By now, most are aware that Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos went to space, achieving one of the many milestones they have been working towards. Whether the space race is between countries or billionaires, I’m excited by it. Why? Because we all win. An important benefit that comes with this competition is the boost in innovation. Competition among companies (or billionaires) can spur the invention of new, better and cost-effective products, or more efficient processes and infrastructure. Bezos refers to this as the “road to Space”, so that our kids and their kids can build the future. The simple fact is that infrastructure lets entrepreneurs do amazing things, and unlocks massive value and entrepreneurial creativity – look what the internet did. Moreover, competition can also help businesses identify consumer needs, and aid the development of new products or services to meet them, while lowering cost and improving quality (safe and cheap Space travel – I’m in!).
The bottom line is that it’s hard to ignore that new Space technologies will bring fundamental changes that will influence business and our personal lives.
The desire to explore and discover is deeply rooted in the human spirit. But Space is expensive and dangerous. The barriers to entry are currently high. Bezos mentioned that we are at the infancy of Space travel, what he referred to as the “barnstormer phase”. His current lineup of rockets is like the biplanes that were flying into a farmer’s field, charging a small price to fly for a few minutes in the air. But the barnstorming phase leads to 787s by removing barriers for future generations of entrepreneurs.
So, to imagine what future generations of entrepreneurs may do within this “Space”, we need to go over the reasons to put a rocket into Space at the moment and there are four of them. Here’s a quick summary*, in order of near-to-medium-term relevance (i.e. having any purpose this century):
- Space Payload (Hauling stuff)
- Scientific exploration
- Suborbital tourism
Simple, easy and lucrative. Hauling stuff — mostly communication satellites — into orbit.
Scientific exploration is worthwhile, but it’s not a business. It feeds businesses (hauling, materials, communications), but this is deep science, better pursued by government.
Flying customers to Space to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and to take in the beautiful view of Earth. Some believe it’s bad business, but Branson and Bezos think otherwise. Bezos mentioned that through their auction process and private sales, which is approaching a $100 million dollars, demand is very, very high.
As for colonization of Mars, many are bearish. Elon Musk, on the other hand, not so much. Whether thinking Colonizing the Red Planet is a PR stunt or will not happen in our lifetime, isn’t really the point. The point is (as Bezos mentioned), Space travel is not about escaping Earth. Earth is the only good planet in this solar system. Blue Origin has sent tons of robotic probes to all of them to prove it. He then went on to say: “I promise you Earth is the only good planet and we have to take care of it. If you go into Space and see how fragile it is, you’ll want to take care of it even more. That’s what this is about.”
In the end, whether Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, SpaceX and others are deciding to haul stuff, explore, colonize or provide tourism services, Space will not only be important for the future of transportation, it will be important for the future of imagination – the main ingredient that will inspire and usher in a new group of entrepreneurs ready to wonder, invent and add value to the universe. We must have a future of dynamism for our grandchildren and their grandchildren. Big things start small. Imagine how the world would be today if the Wright brothers weren’t backed with optimism and support.
I’m excited to participate in any way I can, and I think you should be too.
I’ll leave you with some words of inspiration:
To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream, looking up to the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship with lots of other wonderful adults looking down on our beautiful, beautiful earth. To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.Sir Richard Branson
Going to Space and coming back to Earth reinforces how much you love and how much you are loved.Jeff Bezos
Elon – when are you going?
*Scott Galloway newsletter