Space… the Money Frontier

In today’s Exponential Investor…

  • Yep it’s still as bad as it was then
  • Marvin the air traffic controller
  • Some lesser-known space companies

I finally did it.

I’ve been contemplating doing it for a couple of weeks.

I saw it first pop up and thought to myself, “Should I?”

I put it off for long enough, and this week I decided to pull the pin and regardless of what the public would think I just did it.

I decided to watch Ad Astra again, to give it a second chance.

I first saw it on a flight back to Australia last year. And frankly I came in and out of consciousness watching it.

Now I don’t know if it was the screen size of the plane or if it was a bit of jet lag kicking in. But from my first viewing it was utterly boring. Still, there were parts of it that I found fascinating.

Visually it’s pretty damn cool. And that scene where they’re bolting across the moon to the dark side Mars launch pad and get attacked by space pirates… that’s actually quite epic.

So, I decided to give it another go. Hopefully a bigger screen, better sound, me not utterly tired, would give it the real chance to impress me as another “classic” space movie.

Alas, it is equally as boring the second time around. It’s still visually stunning. But as far as “classics” go, this is not one. If you haven’t seen it, don’t bother. Plenty of other great space movies out there.

If you have seen the movie, then you’ll know what I mean.

Marvin finds his calling

What interested me about it though was the idea that in the “near future” in which the movie is set, we can quickly and easily skip from Earth to the moon and from the moon to Mars.

And then from Mars, maybe further out again into the deeper parts of our solar system.

The trip to the moon was just a few hours in Ad Astra. The trip to Mars was only 19 days. And then the trip out to Neptune, where ultimately Brad Pitt finds himself meeting Tommy Lee Jones, just over two months.

All very cool stuff. Except there’s a bit of a problem with it all.

You see NASA has just last week launched the “Perseverance” rover to Mars. This new rover is expected to land on Mars to “search for signs of ancient life and collect samples to send back to Earth.”

This in itself is very cool stuff. But it’s going to take Perseverance six months and 18 days to get to Mars. NASA expects to land the rover on Mars on 18 February 2021.

That’s a bit more than the 19 days Ad Astra predicts. But I guess the movie would have been 10.6 times more boring had they been a little more accurate with their time.

What’s really fascinating about all this, however, is the very short, sharp new interest in space.

NASA launched its Mars rover on 30 July. But two weeks before NASA, the UAE also launched a Mars mission. It too is expecting to land in February 2021. And then right in between, on 23 July, China launched a Mars mission and it’s also expecting to land in February 2021!

Wow, Mars is going to be busy in February. Can just picture Marvin the Martian doing some air traffic controlling, waiting for them all to guide them all down.

Source: Wikipedia

Why have three major space bodies all sent expeditions to Mars within just three weeks? What is really the purpose of getting on and looking around Mars?

We still haven’t had anyone walk on the moon since the early 70s with Apollo 17. We’ve only just got the International Space Station. And there’s barely any talk of constructing infrastructure on the moon.

Why Mars, why now?

So why Mars? It’s a curious question, and maybe there’s more to it that we’ll ever know. Maybe there’s something tied in with the recent release of information from the Pentagon that the UFO aircraft the US Navy pilots had seen, were in fact truly unidentified… and possibly not of this world.

Who knows. You can never really trust what you get from these organisations.

But what is clear is that in order to get these missions into space, and to get vehicles on to Mars, you need to spend big and you need companies to build it all. You need communications, you need the hardware, you need the mission critical software to make it all happen.

And a lot of that gets contracted out to private companies. There are the likes of Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) and Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) which are clear stakeholders in these games. But there are lesser-known, smaller companies out there like Electro Optic Systems (ASX:EOS) and Maxar Technologies (NYSE:MAXR).

I expect that we’ll see more hit the markets when it comes to the new space race. Smaller, more upstart, exciting companies building out the tech needed to explore the near parts of the solar system… and maybe the further parts too.

It’s an exciting area for investment because it’s so “out there” and so much a realm of science fiction that it truly captures the imagination.

And there are parts of all this that maybe aren’t as “sci-fi” as we might think.

When Brad Pitt goes on a quick trip to the moon in Ad Astra, he flies in a rocket from Virgin Atlantic. Considering Virgin Galactic’s (NYSE:SPCE) recent reveal of its space flight cabin design, maybe that part of the movie is the closest thing to the truth we’ve seen in a space movie for a while.


Sam Volkering
Editor, Exponential Investor

Category: Technology

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