Lunar Mission: The First Step in Putting the Past Behind Us

Wonderful news today coming out of NASA today:

NASA took the first concrete step toward returning human beings to the moon Thursday, successfully launching the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on a mission to find the best place to build Earth’s first off-world colony.

The 19-story-high, two-stage rocket and spacecraft launched at 2:32 p.m. PDT. As the huge first-stage Atlas V rocket roared to life at Cape Canaveral in central Florida, NASA spokesman George Diller called it “America’s first step in a lasting return to the moon.”

The $500 million orbiter will spend the next year cruising just 31 miles above the lunar surface, employing a suite of seven instruments to identify landing hazards such as rocks and craters. It will be paying particular attention to the largely unknown lunar poles, where previous missions have picked up hints that water ice may exist in some permanently shadowed craters.

Thousands of sky watchers are expected to turn their telescopes to the moon on the morning of Oct. 9, when the water-seeking satellite steers the fuel-depleted second stage Centaur rocket into a crater at 5,600 mph. For those in the western U.S., where the moon will still be up, the plume should be clearly visible with a moderately sized backyard telescope, NASA said.

Time to start putting forty years of the unprecedented embarrassment of the US space program since the late 1970s.  I’m not sure that any other country has so thoroughly trashed such a magnificent technological edge in a crucial field before, unilaterally.

The space shuttle.  The international space station.   Ugh. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Ironically, we may look back and give the Bush Administration surprising credit for finally tilting US space exploration back in the right direction.  (Don’t worry, I’m under no delusion that people will say anything nice about Bush 43 for a while…)

There are tremendous technical and commercial advantages to establishing the first, ongoing presence on the Moon.  It’s a little know fact, but as an independent side project at Harvard, I built out an initial business model and operating plan for financing a private moon base.  It’s hard to think back, but at the time (2000), companies were raising $10B-$15B in private capital markets to fund the build-out of fiber-optic networks across the world.

It wasn’t such a stretch to imagine raising $60B in sequential rounds to fund a moon base, particularly when the economics of a moon base are so strong.

You see, the moon is such a hostile environment, that once you have a self-sustaining and expandable eco-system set up, it’s a natural monopoly.  For quite some time, it will always be significantly cheaper to add on to an existing base, rather than build a new one from scratch.

That difference in cost, which is measured in billions, is an incredibly revenue opportunity, assuming there is demand to establish presence on the moon.

It was 2000, but I believe I laid out at least 10 potential revenue lines for the moon base, to help it become cash flow positive, even across that type of capital raise.

(Yes, I was assuming the US would never ratify the Moon Treaty from the insane 1970s.  Beyond ridiculous.)

In any case, very exciting to see us finally moving down the correct path.  My only regret is that if we had moved down this path in the late 1970s, we’d all be jostling for positions on a fully operational moon base by now.

I’m still optimistic that I will be able to travel to the moon in my lifetime.  The only question now is whether it will be a US or Chinese built lunar city.

Timber Interview: Adam Nash

Of all the unexpected outcomes that have come out of my blogging experiment here on WordPress, one of the most surprising has been the amount of attention I received for a post on why I like investing in timber.

Why I love Timber as an Asset Class (November 10, 2006)

Since then, from time to time, the article has been referenced in investment blogs and journals.  For example, I am still getting hits to my blog based on the following article on Seeking Alpha:

Last year, I was flattered to see a quote of mine show up in Nuwire Investor:

What I didn’t realize at the time I wrote this blog post in January 2008 was that my entire interview was actually posted online.  That’s right. You can read the whole thing in all of its glory:

How embarrassing.  I remember doing this interview over the phone in March 2007 from a conference room from the Toys building at eBay.

Still, it’s a matter of public record now.  So enjoy, if you are curious.  I still do love timber as an asset class.

Once again, the web is safe for “adamnash”

Just in case you aren’t one of the 225 million Facebook users who received a notification, tonight at 12:01 AM EST (9:01 PM local time), Facebook decided to launch a massive “first-come, first serve” claim on usernames (or handles) on Facebook.

You might be wondering why this is big deal, since these have existed on every other site for years.

Well, the reason is because this is Facebook, and ironically because they waiting this long to launch handles, it’s now moved from part of the new-user experience to a huge virtual geek battle for your name.  (if you want yours, go to

I, of course, claimed “adamnash”.

Not very creative, I know.  When I chose my first username, freshman year at Stanford, I picked a nickname I had in high school.  (To this day, the wonders of the web have preserved old Usenet posting from under than handle… embarrassing.)  Thankfully, when you declare Computer Science as your major at Stanford, you get a virtual second chance – your Xenon address.

With a full name that fits in an old-style unix handle of 8 characters, it seemed too obvious.

I am adamnash.

These days, of course, you can find me at:

Brilliant from an SEO perspective, I guess.  Not that hot if I was looking for anonymity.

Now, I can safely say, Facebook is safe for “adamnash” as well:

I feel a little guilty for hogging all the virtual cyberspace for myself.  There are other Adam Nashes out there.  I think there are over 30 on LinkedIn alone.

But not that guilty.  I’ve been “adamnash” since 1992.  I’m not going to stop now.