The Case For Mars Funding - Making Exploration Pay
The estimated cost of a sustainable, long term human Mars exploration/settlement initiative is $50 billion. Raising such sums in 10-30 years' time is unlikely within the framework of "traditional" venture funding. Moreover, against competitive, more experienced special interest groups, and in an unpredictable political climate, it is unlikely that we will be able to win sufficient government funding, either. In response to this challenge, the author proposes establishing a new venture capital funding entity, offering 30-year "bond-shares" for sale at mass-market unit prices, in a public global appeal to individuals, corporations and governments. The fund would be a new class of investment vehicle, sharing characteristics with mutual funds, IPOs, junk bonds and limited partnerships. The low minimum investment would make the Fund "venture capital for the masses", easily available to countless individuals and investment groups. The Fund's managers would select a project management firm to be Prime Contractor for Mars missions, through which direct capital outlays would be made. Capital not immediately allocated for Mars-specific purposes would be placed in more traditional short to medium-term investments. But the concept's uniqueness comes from large corporations' ability to invest in the fund by supplying goods and services required by the Fund's Prime Contractor. The fund would issue a form of "bearer bond" to such corporate suppliers, redeemable by said contractor.
Upon meeting the initial capital goal of $10 billion, the Fund could mount the first human expedition and begin reaping immediate returns. To the Fund would belong exclusively all data, samples, media coverage, and post-mission "tie-ins"--the marketing of which would more than cover the entire cost of the first human mission. Furthermore, any new mission hardware or infrastructure would become the joint property of the Contractor and the Fund. In the spirit of the fundamental engineering paradigm shift represented by the "Mars Direct" concept, we wish to create a concomitant economic paradigm shift to open the Martian frontier.