How Someone Will Get Incredibly Wealthy Once We Live in Outer Space

Optimized Supply Chain Will Make Space Industry Possible

Space Supply Chain
Supply Chain Trek. Getty Images

Vanderbilt and Maersk – a university and a global logistics provider, and also two families of generational wealth. Other than private chefs and year-round tans, what do the two families have in common? Supply chain, of course. These logistics magnates capitalized on the expansion of both business and human population. Their wealth was born from railroads and shipping. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt helped build infrastructure during the unfolding of a 19th Century United States.

Peter Maersk and three generations of his progeny turned their eponymous cargo shipping operator into the largest in the world. 

Today, as we look to the heavens anticipating the evolution of civilization and business, who will become our Commodore Vanderbilts and Peter Maersks – our supply chain visionaries? Once we’re residing, transacting and commuting in outer space – who will build our hyper-drive railroads and ship our goods across the vast reaches of the solar system? 

Between NASA, SpaceX, the European Space Agency, Virgin Galactic and a number of other agencies and private companies, we’re going to figure out how to get up there within a generation. NASA’s plan to mine asteroids is further along than you think. By the year 2035, there could very well be a mining operation on an asteroid or in orbit around Mars or our Moon (NASA is working on extracting massive boulders from asteroids and bringing them into lunar and Martian orbit – seriously).

 

If your brain defaults to supply chain, you’re wondering – “Okay, mining companies in outer space…  They’re going to need supplies and re-supplies. Food, essentials, operating materials & equipment.  Maybe a gift shop? And then they’ll transport whatever they mine back here...” (…assuming you’re reading this on Earth) 

Of course, I know a lot of people in supply chain and I know that many of them are probably also thinking, “At a relatively pedestrian Warp Factor 2, the Federation could resupply Mars with same-day delivery.” Indeed, my Trekkie friend, but that series was set hundreds of years in the future. That’d be like asking Commodore Vanderbilt to replace his railroads with Amazon’s drones. 

“Aha!” another supply chain devotee might counter, “there was another galaxy long, long ago that managed hyperdrive space travel. That’s ancient technology that we could access.” Yes, it’s true, asymmetrical flying discs with Wookie co-pilots used to deliver its (typically smuggled) cargo in galaxies far, far away. And, yes, the supply chain required to build a Death Star – with no locally sourced steel, electronics or weapons-grade lasers – boggles the mind. But let’s just suppose that we’re not going to have access Lucasian tech right away. We’re still going to need supply chain in outer space.

Who’s going to optimize outer space supply chain for us?  And become the next Maersk and Vanderbilt?  It could be anyone of you just starting out in supply chain, maybe a student in the supply chain program at MIT or Southwest Tech.

It’s going to take a total grasp of what optimized supply chain is, what it has to be in a zero-gravity environment – and what you can do to make supply chain work in a completely new paradigm.  It might take months to get supplies to a future asteroid mining operation – but, then again, it used to take months to get supplies across our oceans.  Without optimized supply chain, manufacturing in low-cost countries would never have revolutionized the global industry. And without an optimized supply chain in outer space, NASA’s mining operations will never evolve beyond a curiosity that we’ll view on our contact lens plasma watches

Optimized supply chain – in space, on Earth or underwater – is getting your customer what it wants, when it wants it, and spending the least amount of money as possible accomplishing this.

The last part might be the most difficult in outer space. But whoever figures it out – whoever designs, implements and manages the first optimized supply chains in outer space – will be sunbathing on Venus with Commodore Vanderbilt’s great-great-great-grandchildren.

That’s right, you – young padawan – have the entire solar system before you.