The year is 2020, and an organization known as Helios successfully settles a colony of 200 people on the moon.

The colony is self sustaining and is mainly a research center, with most of its residents scientist, engineers, and doctors. The Helios organization is not willing to share any information on its research or the technology used to settle the colony. Helios has no ties to any to nation. Though its members come from all over, they too have no ties.

The rest of the world does not have the same spaceflight technology as Helios and still uses today's current methods to achieve spaceflight.

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    $\begingroup$ Give SpaceX about a decade, and we will probably find out. sen.com/news/elon-musk-outlines-future-plans-for-spacex.html $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ Does the rest of the world (other companies, countries, etc.) have anything close to the technology needed to do the same? $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ They likely wouldn't protest, in fact, they'd probably help said moon colony. Eventually, we might have the nation of Luna, or something similar. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 21:47
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 Helios has no ties to any to nation. Though its members come from all over, they too have no ties. $\endgroup$
    – DohnJoe
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ No way can a colony of 200 people be "self-sustaining". Where do they get their microprocessors from to replace failed parts? Their iodine? Genetic diversity for their crops? $\endgroup$
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 7:18

4 Answers 4


There is currently a UN treaty on the books relating directly to this, link here: http://www.unoosa.org/pdf/publications/ST_SPACE_061Rev01E.pdf

The treaty ruled that all of outer space is technically the 'common heritage' of humanity and as such no nation could formally lay claim to any territory on asteroids or planets. Think like international waters but space. As such, there wouldn't be any fervor over our dear friends Helios setting up a space colony at first.

The problems would probably come from how secretly they're behaving. Everyone would most likely be calling for Helios to at least give a hint of what they're doing.

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    $\begingroup$ So no one would care, is that you're saying? Helios isn't a nation so it could claim land on the moon, but the problem lies on its secretive research on the moon. Is that right? $\endgroup$
    – DohnJoe
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 1:28
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    $\begingroup$ No-one would respect the UN treaty if they could colonize space. In fact, a large group of don't give a diphthong about anything to do with the UN. They can't even stop African massacres with advanced warning. The UN just doesn't hold enough clout to control what goes on in space. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 5:30
  • $\begingroup$ That's pretty much exactly it. @user2888833 $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 2:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Xandar The strength of the UN depends on its members. If the member nations ask for information, the company will be forced to reveal their information or else shut down. The only option left would be to get support from the country where they are based. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ @ghosts_in_the_code Who would shut them down? Some nations might boycott this organization, but certainly all of them wouldn't. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 22:46

There would be a lot of responses, most of them being negative.

Fear and a military response. Not only does this organization have technology which seems far in advance of current and near term military capabilities (i.e. launch heavy payloads to the moon, Closed Life Support Systems), but these capabilities can potentially be used against Earth. A powerful system to launch and move heavy objects in space can also move heavy objects on intersection orbits with the Earth. Closed Life Support Systems (CLSS) could potentially be used to create submarines or invulnerable refuges on Earth to ride out some sort of chemical or biological attack against everyone else. As well, since we don't know what they are researching on the Moon, the paranoia factor will go through the roof.

Military forces will be dispatched to seize launch sites, factories involved in making the launchers and space hardware and anything else associated with the corporation. SoF teams will fan across the globe to track down and capture scientists and technical staff who had involvement, as well as the principles and financial backers of the company.

Legal response. An army of lawyers will work to identify and seize assets of the company, the principles, financial backers, corporations which are or are suspected of collaborating with the corporation and so on. While it is not clear that Helios is laying claim to the Moon, they have established "squatters rights" (especially since no one is going to be able to evict them in the short term), so they have started the effective process of claiming the Moon.

Lawyers may also be put on the case to investigate the 200 personnel, who, despite your assertion, still have ties to Earth. If they have real property, family ties etc. they will be heavily investigated to establish if any tax or other financial shenanigans are going on. The personnel may be prosecuted on the basis of tax law, since although they are not resident in their nation of origin, the Moon has no reciprocal tax treaties with the nations of Earth. Citizens of American origin will face tax claims regardless, due to US tax law.

Finally, there will be a space response. No one likes feeling threatened by what is seen as Dr Evil's Lunar lair, so the various space going powers of Earth will plan a response to go to the Moon and seize the base; either cooperatively or individually. Given the response that the corporation has raised, an individual nation going alone against the Lunar colony will evoke a similar response from the other nations of Earth. (This is problematic, since essentially the only nation which is truly capable of mounting a short term response would be the United States, and even then that involves impressing SpaceX, Blue Origin and the big Aerospace corporations into making boosters and space warships to do the job. While a SpaceX Dragon mounting a mini gun on the nose would be cool as all get out, it would be looked at as a threat to orbiting satellites from other nations.

So Helios should radically consider how they are going to set up on the Moon, and how they will prepare the ground for the event.

