If you’ve already been there, done that, and want to go somewhere different for a change, there’s good news for you. Some high-tech companies are readying an exciting new venture and when it becomes available, possibly as soon as next year, it will launch a whole new industry, create lots of excitement, and generate big profits for many people.
Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX are just some of the firms involved in perfecting technology that will make it possible for ordinary people to fly in a rocket ship. The first trips will be to the edge of space, but eventually they will go around the Moon and possibly even to other planets.
Actually, the people going on these trips won’t really be ordinary. For one, they’ll be very wealthy - rich enough to purchase tickets for trips like these, and those will be expensive by anyone’s reckoning.
The bidding for a seat on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket for space tourists has already reached $2.8 million - and this number could go even higher. Virgin Galactic is also raking in money from prospective space tourists. Business Insider says 600 customers have already plunked down between $200,000 - $250,000 for a seat.
SpaceX wants to take amateur astronauts on a trip to visit the Moon, and while this should be expensive, it also may not cost anything. Here’s why. One of the travelers who signed up is Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire and entrepreneur - and he said he’d pick up the tab for fellow travelers.
“He’s paying a lot of money, which will help pay for the ship and its booster,” company Chairman Elon Musk said two years ago, “and ultimately for the average citizen to travel to other planets.”
Space tourists also will need to be in exceptionally good physical condition to withstand the rigors and stresses of lift-off, space travel, and touchdown. Initially, this will not be a serious issue because the first trips into space will be very brief. Virgin Galactic’s 90-minute tour will allow travelers to experience weightlessness, but only for several minutes, and Blue Origin’s tour will be comparably brief.
Like other technologies, over time this one will improve and become less expensive, and as it does, trips into space will become more popular and more ambitious. That’s when tourists and the companies that arrange these trips will have to deal with muscle atrophy, bone loss, and related physical changes that can be a major concern not only on extended space flights but even on brief ones.
According to NASA, other health-related issues will also need to be considered. For example, a person’s weight may increase from “X” pounds on Earth to 3X during a trip into space; on the return trip it may fluctuate from weightless to 1.6 times normal. Trips into space also may affect the brain, heart, blood vessels, eyes, ears, and even cells. When SpaceX takes four people on a three-day trip to orbit the Earth later this year - the first time non-professional astronauts will journey into space - it will have given a great deal of thought to these concerns.
Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are also doing as much. Both companies offer training programs to teach travelers essential space skills such as the correct way to get into and out of a capsule, how to move around in a zero-gravity environment, safety, and how to prepare psychologically for the trip in order to get the maximum benefit from this experience.
Space tourism is just getting off the ground, but the concept is already generating a great deal of interest in the travel and shipping industries, not to mention Wall Street. Investment firm UBS believes that many people will want to take a ride into space and that related businesses will emerge.
“While space tourism is still at a nascent phase, we think that as technology becomes proven, and the cost falls due to technology and competition, space tourism will become more mainstream,” UBS analysts Jarrod Castle and Myles Walton told CNBC. Moreover, “Space tourism could be the stepping stone for the development of long-haul travel on Earth serviced by space,” they added.
UBS estimates that the overall space industry, which currently is about a $400 billion business, will double to $805 billion by 2030 when adding in space tourism and related areas like shipping.
Private space companies “are investing aggressively across the space opportunity,” UBS noted, adding this could open additional areas for investment. One of these is long distance travel, as flights lasting 10 or more hours could change dramatically because of new rocket technology.
SpaceX, for example, is building a gigantic rocket that will be able to fly as many as 100 people around the world in minutes. A trip from New York to Shanghai would take just 39 minutes - a small fraction of the 15 hours planes need to make this trip now.
UBS says there are more than 150 million passengers a year that fly on trips that take more than 10 hours. Last year there were 527,000 such trips with an average of 309 seats on each. “If we assume that 5 percent of these flights in the future are serviced by space at $2,500 per trip, the revenue opportunity as of today would be more than $20 billion per year.”
As rockets become faster and more powerful, it may become possible to ship some goods long distances the same day they are ordered, an important new development for many businesses and their customers but also one that potentially could disrupt or even cannibalize existing travel and shipping industries.
With so much activity in space - tourism, shipping, flights to the Moon and beyond, etc. - investors too are looking closely at this emerging industry. There’s always speculation that SpaceX, the Crown Jewel of this industry, will go public, but so far it’s owned by Musk and probably will remain so for the near future at least.
But other space-related companies are already on the market and more are planning to go public according to Investors.com, and among them are Astra Space, Momentus, Vector Acquisition, and Redwire Space.
Meanwhile, Boeing is developing its own space taxis (as well as the most powerful rocket in the world). Lockheed Martin is working with NASA and some very small companies on projects that would ferry astronauts to the Moon and Mars. And there are a number of space-related ETFs (exchange traded funds), including a Cathie Wood’s ARK Space Exploration ETF.
Just because a stock or an ETF is in an exciting industry doesn’t make it a good or timely investment. This determination needs to be made with a financial advisor. In this case, investors who pick the right space stock(s) will be in the rare position of literally watching them take off.
Sources: www.businessinsider.com; cnbc.com; investors.com; nasa.gov; yahoofinance.com