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The Need for a Business Plan

NASA is looking seriously into sending humans to Mars early in the 21st Century. In the first few years of that century, the technology needed for a human expedition to Mars will exist, the Space Station will be complete and available as a Mars expedition test bed and staging area, and NASA will have refined new low-cost mission approaches that will enable a series of human expeditions within realistic budget parameters.

It is widely believed that the exploration of Mars will be an international venture. It is also widely believed that the private sector, driven by economics, will play a major role. In fact, there appear to be many ways by which the private sector interests can make money from Mars exploration, including:

  • developing products and services based on NASA and other government-funded technologies,

  • participating actively in the ventures themselves as government contractors, and

  • developing their own missions (e.g., a Mars soil sample return mission) for profit.

The role of the Moon in Mars exploration planning is still under discussion within NASA. One major reason for including the Moon would be to provide opportunities for profit by private organizations interested in making money on and from the Moon. When the economics justify it, there will be a number of possibilities, from generating power for consumption on Earth, to the mining of Helium-3 for use in fusion reactors on Earth, to space tourism. None of these are directly in the "critical path" of Mars exploration; yet, for example, the presence of a "for profit" fueling station on the Moon for use in journeys to Mars and other destinations is one useful possibility that has been suggested.

A number of important questions must be answered before humans will travel to Mars. When should humans go to Mars? (It is considered a certainty that they will go some day.) What should they do while they are there? What is the role of the Moon, and lunar exploration, if any? What is the role of the private sector? What are the reasons for private sector involvement? How can money be made? What is the proper role of the international community, both private and public sectors? What are the proper roles of governments? What technologies should governments fund? How much will the venture cost, and how can the money be raised? How should it all be managed? How should the ideas be marketed? How should the public be engaged? Is new legislation required? What is the role of NASA in all of this, and how can the necessary cultural changes be made within the NASA institution to enable all of this to happen?

A Business Plan is needed to begin to answer these questions.

2000 NASA Means Business Student Competition
What is NASA Customer Engagement? What Happened During NMB '99? The Need for a Business Plan Partnering NASA and the Universities

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2000 NASA Means Business Student Competition is sponsored by NASA and is administered by Texas Space Grant Consortium.


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Last Modified: Mon Oct 04, 1999
CSR/TSGC TeamWeb