American Marketer


Outer space: The ultimate luxury?

May 5, 2014

David Moritz is president of Mode Design Group David Moritz is president of Mode Design Group


By David Moritz

We do not usually associate things that offer “democratic” access with “luxury” business, but democratic access is the theme at the launch of the New Space public outreach program, Earth+, hosted last week at the prestigious Explorer’s Club headquarters in New York’s Upper East Side.

Much of the public is unaware of the extent of development in the private, commercial spaceflight industry. Multiple private companies are launching rockets. Creating new space suits. Designing vehicles. And all of the related accoutrements of space travel and exploration.

Not out of this world
The companies in this industry – members of the space industry association called the Commercial Spaceflight Federation – are making consistent progress.

For some the goals are “modest” such as less costly satellite launches. Others are more ambitious, trying to mine asteroids or establish colonies on Mars.

We can all agree though, that whatever the goal is, you have to start somewhere. And we have in fact started.

The nonprofit education and public awareness organization, Earth+, has newly formed with one of its purposes to spread the word that democratic access to space has started now. You do not have to work for the government to work in the space industry.

Space travel will start out as something like a luxury experience, not in terms of comfort, but in cost and therefore exclusivity. You can go to space if you want to, are physically fit enough, and have the money. The barriers are starting to come down.

Meanwhile, the message of the New Space movement is what is being termed the “democratization” of space – achieved through simply expanding the idea of being involved in space travel to a little wider circle than just being an astronaut or rocket scientist.

On the plus side
It is true that for every one astronaut there are teams of engineers, specialists, builders, and even creatives such as designers and publicists.

Now we are in a time where you do not have to work for the government to be involved in space one way or another. I think it may be likely that many people love and support the idea of space travel without actually wanting to personally go to space.

But for others, it is about personal travel to space, and for the parts of the space industry that are allowing this for touristic reasons, it will be quite the luxury experience – in some sense, at least.

However, remember that many innovations start off as luxuries only for the privileged few and then surprisingly quickly become more “democratic.”

Of course, air travel comes to mind and is now accessible to many people, albeit in different conditions.

Even air conditioning and power windows in cars were only available on luxury vehicles at first, and we can create a long list of technical innovations that start out as luxuries for the elite.

From power windows to space travel is quite a leap in technological achievement and cost, but the fact remains that it is already started. There are space tourists.

Further, the point of Earth+ and the member companies of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation is that you might be an astronaut by working for a private company or a tourist or you might get your hands on outer space with two feet still on the ground through being on a team that pushes the boundaries of space travel further, without going there yourself.

In that sense there is a huge shift towards the democratization of space.

Virgin territory
Astronauts and rocket scientists are elite in a different sense than we usually associate with the luxury elite. They have, of course, “the right stuff” in a different sense, and these people are not concerned with creating an intentionally closed-off environment, as is the case in many luxury businesses.

Therefore, while the reality right this moment is certainly that the people inside the rockets are quite elite in one way or another – the best of the best pilot-scientist-bad-asses, or super rich while still young enough to be physically fit enough to rocket – the goal of all those involved is to open this up to more people as quickly as possible.

And, of course, all of this is in addition to the truly valuable continued research, investment, and also continued hard work and achievement by governments, who are and will be the biggest initial customers of this new industry.

There are big players and smaller players: SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, which do a great job of shining a spotlight on the industry.

But there is an entire healthy, functioning, growing industry with a whole constellation of vendors, brands and manufacturers servicing all the needs of the industry. Are there luxury brand marketers interested in an alliance with the space industry?

I can attest that the democratization of space is in fact here, because I am a brand guy, a marketing guy, and I have designers, marketers and strategists in my company for consumer brands, and here I am discussing the future direction of the brand image of the space industry with astronauts and rocket companies.

That would not have happened if the democratization of space were not upon us now. And yet, it is quite a luxury to be in the prestigious Explorer’s Club having these elite conversations with these elite people. New Space is open for business.

David Moritz is president of Mode Design Group, Long Island City, NY. Reach him at