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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Money-men see space for profit
Company displaying at the symposium
Many companies have space-based products

Scientists regard space as the final frontier, but for business people it could represent the next Industrial Revolution.

That is the claim of the Space Frontier Foundation which says a cosmic payday awaits those with the vision and guts to invest.

At a symposium in Silicon Valley, the foundation outlined a series of opportunities that suggested space could be a great place for entrepreneurs to make money.

A report by SpaceBusiness.com has forecast that the industry could be worth between $200-$300bn by 2010.

The foundation told a room full of venture capitalists and possible investors that today, the "win, win" sectors are those with applications that can be used on Earth such as telecommunications, GPS navigation systems and broadband.

The other sectors that require more risk include rocket building and remote sensing.

'Dream destinations'

However, the topic that seemed to really get people talking was the future of space travel.

The issue has been a headline-grabber ever since the American millionaire Dennis Tito paid the Russians for a ride into orbit.

And last month, South African Internet tycoon Mark Shuttleworth came back to Earth after his trip to the International Space Station.

These two individuals went into orbit with the assistance of Space Adventures Ltd.

Rick Tumlinson
Rick Tumlinson: Space could get popular
At the moment, the 23-year-old popstar Lance Bass from NSync is pinning his hopes on going into orbit with the help of the Space Frontier Foundation.

The Foundation's President Rick Tumlinson says these people prove the Moon could one day rival Hawaii as a dream destination.

He said: "Dennis Tito is a wonderful guy, but even he admits he's not exactly the poster child for space.

"The great thing is that even Nasa got excited about the Lance Bass idea because they realised all of a sudden millions of teenage girls around the world who couldn't even spell space will be paying attention now."

Wealth of potential

A recent poll by Zogby International found that 7% of wealthy Americans would pay $20m for a two-week space vacation, while 19% would spend $100,000 for a 15 minute sub-orbital flight.


Assume that there was a city on the Moon; wouldn't you want to go there and spend a couple of weeks?

Jacques Vallee, Mythospace
The $64,000 question, however, is whether or not the venture capital industry is willing to get on board.

Ken Winans, who manages a fund of $113m, is a total convert.

"If more and more people go up it will get cheaper. Why can't we have people travelling in space in five years?

"The technology is there. All we have to have is the will."

Moon tourism

Jacques Vallee of Mythospace invests in start-up companies.

He says he favours the communications and satellite markets but admits to being seduced by space tourism from a personal point of view.

He said: "If you talk about the next 10 years or 15 years, it cannot make money long-term.

"But assume that there was a city on the Moon; wouldn't you want to go there and spend a couple of weeks?

"But there is still the risk in both investment and risk to life. In 10 years, maybe it will be completely different."

Nasa has said that its goal is "to improve life here, to extend life to there and find life beyond."

However, it acknowledges the need for commercial partners.

Caroline Blake, chief of its commercial technical office at Nasa, Ames, in California, said: "Our mission is not to do the commercial part.

"It's to do the research and technology.

"We will always do the serious research we can offer to the companies and the companies can look at that and use it for commercial applications."

See also:

25 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
01 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
04 Jun 01 | Science/Nature
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