Market Surveys for Lunar Artifacts
In February 1989, I wrote a piece called "First Souvenirs" which was
published in that month's Moon Miners' Manifesto. It is
pertinent to the
ongoing discussion of what monies we might earn from Moon rocks and dust
brought back to Earth. As has been pointed out, this will not
contribute the major portion of Artemis Project profits.
But neither can we afford
to neglect any reasonable complementary source of income that flows
and naturally from Artemis Project activities that will enhance our overall profit
Copyright 1989 Peter Kokh
May 18, 1980, started out to be a day of spectacular demonstration that
human "conquest" of nature was but a veneer. That was the day that Mount St.
Helens blew its top. In time, however, enterprising Washingtonians put the
unwanted inches of white ash that buried much of their state to an amazing
variety of uses.
To be sure, much of this ash was merchandised "tongue-in-cheek". The same people who had recently fell in love with cute little "pet rocks" at $5 apiece, were now lining up to buy Mount St. Helens ash for "pet food" for these critters. The ash found its way into novelty gift soap bars, ash ant farms, candles, terrariums, gag salt, pepper, and ash shaker sets, and into bean bag chairs.
Ash-filled souvenirs quickly appeared as paperweights, ball point pen
barrels, good luck charms, hour glasses, etc. But what caught my interest
immediately was the way in which serious local arts and craft people quickly
found ways to express themselves in this suddenly abundant ash-cheap
material. Potters, glass-makers, sculptors, and painters all began
experimenting with the stuff and producing items of exceptional character and
What in the universe, you ask, does this have to do with the Moon? The
answer should jump out at you. The previous article [in MMM #22, February 1989],
"First Export$", highlighted the SSI [Space Studies Institute] brainstorming
idea that the glass nodules and iron fines in the tailings from the lunar
regolith run through a pilot liquid oxygen production plant could fetch
a high price on Earth, if turned into novelty jewelry and coins
"made-on-the-Moon" by an automated machine. The assumption here is that the
vast bulk of the ash-like soil [other than the glass and iron fine
components] could not be turned into comparable profits. Not so!
I do endorse the glass jewelry and iron coin idea for an ice-breaker lunar enterprise, since the "made-on-the-Moon" aura will definitely add extra market value to the extraterrestrial origin of the material itself. But, the artistic quality of such "machine-made" trinkets, and the number of people who will want to pay the price, both work to limit the potential of this gambit enterprise.
This first junior chamber of commerce effort should be immediately followed
by a bi-world enterprise in which a stable of human [as opposed to machine]
artisans commissioned by the venture company fetching the lunar soil, would
turn the common Moondust into objects of more genuine beauty right here on
Earth. The price of their works could be kept high by the simple device of
using the Moondust as an accent, a garnish, an ingredient adding striking
character, to objects in which the bulk of the materials are Earth-derived. The results would be nonetheless authentic and certified LUNAR SOUVENIRS. To illustrate:
Moonscapes created with lunar soils of various shadings in an Earthly glass-glass sandwich (wall art, jewelry box lids, pendants, votive candle glasses, etc.). Fine terrestrial glassware (bridal registry quality or
prestige barware) with etching like patterns made with lunar fines.
Decorative mirrors, clock faces, and other items made in similar fashion.
Fine Earthly china and pottery in which Moondust is used as a striking glaze
accent. Lamp bases and glass lamp shades, candlestick holders and book ends
made in like fashion. As colored glass fiber combined with Earth glass matrix
in striking and illustrative glass-glass composite (Glax*) creations from
paperweights in 1x4x9 cm 2001 monolith-style to luxury door knobs and
pulls, "Moon-pearl" necklaces and earrings, abacus beads, and prestige
desk-top name plates.
And this is just a starter. Homework can be done now, both with MSH [Mount
St. Helens] ash and using some of the lunar simulants available at about a
dollar a pound in larger quantities. The possibilities are far more numerous,
the attainable quality higher, and the market far less shallow for items
made-partially-from-Moondust-by-an-artist-on-Earth than those
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