Talk about corporate synergies. Recently, an underwater archaeological team uncovered famed privateer Henry Morgan’s flagship, the Satisfaction, near Panama. Interestingly enough, this team had run out of money earlier in its survey. Riding to the rescue was…Captain Morgan. Not the three-centuries dead pirate. The rum maker, subsidiary of multinational beverage conglomerate Diageo.
We ascribe a great deal of romance to exploration, with images of sailors scanning the horizon with a glass, or a starship captain peering into the unknown on the viewscreen. But you know what really powers exploration? Profits. Columbus didn’t ship out for China due to a hankering for dim sum. He wanted to find a quicker trade route, and thus reap the rewards from the Spanish crown. Morgan was working for the English crown, which was competing with the Spanish for the spoils of the New World. And let’s remember that the East India Trading Company did plenty of exploring — and exploiting — in its 275-year, highly profitable history.
What about space exploration? Sending men to the Moon was good and all, but it was a skirmish in the greater political and economic struggle between capitalism and communism. No Cold War, no Moon. At least, no Moon in 1969.
Nowadays, NASA is ready to hand off the basics of space travel to private companies. Personally, I consider this a good thing in the long run. Private companies do a better job of innovating and bringing in projects within budget. They’re there to make a profit, and in doing so, they figure out how to do things better. One such company, SpaceX, is even thinking about a trip to Mars.
Private exploration of Mars makes a lot of sense to me. There’s certainly value there, particularly when it comes to deuterium, which has the potential to be hugely valuable in nuclear power generation. And there’s a lot more readily accessible deuterium in Martian ice than on Earth. (This is, in fact, a key piece of my setting in Spacebuckler.) Where there’s value, there’s potential for profit. And companies are always looking to turn a buck.
So let’s raise a glass to Captain Morgan Rum, which spent real money in the name of exploration — and brand awareness. They won’t be the last.