I was reading the technical document for the proposed UK-US moon probe which was announced a few days ago. I was reading it as the press release made a short comment about a future mobile phone network on the moon and I needed to know more for my work. Alas, not a lot extra was in the formal document either.
However, there is something in there of interest – the whole moon program is to be funded by that favourite of the government – the Public Private Partnership. Not only are we going to the moon, but the cost will be hidden off the government debt accounts until your children suddenly wake up one morning to a hefty bill from 30 years ago.
What was also quite interesting though, was this quote:
“The U.K.’s experience in PPP includes about 700 contracts now under operation that altogether have raised Â£65 billion of private investment.”
I have occasionally tried to get some sensible idea as to what the government debt liabilities for the PPP would be – and all replies are usually that the information is commercially sensitive and hence confidential. Now, I am sure the $65 billion is just private sector investment figure and do not include the repayment and service charges payable by the government – so the debt liabilities are probably a lot higher.
I feel slightly sorry for NASA that they are being encouraged to follow this most dubious of government funding methods.
Anyhow, lets at least hope the moon project doesn’t turn into another Metrolink disaster – otherwise a future astronaut may find themselves stranded much like London’s tube users are in the rush hour.
You can download the full document here: http://www.bnsc.gov.uk/assets/channels/resources/publications/pdfs/nasabnscjwg.pdf
As a humour diversion – if they do use PPP as they did on the London Underground – then it may be fun to remember the opening credits to the BBC show, The Adventure Game where the game contestants traveled to the distant world on a tube train traveling through space.