The space race continues apace after NASA selected three winners from a national contest to build nuclear power stations for the moon. The three companies — IX of Houston, TX; Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, MD; and Westinghouse of Cranberry Township, PA — could see their power station designs launched and tested on the moon by 2030. We are talking about the groundwork for permanent human presence on the moon and beyond!
As space exploration gets more affordable (relatively speaking), due in no small part to the efforts of companies like SpaceX, it will also become more profitable and beneficial to the human race. For business leaders, there will be plenty of ways to get in on the space action.
Moon to Mars: NASA’s Multi-Planetary Plan
This event is part of NASA’s ongoing Moon to Mars mission, a plan to increase the frequency of human landings on the moon and send the first manned mission to Mars. The fission-based nuclear reactors will be capable of providing 40 kilowatts of continuous power for at least 10 years to build more permanent human outposts on the moon.
This represents just a small part of the US space agency’s invitations to industry to create more advanced systems capable of supporting their ambitious goals for space.
Obviously, humans dwelling on the moon will need a reliable power source to make living in the inhospitable conditions possible: a sustainable source that is small enough to be transported on a rocket and doesn’t need vast resources to power shelters, environmental control units, life sustainment, and countless other activities. Nuclear energy provides that answer.
Moon-based outposts may be used as launching points for manned missions to Mars, as well as further explorations of space. For now, that goal remains some time away. NASA’s current system for getting astronauts to the moon, the Space Launch System (SLS), is too expensive to be a viable solution. There is also SpaceX’s Starship program, which is being developed as a reusable heavy ship designed to carry large amounts of crew and equipment to the moon and further afield.
So What’s the So-What?
Beyond the profitability of space-based mining for precious metals and elements, concepts like space tourism or the search for life outside Earth present exciting opportunities for business leaders who may not be directly involved in space travel.
There is also the fact that fission-based nuclear power is a low-emission, sustainable source of energy that could be an excellent alternative to coal-based electricity. Finally, as is often the case with technology, significant technological advancements we use daily can trace their roots to space exploration (remember to thank NASA if you ever need an artificial limb).
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A Universe of Opportunities
It’s hard to fathom or predict just how many opportunities could be available to the average company if we are able to establish a human presence on the moon or Mars. There is the obvious boost to manufacturing and mining that would come with new requirements for high-tech devices or metals for space colonization. We could explore the space tourism route with (admittedly wealthy at first) explorers eager for a short visit to a celestial body.
There will be room for the medical, agricultural, technology, or even consumer-goods industries to get their feet in the proverbial door. Those brave souls who first venture to Mars are going to face a plethora of unknown health risks, not to mention how managing those risks will affect healthcare here on Earth. New developments in food technology will be required, both for the long journey as well as for creating a sustainable supply for people living on the planet.
One Small Step … You Know the Rest
Each of these developments in space exploration is just a tiny step forward, but taken together, are critical if we want to put humans on Mars someday. The final frontier is more within reach every day. Opportunities might not be available now, particularly to those companies who aren’t directly involved in contracts with NASA, however, those forward-thinking leaders with a vision could take steps to position themselves to capitalize on these trends in the next several decades.