Would you like to invest in something a little different from just your standard stocks and bonds? You could join the ranks of some of the modern day space pioneers hoping to cash in on what is rapidly becoming a popular place to invest your entrepreneurial dollars: space. Here are some space-related investment opportunities to consider.
SEE: Money Facts: The Space Shuttle Program
You might be surprised at how much of your life is affected by satellites. GPS units work by receiving signals from satellites. Weather reports are accurate (sometimes) because of satellite data, and satellite television is a growing trend. If you're the kind of person who likes to visit places far off the technology grid, then you probably have a satellite phone. Most importantly, our national security relies heavily on military satellites.
Satellites can cost hundreds of millions of dollars and at least $50 million to launch, and as we've seen in the past, there's no guarantee that the rocket to launch your satellite will actually make it to space.
Clean up the Junk
According to the Space Surveillance Network (a government agency tasked with tracking all objects in space larger than a baseball), there are at least 8,000 identified objects from earth currently in orbit. These include active satellites, spent rocket parts and other debris. Of those 8,000 orbiting objects, only 7% are operational satellites. Space agencies are becoming increasingly concerned about the growing amount of space debris, which could damage working satellites if they collide. Since space debris travels at speeds of up to 17,000 miles per hour, a collision with even the smallest piece of space junk may destroy a half-billion-dollar satellite.
Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airlines is offering commercial flights into space. A ticket will only set you back $200,000 and there's already more than 500 takers, including actor Ashton Kutcher. The company took its first test flight in 2010 and is inching ever closer to its maiden commercial voyage. However, Virgin isn't the only company offering space travel to the public, as competitors like Space Adventures are selling trips to the Moon. If more companies enter the commercial "space race" and spaceflight becomes commonplace, the price of tickets is sure to drop.
SEE: Save Money - Travel For A Living
Mining an Asteroid
Certain natural resources are becoming harder to find here on Earth, so a new company, backed by filmmaker James Cameron and Google exec Larry Page, wants to go to space to find them. It's simple, really. Launch a satellite, find an asteroid, tow it back to the moon or into Earth's orbit and strip it of anything valuable. Sure, it's never been done, but how hard could it be? It's likely to take hundreds of billions of dollars to do it and if it did work, it may drive down the price of the valuable materials that are believed to be contained on these asteroids.
Set up a Lab
Maybe you're more the scientist-type than the engineer. Not only do Space Shuttles serve as cargo vessels to space, but it's also where many astronauts have made innovations and discoveries in medicine, biology and manufacturing, largely due to the zero-gravity environment. In the future, commercial laboratories and manufacturing facilities may be constructed in space in order to capitalize on the unique features of a zero gravity environment.
The Bottom Line
Until recent years, space travel was reserved for governments that had massive amounts of funds to develop the technology to put man safely into orbit. Now, as private companies see the potential for big profits, spaceflight technology is rapidly evolving, which could push the cost down for private citizens to travel into space. However, for the time being, you can still invest in companies that offer or develop these technologies.
SEE: 5 Ways to Invest in Travel and Tourism.