Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX fame, recently predicted that by 2030, two of his rocket ships will leave Earth, and make an almost eight-month journey to Mars. Twenty “space pilgrims” will make the inaugural journey. By 2040, SpaceX plans to send larger, more sophisticated colonizer ships with the capacity to carry up to 100 people each. These people, modern day settlers, will need food, water, housing, oxygen, and a vast array of technology to make their lives productive and comfortable. What will settling Mars look like? What jobs and industries will be needed? Will private space exploration pave the way for private businesses, and most importantly, will there be Starbucks on Mars?
As we eye Mars, and space in general, as our next frontier, it’s hard to imagine that international brands such as Marriott, McDonald’s, Amazon, and Starbucks wouldn’t be interested in eventual space expansion. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be room for other businesses to compete, and even thrive. Let’s take a look at a few possible space business opportunities.
While government space agencies may handle initial construction projects, Musk is on record as saying no government really has claim to space. This means that Mars may just be the true free market small business owners have always been clamoring for. Building homes, condos and whatever else on Mars will be expensive and possibly dangerous, which means that we can expect private space contracting companies, big and small, to find a foothold as humans seek out a safe and comfortable place to call their own.
Water and Food Production on Mars
If Musk and other interplanetary trailblazers want to build long term colonies on Mars, water transport will be a necessity. Beyond the need for a company, or companies, to meet Mars’s water needs, there is a possibility that an intrepid entrepreneur could figure out a cost-effective way to produce water from hydrogen and oxygen that we might find on Mars. NASA isn’t one hundred percent sure, but they don’t deny that there is a possibility that Mars may have its own water sources, which if discovered, could give rise to water drilling platforms akin to our current oil and gas technology.
Of course water will be needed for more than just drinking. Growing crops in space on a commercial scale is a real possibility, especially with our current hydroponic technology. Let’s not forget the emerging technology of lab grown meat. If a company were to make such a technology viable and cost effective, we wouldn’t need to transport a spaceship Noah’s Ark of livestock. Businesses need to meet demand, and on Mars, the demand for water and food will be a great opportunity for all kinds of innovative businesses.
Private spaceflight is being marketed as the next experience in luxury escapism. Sub-orbital flights have gained much of the focus of space tourism and the market is expected to bloom as soon as safe, reliable and profitable vehicles are operational. Already there are a number of sub-orbital craft under development or soon to be operational. Reservations have already been made. Virgin Galactic is currently pricing sub-orbital flights at $250,000 a passenger, though prices are expected to lower to $50,000 within 10 years.
So, will we have space cruises to Mars as well? The time investment is much longer than a quick space flight. Using current rocket technology and optimal orbit patterns, it would take roughly 18 months just getting to Mars and back home. Visitors would also have to spend around 3 months on the red planet. So, we can’t quite equate a space journey to Mars and back with current space tourism. But, there other interesting long-term travel possibilities, from luxury destination vacations for the uber wealthy to hands-on university programs.
Hospitality and Entertainment
Once Mars has long-term or permanent residents, there will be a need for entertainment. And if there are visitors, there will also be a need for some semblance of a hospitality industry. Luckily, humanity has thousands of years of a hospitality experience—at least terrestrially.
Bars have been a a part of human civilization as far back as ancient Babylon. Historical records tell us that restaurants popped up in China around the 11th century. The Greeks and Romans built “hotels” for travelers. Live music and entertainment was a hallmark of Persian civilization. As the United States expanded westward, some of the first businesses to spring up were rooted in the hospitality and entertainment industries. Boarding houses, restaurants, saloons, and theaters, sometimes all rolled into one, were the highlight of many western towns.
Today, not much has changed—the boarding house might be a Holiday Inn and the restaurant might be a Denny’s. But all these businesses serve the same needs of the weary traveler: relaxation, a sense of community, entertainment—and with the advent of globalization—familiarity and consistency. An American touristcanvisit a Sheraton in Morocco ora Starbucks in Japan and get the same room amenities or Frappuccino they’re familiar with at home. No doubt visitors will be able to do the same on Mars some day.
So will there be Starbucks on Mars? Of course. Where people go, business follows.
At Northwest Registered Agent, we offer guides that help business owners and people looking to start a business, from our basic How to Start a Business Guide to our Small Business Ideas page where we can help you figure out the needs of a particular industry or business model. So while we can’t help you start a business on Mars… yet, we can help you start a business here on earth.