Archive for June, 2012

Commercial Spaceflight: The Next Big Boom?

If you are looking for an investment opportunity, how’s this for size?  An industry where a founder of Google, a founder of Microsoft, a founder of Pay Pal, a founder of Amazon, an airline and cell phone magnate, a former head of Goldman Sachs, and the highest grossing filmaker of all time are all investing – some heavily.* Some are creating new start ups or investing in the start ups of others. That’s a lot of smart money all in one place.

What is this new potential boom?

In 1824 the US Supreme Court case Gibbons vs. Ogden, the court nullified a monopoly for steam ship travel along the Hudson River. One of Mr. Gibbons’ employees, a river captain called “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt ran with the result of this decision. He went on to fame as a Steam Ship builder and operator and eventually a railroad magnate. He also became the richest man in America. The transportation revolution he helped spearhead changed America and the world.

In the last few years, the NASA based government monopoly on space travel in the United States has been nullified. We are now in the Steam Ship phase of commercial spaceflight. There will be later the equivalent of railroads (right now the concept is called a space elevator – it is a vertical railroad.) But that will be the topic of a future column.


Somebody is going to be the Cornelius Vanderbilt of Space. Somebody is going to be the Henry Ford of Space (hopefully with all the inventive genius minus the bigotry.) Somebody is going to be the Jay Gould of Space. Somebody is going to be the Andrew Carnegie of Space materials. Somebody is going to be the Guggenheim (Copper mining Barron) of Space mining. Somebody is going to be the Alexander Graham Bell of Space. Hopefully we will have the Nicola Tesla and Thomas Edison of Space as well.

We are entering into a period of innovation and exploration done by the private sector on the first true frontier since the American West. All of the NASA missions up until now were just Lewis and Clark. We are entering into a time of great expansion – also a time when fortunes previously unthinkable are made.

I’ll be exploring this new horizon in a series of articles.

* If you are wondering who the investors referred to are: Larry Page (Google), Paul Allen, (Microsoft), Elon Musk (Pay Pal), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), John Whitehead (Goldman Sachs) and James Cameron (Titanic and Avatar.)

Next up: Who are the current players in commercial spaceflight?

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