for National Geographic News
For-profit space business is "critical" to any moon-mission plans, according to NASA under the Bush Administration.
But how do you make money on the moon?
According to experts, there are spaceships to build, moon metals to mine, and energy resources to harness. Not to mention movies to make, low-gravity games to create, and advertising to sell.
"There's every opportunity, from the more serious side of human behavior to the more fun side of human behavior," said Jeff Krukin, the executive director of the Space Frontier Foundation, a Nyack, New York-based space-advocacy organization.
The foundation believes the only way to efficiently explore the moon and beyond is to create permanent human settlements beyond Earth, extending commerce to outer space.
"What we need to realize is we get to take all of it with us," Krukin added.
Krukin was one of more than 180 entrepreneurs, business leaders, government officials, and space scientists who this spring attended a NASA-sponsored meeting in Washington, D.C., to discuss strategy for future space missions to the moon and Mars.
The missions were outlined in 2004 by President George W. Bush in his "Vision for U.S. Space Exploration."
Given the high cost of space exploration, the U.S. space agency cannot afford to meet the vision by itself, according to Frank Schowengerdt, a senior advisor for the Innovative Partnerships Program at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
"True space commerce is critical for making the vision both affordable and sustainable," he said in an email.
Paul Eckert is an international and commercial strategist with the Boeing Company in Arlington, Virginia, who is focused on space commerce. He too sees an opportunity to extend the global economy beyond Earth.
"When we talk about commerce on the moon, it's not just contracts where the government buys services. We're also talking about businesses selling to each other and also to consumers," he said.
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