Mark Whittington wrote a piece on the future of Lunar exploration a few days ago that deserves mention.
The fourth option proposes the creation of a Lunar Exploration and Development Authority (LEAD) to fund and build the lunar infrastructure needed.
The stated objective of the LEAD is to, “open space to enterprise, markets and ultimately sustained autonomous, self-supporting activities. A similar institutional innovation is required to assure early industrial, private and international market involvement, in analogy to the East India Company of ages past and of Comsat/Intelsat of the Space Age.”

Reminds me of another corporation that's pretty important in the history of the Canadian frontier: the Hudson's Bay Company. The company was given a virtual monopoly on the fur trade throughout the North West Territories by the British Empire. Canada's owes it's early expansion days to HBC, which has turned itself today into a chain of retail department stores oddly enough.

Though in light of these comments from the new NASA administrator Mike Griffin I'm a little concerned:
“What the U.S. gains from a robust, focused program of human space exploration is the opportunity to carry the principles and values of western philosophy and culture along with the inevitable outward migration of humanity into the solar system,” he said. Such an effort, he noted, would be similar to the influence the British Empire had because of its mastery of the seas. “Can America, through its mastery of human space flight, have a similar influence on the cultures and societies of the future, those yet to evolve in the solar system as well as those here on Earth? I think so, and I think our descendants will consider it to have been worth twenty cents per day.”

There were also unfortunate effects of both the British Empire and the Hudson's Bay Company. In the case of the latter was the fact that a single company was given a government sponsored monopoly on the early Canadian frontier. This prevented other competitors from moving in and possibly decreasing prices.

In the case of the British Empire, I don't think I need to mention to Mark a little problem with Tea in Boston to remind him of those pesky little issues of an Empire's influence on a burgeoning frontier people.

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