The Final Frontier of Profits

Written by Ryan Stancil
Posted May 10, 2019 at 8:00PM

For many people who’ve made their careers in the space industry, the classic science fiction series Star Trek is often named as inspiration. It was a fact that came up often at a recent pop culture convention I attended, which had its own series of panels dedicated solely to the intersection of science, sci-fi, and pop culture.

One of these panels featured NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.  He spoke on everything from orbital habitats, to moon resources, to the first Mars missions.

He spoke to a packed room of science enthusiasts, comic book and sci-fi fans (some dressed like Star Trek characters), and future NASA hopefuls in a 45-minute session that shed light on just what we can expect from the near-future commercialization of space.

Going Into Space and Staying There

The central theme of the entire panel was going into space with the plan of staying there. Before even getting back to the moon, NASA is eyeing a number of developments to take place in low Earth orbit.

Organ growth from stem cells and manufacturing of materials and pharmaceuticals in a low Earth orbit environment were some of the concepts mentioned. New innovations can be explored in these areas because the work would be free of Earth’s gravity, making defects much easier to avoid, among other benefits.

To a degree, that commercialization is already happening. Administrator Bridenstine mentioned SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, which delivers cargo to the International Space Station. The goal, he said, was to build on that and slowly ease away from government ownership of low Earth orbit. That would allow commercial ventures into the area, and eventually lead to commercial low Earth orbit habitation.

Low Earth orbit is just a stepping stone, but it’s an extremely important one. In order to make working in the area viable, reusability has to come into play there and in future projects. Objects built for low Earth orbit exploration and other areas of space exploration would need to be reusable in order to reduce costs.

And it’s with that mentality that the talk veered toward further exploration and habitation of the moon, which took up a good part of the panel’s time.

There, subjects covered included a return to the moon by 2024. Not just a return to the moon either, but a goal of having the first human on the moon’s south pole in that same year. That area of the moon is thought to hold large reserves of water ice, which plays a critical role in establishing a lasting, sustainable presence on the moon.   

With that presence in place, NASA has a vision in which the moon would act as a sort of proving ground for new technology to take us beyond.

Mars 203X

Administrator Bridenstine painted the moon as the quickest way to get to Mars. He also said that any work done on the moon was important because it allows organizations like NASA and anyone else to improve the technology so it can better do its job in any higher-stakes Mars missions.

And when it comes to Mars, investigation is what everyone is aiming for, first and foremost.

It’s believed that the planet had oceans in the distant past, as well as a strong magnetosphere and thick atmosphere.  

What happened to these features? Did life exist in some form because of them?

These are questions that NASA is looking to answer in its trips to Mars.

The Curiosity rover has already found organic compounds — the building blocks of life — on the surface. We also know from collected data that the methane in the planet’s atmosphere changes with seasons. Finally, there is evidence of liquid water deep below the surface.

All of these mean the chance of life having existed on the planet in the past goes up significantly.

And that’s just what we know from using robots and probes. Imagine what we might learn once we begin putting people on the planet within the next few decades.

The Race for Discovery and Profits

Countries and private companies have been scrambling for years to develop the technology to claim the resources in space, on the Moon, and on Mars. That activity is only going to ramp up in the next few years.

While a treaty signed during the 1960s makes it so that no nation can lay claim to celestial bodies, the resources are free to whoever gets to them.

And that’s where the profit opportunity comes in.

But before anyone can pull those first resources out of the moon or the Martian surface, they need the technology to get there.

One company, which has a long and celebrated history of providing the technology that has taken astronauts up, is already in play for this new age of exploration.

Jason Simpkins’ service, The Wealth Warrior, has all the details about that company and why it’s the one you want to keep an eye on.  

Star Trek famously called space the Final Frontier. For anyone in the right place at the right time, exploring that frontier can mean big profits.

Keep your eyes open,

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Ryan Stancil
Contributing Editor, Outsider Club

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