, these United States’ more perfect union finds itself in peril as the gravitational pull of an ex-game show host turned political pundit tugs at its seams.
Yes, technology is necessary to get into orbit. Yes, technology is necessary to stay in orbit and establish lunar satellites and moon bases. However, what is required to sustain those investments is public consensus on the good of The Space Economy. Afterall, in a democratic system, the purse strings of funding though held by Elected officials, are nonetheless subject to the emotional predilections of voters.
- How do voters feel about The Space Economy?
- Do voters understand why Space Force exists?
- Have voters been educated on why the sole reason that Space Force exists is to protect The Space Economy?
- Do people understand how dependent modern life is on The Space Economy?
- What even is The Space Economy?
More importantly, during a time of record inflation, housing expenses, the gamification of education, healthcare and retirement, do voters and the American people as a whole, FEEL good about the necessary investments required to ensure democracy exists, wins and leads in the 5th Industrial Revolution? Or, do they feel as Olvier Anthony contends that the rich men north of Richmond just don’t care?
In the 5th Industrial Revolution, that is The Space Economy, a country cannot be a Global Power if it is not also a Space Power. To that end, the factors that threaten both are not some giant leap in technology by an advisory. Rather, from the USA, to India, to China, to Russia the most pressing risks of failure in the Space Race 2.0 is not being aware and calculating the repercussions that everyday people are hurting. They’re hurting financially, socially, economically, politically, and spiritually. And Hurt People, hurt people. In the 5th Industrial Revolution Hurt People, hurt people most efficiently through the practice of asset denial.
These Hurt People (the poor, politically disenfranchised, their children and future grandchildren, etc…) are what constitute the base from which the Inaros Factor arises. We’ve seen the Inaros Factor in action in 2001. When a product of America’s decades long foreign policy in the Middle East shifted global paradigms and fundamentally altered America’s global brand, reputation and standing. In that instance, the weapon of choice wasn’t cheap, one ounce stainless steel ball bearings. Rather, 19 young men turned hijackers in the fanatical service of vengeance.
Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) in Space
The first country to build a base on the Moon will pay roughly $3T dollars for it. We detail out how we came to this conservative estimate in our article “MAD in Space”. The short version of why the first moon base will cost $3T dollars is that once the base is 90% complete an adversary will “drop a rock on it”, destroying it and forcing the builder to figure out how to secure the moon base against even the most basic of ballistic attacks from a gatling gun.
Fast forward to August 2023 and while Russia crashed its moon lander, India successfully landed their rover on the Moon’s south pole. This is important for two reasons:
- What will India rename the Moon’s South Pole? Naming the Moon’s South Pole is now India’s right, as is the tradition of every country / explorer who has ever landed where no human (or more accurately European / Colonizer) has stepped foot. Politically this will be a big deal, as legacy space players may take umbrage at the hubris of India to dare exercise a privilege previously, exclusively theirs.
- It cost India $75M to build, launch and successfully land its asset on the Moon. For half of that (probably ⅓ of that) an advisory or rogue factor could launch a refrigerator sized vessel, carrying 50K+, ¾ inch, stainless steel ball bearings (aka artificial meteors) and effectively mine the orbits of the Moon.
Currently the usual suspects lack the technical means to get out of the gravity well of earth and then break LEO, GEO and MEO. However, as more and more Spaceports come on line. As rockets become more powerful, cheaper and efficient at carrying 10,000 lbs into orbit (50k, 1 ounce stainless steel ball bearings + fuel for a delivery vehicle) the technological hurdles to creating artificial minefields in orbit drop exponentially. What is on the rise though, is the feeling of despair created by the unstable economic, financial and cultural morose of living in the new world with an ole soul.
Technology won’t win the 21st Century Space Race. To win today’s Space Race we not only need technological breakthroughs in engineering, science and chemistry but equally as revolutionary models and paradigm shifts in how we address economic inequality, fairness, inclusion and social justice domestically and globally. As to turn a blind eye or inquire why the poor simply do not eat cake, jeopardizes not only America’s standing in the 5th Industrial Revolution but the very fabric of this grand experiment of democracy that is America.
About the Author
Samson Williams is a co-founder of Milky Way Economy, a Washington, DC based think tank who specialize in understanding the economic foundations of the Fifth Industrial Revolution and the Space Economy. In addition to writing, researching and being an investor in 5th Industrial Revolution companies, Samson is an adjunct professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law and instructor at Columbia University in NYC. For business inquiries reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org