- how will we pay for space development and settlement? -


There are potentially a lot of different sources of revenue. Click here to see a comprehensive list.

As part of the "Lunar COTS" set of public-private programs, NASA and other countries would be the major, up-front source of "investment" in companies for the development of the transportation and surface systems. This government investment would be justified by the fact that these cost-effective, competing elements of the transportation and habitation systems would then be available by the governments to pursue their national goals. This is the approach that has been used by the current public-private programs and it has so far worked quite well. Development costs could be split with companies thereby providing a second major source of revenue.

After the initial crew is in place on the Moon, they would be present to set up a follow-on habitat such as an International Lunar Exploration Facility. During the next phase, countries around the world would purchase one or more seats as part of the lunar exploration program by their national astronauts. So, the next major source of revenue would come from the various countries of the world purchasing transportation and housing services from the participating companies.

With the increased flight rate and economies of scale, wealthy, private individuals (mostly retirees) would purchase transportation, housing, and services using their own savings. This would be the third major source of revenue. It is hoped that the profits generated during the international lunar exploration and private settlement phases would more than make up the initial investments by the governments. So it would seem reasonable that, as part of the agreement for the initial government investment, the companies would agree to pay back a portion of their profits up to the investment amount.

However, there are some other, recognizable potential sources of revenue. These may be harder to quantify but may turn out to be larger than one might normally expect. The page on public inspiration describes a multi-year TV series allowing the public to follow developments as humanity starts taking its first permanent steps off Earth. Media rights could generate a significant amount of revenue. Companies could also charge for product placement to increase revenue. Similarly, people could be charge for the virtual reality experiences of practically being present at these historic events.

But additional revenue from media wouldn't be the only additional source of income. Tourism would probably be a moderate source of revenue. Another noticeable source of revenue could be merchandising (e.g. A toy dog in its space suit, astronaut action figures, lunar habitat doll house, shirts, video games, etc.)

Believe it or not, jewelry made from lunar rocks might actually generate a significant amount of revenue. Consider ten 1 x 1 x 1 meter cubes of rock sent back to Earth as a single payload. Cut to 0.5 x 1 x 1 cm pieces, this payload would yield 50 million pieces of the Moon. This means that only one out of 150 people on the Earth could own a piece of the Moon (or if you prefer, one out of 300 women). Even after shipping 10 cubic meters of rock to Earth, pieces of the Moon would still be rare within one's own, personal, social network. Pieces of the Moon would still be rarer than diamonds. If one charged $300 for each piece of the Moon, the development costs of the program would be covered.

Other sources of revenue could include sales of propellant and propulsion service throughout cislunar space (e.g. transport to Mars, boosting satellites to GEO, orbital servicing, orbital debris removal, etc). Some also make the case for mining platinum group metals on the Moon and launching materials (e.g. metals) off the Moon for use in cislunar space (e.g. for space solar power) among other ideas.

There are a number of identifiable sources of revenue while developing the Moon with the sale of transportation to the Moon being at the heart of it all.

Next: International Exploration