Mars, Brought to You by Corporate Sponsors
The proposal suggests that companies could drum up $160 billion for a human mission to Mars and a colony there, rather than having governments fund such a mission with tax dollars.
Joel Levine, a senior research scientist at NASA Langley Research Center, was quoted in a release in the Journal of Cosmology by Dr. Rhawn Joseph. The plan covers "every aspect of a journey to the red planet — the design of the spacecrafts, medical health and psychological issues, the establishment of a Mars base, colonization, and a revolutionary business proposal to overcome the major budgetary obstacles which have prevented the U.S. from sending astronauts to Mars," said Levine.
Money could get raised from the licensing of broadcast rights, clothing, toys, movies, books, games, and so forth. Perhaps even selling the mineral and land rights on Mars could generate money.
"The solution is marketing, merchandising, and corporate sponsorships, which is something NASA has never done before," Levine told Joseph for his Journal of Cosmology release. Levine continued, "It's a whole new economic plan for financing a journey to Mars and what will become the greatest adventure in the history of the human race."
Joseph also quotes Rudy Schild of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who edited the book along with Levine. Schild said, "A mission to Mars would motivate millions of students to pursue careers in science and technology, thereby providing corporate America with a huge talent pool of tech-savvy young scientists." Schild continued, "Then there are the scientific and technological advances which would directly benefit the American people. Cell phones, GPS devices, and satellite TV owe their existence to the space programs of the 1960s. The technologies which might be invented in support of a human mission to Mars stagger the imagination."
"There can be little doubt," Schild told Joseph, "that a human mission to Mars will launch a technological and scientific revolution, create incredible business opportunities for corporate America, the manufacturing sector, and the aerospace industry, and inspire boys and girls across the U.S. to become scientists and engineers."
Levine noted the idea of funding a human mission to Mars through corporations and private companies "is a major departure from the way we've done things in space up to now. A lot of things will have to be worked out — NASA in the past has not sold advertising time, television rights and so on."
"I think it likely most people would find it difficult to conceive there wouldn't be any government involvement in such a mission," said space-law expert Timothy Nelson at New York-based law firm Skadden. "The possession of a rocket alone would probably trip you up on the military regulations that govern the ownership of missile technology in the United States. Not to sound too cynical, but space rockets were built as a byproduct of the arms race."
There is no ban on putting ads on the sides of spacecraft or for licensing TV broadcast rights on such missions in the existing law regarding outer space, Nelson said. "The question becomes, economically, whether you can generate enough license fee revenue to pay for what you're trying to do," he said.
As to land and other rights, "There's going to have to be an international organization deciding what you can or can't do on Mars," Levine said. "I don't think we can say we can divide up Mars and sell it."
Indeed, there is no accepted international system for the licensing of mineral rights on the celestial bodies, including Mars. "There are web sites that tell you they can sell you a title deed to a celestial body, but unless there is an internationally recognized and sanctioned system for the utilization of resources in outer space, then you buy or sell those at your own risk," Nelson said.
"If you use Antarctica as an example, it was once thought to be a frozen wasteland. When people later took a different view, it resulted in a joint moratorium on mining there," Nelson said. "Even before they took on that view, there was a jointly-agreed system for mining that never took off, which contained strict environmental safeguards. I'm sure if there was any ecological element anywhere on Mars, the greater part of world opinion would favor some kind of regulatory safeguards."
To Levine, the cost of sending humans to Mars is the biggest hurdle to overcome. "It's a budget issue, a money issue," Levine said. "Once the money is available, we can do it. A human mission to Mars will be one the greatest adventures in the history of the human race. To me, it's not a question of will we go — it's when we'll go."
Still, when it comes to the $160 billion the plan suggests corporations might pony up for such a mission, "where I grew up, that's a lot of money," Nelson quipped.
Editors note: Much of the information in this article was detailed in Chapter XIII.55. of the book "The Human Mission to Mars: Colonizing the Red Planet", "Marketing Mars: Financing the Human Mission to Mars and the Colonization of the Red Planet", by Dr. Rhawn Joseph, Emeritus, Brain Research Laboratory, Northern California.