Space Race 2.0 Starts Now
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched a small satellite into a low orbit around Earth.
That satellite was Sputnik 1. Over time it became an integral, if not infamous, part of America's own journey to space.
Of course, by today's technology standards, Sputnik 1 wasn't much to look at.
The basketball-sized satellite looked like it was cobbled together in a child's sandbox. Yet, despite its gawky appearance, Sputnik 1 still managed to orbit the Earth every 98 minutes, passing over the United States at least seven times a day.
This makes Sputnik 1 a bit of a marvel, at least by 1957 standards. It also made it the cause of a good deal of American anxiety.
It's not reassuring to have a foreign country's satellite rushing over your head multiples times a day. With Sputnik circling like a shark, Americans began to feel the nagging influence of the Soviet Union. There was a growing fear that a foreign power was about to seize space for its own.
That American anxiety culminated to create one of the greatest races in human history: the race for space.
And in order to win this race, the United States reached deep into its wallet... and I mean deep.
The Cost of the Moon
I don't know about you, but I was in complete awe the first time I flipped open a LIFE magazine to find a grainy picture depicting the moon landing.
In this picture, a helmeted astronaut is firmly planting a U.S. flag on the moon's surface. It was a photo that would inspire countless conspiracy theories and history lessons. And it didn't come into existence without a hefty price tag.
After the launch of Sputnik 1, the United States started spending money like water.
Between 1957 and 1969, the United States spent more than $25.4 billion on space research. That may not seem like much in today's debt-ridden world, but adjusted for inflation, that neat $25.4 billion becomes over $170 billion.
To stay that is a stunning amount would be a gross understatement.
Even after the space race concluded, the amount the United States government spends on space research has continued to increase. NASA's 2016 budget was $19.3 billion. In 2017, the agency had a budget of $19.7 million.
And these days the government isn't the only one willing to spend billions to reach the stars.
Private companies have ventured into the realm of space travel as well. And with that has come a steady stream of income from investors, venture capitalists, and mega-giant tech companies, making the private space companies the best bet for investors who want to profit on space travel.
Private Companies Take the Reigns
In the last 10 years, the cosmos have become a playground for investors.
In the United States alone, there are over a dozen companies trying to get to space. Quite a few of these are simply launching satellites into orbit. These satellites can become the playthings of wealthy individuals or provide the foundation for developing Earth-based technologies like 5G and the Internet of Things.
There are also a small handful of companies focused on making money through commercializing space travel.
The most famous names in this space are Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX. More than likely you've heard a few of those names.
At this point, Elon Musk's SpaceX is basically a household name.
Musk has already set the bar high for his company, saying that SpaceX aims to be the first to take humans to Mars and commercialize space travel. Founded in 2002, SpaceX has had over 15 years to work toward that goal, becoming the first private company to dock a commercial space ship at the International Space Station.
On February 6, 2018, SpaceX made history again by launching the Heavy Falcon, which is the first space shuttle to be partly reusable.
While SpaceX appears to be on the ball, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are not far behind.
And all of these companies are spending money to make their space ambitions a reality.
While SpaceX saves a significant sum by reusing certain parts of its Falcon rockets, the company is still doling out over $60 million to build each rocket, and that doesn't factor in the cost of fuel.
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Building the vehicles that take us to the stars is expensive and has a lot of moving parts. There are a lot of picks and shovels and opportunities for investors to get involved. And once the first space tourists take off, the demand for these kinds of shuttles will skyrocket.
After all, if you had the money, wouldn't you want to see the Earth from the stars?
This is likely why Goldman Sachs has referred to space as the "next investment frontier."
Private companies have added a whole new layer to space exploration by providing private support to government corporations like NASA. They have also opened the floodgates to investors.
And the good news is that a second space race could be kicking off.
The Space Race Heats Up
The first space race was the result of competition between foreign powers.
Today, a similar competition is taking place, as multiple countries vie for technological dominance. Out of these countries, there are still two central players: the United States and Russia.
Both of these countries have demonstrated a renewed commitment to space travel and research in the last year. And both have been in the headlines just this past week for leadership statements regarding space research.
On March 15th, Vladimir Putin stood in front of a full audience of Russian reporters and announced that Russia planned to send a human to Mars by 2019.
Putin emphasized that this work would be a continuation of the Soviet space program that was abandoned when the Soviet Union fell.
Putin's comments came almost immediately after President Donald Trump came forward stating that his national defense strategy didn't exclude space. Trump told a rapt audience that "space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea."
All technological progress considered, Trump is far from wrong. Humans have been reaching further into the cosmos since the 1969 moon landing. We've successfully sent rovers to other planets and seen beyond the brink of our galaxy.
It would appear that the world is getting ready to forge into space a second time. But this time, private companies will also be in on the competition.
Of course, it's a bit too early to start investing in the space race right now. A large portion of private company funding still flows from large corporations.
But soon, individual investors will have the chance to invest in picks-and-shovels suppliers behind the private companies that are leading the charge.
And we will be keeping an eye out for those companies.
P.S. For many investors, the biggest profits lie in emerging technologies. At Wealth Daily, we cover a wide range of emerging technologies, from artificial intelligence to blockchain. Today we are proud to announce the launch of a new FREE e-letter, Token Authority, which will become available to readers in late March. To stay up to date with the launch, make sure to follow Token Authority on social media. Connect with us here.
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