Here at the FAA/AST Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, Robert Bigelow, CEO of Bigelow Aerospace, didn’t get much argument when he suggested that the Chinese government has the motivation and the wherewithal to land people on the moon within 12 years.

His suggestion that China could claim actual ownership of the moon, rather than just conduct an Apollo-style footprints-and-flags campaign, seemed a little more radical, but he made some compelling arguments.

Why is the builder of what will probably be the first commercial space habitat so interested in this topic? Bigelow anticipates that in the future, his company’s clients may well have to get Chinese permission to land Bigelow Aerospace habitats on the moon.

I recorded a pencast of Bigelow’s complete keynote talk. Click anywhere on my notes to replay that portion of the talk. You’ll have to wait until the audio portion of the pencast downloads before it plays. It might take a while, especially on a slow connection, so pretend it’s 1995 and go make yourself a cup of coffee while you wait.