Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE) and the Potentials of Space Tourism

What the company does: Develops commercial spacecraft and wants to provide suborbital spaceflight for space tourism and scientific missions. Current price is $250k. 

With the magnification in intensity of climate change and global warming, many have wondered if the next step for humanity is between the stars. Some advocates of this proposition include Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, who is adamant on establishing a colony on Mars, former theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who ominously proclaimed that the human race would become extinct if we didn’t colonize another planet within 100 years, and President Trump, who recently supported a $25 billion budget for NASA and agreed the “goal is Mars.”

With a Mars colony becoming more mainstream in pop culture, public interest in space tourism has rapidly gained traction, not only for recreational enjoyment but also as a stepping stone towards the colonization of Mars. Supporters of space tourism argue it could become a $20 billion industry, reduce the costs of reaching space as spacecraft become more efficient, and allow for extensive exploration of our solar system (and debunk the flat Earth myth). Detractors, however, argue the unpredictable nature of space, including the effects of cosmic rays, radiation, asteroids, and low gravity for extended periods of time, may lead to health risks for humans. Critics of space tourism also claim hypersonic travel would disrupt the airline industry and warn of the possibility of humans posing a myriad of environmental ramifications on space. 

However, with global temperatures rapidly increasing, exacerbated by the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2017, it may be necessary to consider the galaxy and the unlimited potential of space. Recent studies have estimated our Milky Way contains potentially more habitable planets than grains of sand on Earth. If this is true, humanity is in a predicament. Many of these planets are located thousands of light-years away, and we don’t have the capable technology to land humans, much less colonize them. This, coupled with rising global temperatures, means we are in a race against climate change with limited time. Space tourism can provide an initial stage where technology can become more refined for space travel, with Mars as potentially the next human colony.

The financial markets have supported space tourism, with Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE), a leading company which develops commercial spacecraft and wants to provide suborbital spaceflight for space tourism and scientific missions, seeing its stock price increase roughly 216% year-to-date. While Virgin Galactic is the leading publicly traded company catering to space tourism, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin are developing and testing their own rockets, and are predicted to enter the space tourism industry. Although humanity currently lacks the technological ability to terraform Mars and/or survive on the Martian Planet, space tourism may allow us not only to develop faster methods of travel but also enhance our curiosity to explore space, the final frontier. With the current trends in the financial markets, and political forces supporting the space industry, could space tourism and a Mars colony be the next step for humanity?


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