  • $\begingroup$ "...essentially the only nation which is truly capable of mounting a short term response would be the United States..." You seem to be excluding the capabilities of both China (which certainly could muster the manpower and already has many launch and manufacturing facilities in place) and Russia (which has the launch facilities and expertise to achieve a response). $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ Russia and China could mount a longer term response, because there are no current Russian or Chinese rockets which cold be used to do a moon mission. The Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule already exist, and the Falcon 9 Heavy is simply 3 Falcon 9 cores strapped together, so this could be a go almost immediately. Indeed the only thing slowing SpaceX down right now is Elon Musk's obsession with making the Falcon system reusable. IF the USG told him to forget that and just crank out 10 Falcon 9 Heavies, it could be done in months. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ I am not quite sure of what you class as a long term response but quite recently NASA was contracting some flights to the ISS to Russia as has Japan. Rssia does have rockets capable of delivering payloads to the moon, as does China. If China was to rally it's workforce and pour all resources into a response, it could certainly achieve something larger than a simple lunar lander in a year. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 2:15
  • $\begingroup$ You are speaking about designing and building an entirely new spacecraft and booster. The Falcon 9 series is in current production, and SpaceX has a currently running assembly line. By short term I mean getting ready in a period of months, not years. And designing, building and qualifying aerospace hardware does take years. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 2:30
  • $\begingroup$ I said nothing of designing and building new spacecraft or boosters, but modifying existing ones. SpaceX and Blue Origin are however, designing new spacecraft and testing new boosters. With Russia, I am talking about existing boosters that have been used as early as the 70s. With China, I am talking about the booster they used successfully in 2003 to put a lander on the moon. A year is a period of months, not many years. Blue Origin, although having a successful booster test last year, says they won't have the first launch vehicle ready until 2019. Space X already has a current production... $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 2:53


if you happen to be able to read german language, have a look into Frank Schätzings book "Limit"... I don't know if there is an english translation. Anyway, its about a company that's basically the only installation on earth that is able to yield He-3 from moons surface, but they didn't loose all ties, because they made their head start by building a space elevator (which happens to be located at a us-owned island if I recall right). And... well, its a long time since I red that book.

Anyway, please keep in mind that your moon-base will have a hard time being self sustaining. And at all you might need to do to put pressure at them is taking care of their earth-side operations. Just claim they do produce nasty weapons for groups that want the world see burn and install military at all their earth-bound installations.

Now your group of 300 is just a bunch of people sitting at the dark site of the moon. All they can do is playing space-chess with the 3rd-reich guys who happen to be their since the end of world war 2 ;) Well, in this case they would be the owners of that place, because they where there before any UN-resolutions regarding the ownership of space came in place :P

Okay, back to serious answering: Consider your renegade-scientists as a prime target for any nation with a considerable big budget for military. Sending a intelligent bomb (don't thing about the explosive agent... all it need to do is make a breach in their base' hull) up their if China, Russia or the USA (europe may have fallen apart until this date) get annoyed is something that any Kerbal Space Program Computer Player could accoomplish if he get the resurces... You could use an old soyus-capsule for accidential crahsing that building. Or laser them. Use them for railgun practice. Today technology isn't far from being able to reach targets this far.

And as said before: while its kind of save on the moon, they can't do much up their if their earth-bound facilities are hold by un-peacekeepers (speznaz, usmarines... I can't recall the china-troups name)... You get the point.

They need to hold something, the other nations are greedy for and not able to obtain to avoid such situations. Thats where we end up at He-3 which is said to be laying around at the moons surface and waiting for someone picking up it. And... yea, maybe you should read that 1400 page book. Or not.

EDIT: Or read @Thucydides answer, which I managed to completely miss. Seriously, this workplace isn't healthy for my observation ability :/

EDIT2: Something to take into account too: They won't have much research ability up there. Collecting moon dust and stones and process them might be something doable, looking into outer space too, but installing seriously powerful research equipment...

And don't forget about the communication. Using radio? Flood that site with radiowaves. Using an optical connection? Morse "who read this is dumb" in 200 languages with an earth-side laser and no one would be able to receive a clear message any more.

And even more: if you are trying to be something outside earth nation community, don't forget that your pirate scientists won't fall under any UN-law any more. Thats like a free pass for doing all that stuff that isn't part of any weapon or inter-nation resolution.

To be honest, I would not like to be part of such a installation, if there isn't any big guardian on earth... Oh, wait, we are part of the prime technology company? Wait, hasn't its posessions been sized by the financial part of the government because of taxation stuff?

But one thing there is that might work actually: prospectors right of claiming land. Whoever can make there a living and gather resources first is allowed to use this land (until the country decides otherwise). Something like this might work; just don't tell anyone you are building doomsday-devices up there.


At first, the US will think that Helios is a Russian operation while Russia will think it is a western operation (USA/EU). China will think something similar.

The mayor powers will come together and talk things over. I hope they will agree that it is at least possible that Helios is in fact independent.

However, they will all need reassurance that this is so. So they will insist, very forcefully, that Helios allow observers from all the powers to ensure that the station is not armed and not spying on Earth.

If Helios says no, things could turn very ugly. At the very least the moon base would not receive any more supplies. At the most, boom.

So, Helios says yes, and observers arrive to discover that Helios is indeed just a research station.

While world politician now know this, some of them will still claim that it is a plot by their enemy, for political reasons. If taken too far, this too could turn ugly.


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