The first moon landing in history left the world in awe 50 years ago. Today, a new race is on to go back to the moon, and beyond.
“I remember clearly 50 years ago watching the Apollo 11 moon landing and thats what started my dream of wanting to be an astronaut myself,” says former NASA astronaut and International Space Station commander Leroy Chiao. “Back then we thought in 20 years surely we would have moon bases and be on mars.”
Today, private companies like Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX are racing to make that happen.
“That’s the exciting wild card” Chiao told Yahoo Finance. “They’re actually building hardware, they’re building rockets, they’re launching rockets.”
NASA has contracted both Boeing (BA) and SpaceX to build separate spacecraft to send astronauts to the International Space Station.
SpaceX and Blue Origin also want to land on the moon and colonize Mars.
Space and money: Satellites
Elon Musk plans to fund his company’s Mars endeavor through high speed internet satellites his company has been sending into space. Bezos’ Blue Origin is also working on its own satellite program.
Chiao says investors interested in space see an immediate opportunity in satellites, "That’s where there’s money. There’s a return on investment that’s been demonstrated.”
Boeing and Lockheed Martin (LMT) are jointly building their own rocket that would send satellites into space.
“Now they’re building the Vulcan rocket, something they said was impossible before, and now that SpaceX has shown them that it’s not impossible, they’re trying to do that,” says Chiao.
A European consortium funded by the EU recently announced plans to build reusable rockets similar to SpaceX. “They’re studying the Falcon 9 and they’re trying to build a copy of it,” Chiao says. “Because they know it’s going to eat their lunch. It’s going to kill them in the launch market.”
“These companies are waking up and showing that good old American competition is alive and well, and is driving things to be better, and less expensive,” added Chiao.
Chiao says it's hard to tell who will land back on the moon first. It could be NASA in collaboration with a commercial company. He said he wouldn't be surprised if SpaceX and Blue Origin got there first.
“For my money and my guess as a snapshot of today, it would probably be one of those companies."
Ines Ferre is a Market Reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her @inesreports