Looking to Lincoln for Space Solutions
William J. Stuntz has an editorial in The Weekly Standard that is worth reading. It concerns the advantage of developing legislation that allows American citizens to do most of the heavy lifting to bring about economic or technological development. The examples Stuntz cites from Abraham Lincoln include laws that shaped a great deal of the Midwest: the Homestead Act, Land-Grant Colleges (Morrill) Act, and the Pacific Railway Act. The Homestead Act parceled out lands in what were then (more or less) the Northwest frontier of American civilization. The Land-Grant Colleges Act allowed universities to be established across the Midwest. The Pacific Railway Act set aside land for railway companies to build railways at prices they could afford.
The Homestead Act is a favorite of mine. The most obvious side-effect of this Act can be seen when flying in an airplane over the Midwest and Ohio Valley: the land was sold and adjudicated in 36-square-mile townships laid out in grids that start at the Ohio River and continued until the Rocky Mountains. Couldn't we do the same thing for the Moon, through the U.N. or some other corporate entity? Owners could rent the rights to their section of the Moon to X combine to mine Helium-3, conduct scientific experiments, build settlements, whatever. Few people would actually go to the Moon, but the incentive would be there for others with the means.
The Land Grant Colleges Act would open up space (LEO, the Moon, Mars,etc.) to centers of research and higher learning.
A space-based version of the Pacific Railway is already underway, in the form of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The National Space Society, as part of the Space Exploration Alliance, has advocated for expanding COTS to include launch services to send humans to the International Space Station. America needs this commercial capability, and many others in space as well. The trick, as Ronald Reagan put it, is to unleash human imagination and creativity.