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Why Would a Business Go to Space?
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By: Teri Bernstein

 

 PBS: Why do we go to space?

 

Planet Money, the podcast series on business from NPR, has obtained space on a satellite (owned by Planet) orbiting the Earth and taking pictures. (But they still need a rocket.) This may sound exciting, but then they asked themselves: Why are they doing it?

 

One of the reasons is "Space Fever." And if there is "fever", it may mean there is a business "bubble" rather than a long-going investment opportunity. They rationalize their pictures as being a time machine, even though their first impulse is to find their personal homes using the satellite data. Still, that is not all that is happening with space data.

 

In developing their rationale, the Planet Money people talk to spies at Genscape. Genscape professionals obtain and gather data for clients--measuring whether power plants are running for example. Genscape actually can spy on how much oil is in a tanker in a Chinese port as well. This is useful, salable data. 

 

So, (again referencing a personal interest) a possible mission for Planet Money pod 1: avocado pricing prediction, based on the timing of supply. They can look at heat patterns for ripening and track avocado trucks or ships or avocados on pallets. "Tracking complementary commodities" might also be utilized in this mission. 

 

All of these measurements can be accomplished from space. And Planet Money is planning on zeroing in on one of the many reasons that can be summed up as "industrial espionage."

 

Source: "Space 2: Wait, Why are we going to space?" by Stacey Vanek Smith and Robert Smith, NPR: Planet Money, December 1, 2017.

 

Discussion: 

  • Why might any business want to do space exploration? Consider Elon Musk's SpaceX and Avatar (fictional) in your answer. Give examples and support your research. 
  • Describe what the company Planet does. What is their source of revenue? It is described in the middle of the podcast. 
  • Listen to the first episode in the series. How did Planet Money get involved in this project?
  • Do you think the backstory about how pictures were "captured" by the Corona satellites was relevant to the story? Explain your answer, in terms of marketing communication.