What a week.
Texas froze, stocks thawed, and Rush Limbaugh died (one out of three ain’t bad).
Ironically, wall-loving Texans paid a price when their own energy wall of independence collapsed in on itself; energy independence is good when things go well, and not-so-good when they don't.
Either way, it’s California’s fault for some strange reason.
But as the Earth showed more signs of climate change doom this week, a renewed excitement in outer space moved front and center as “Percy” (short for Perseverance), the NASA rover, touched Mars. The rover should shed light on whether microbial has ever existed on the red planet.
With 4,000 exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) confirmed, and potentially trillions more in the universe, chances are somewhere in a galaxy far, far away there is another Texas crippled by the same unwise energy policy. Okay, maybe not. Intelligent life is hard to find—though the farther from Rick Perry you get, the better the odds.
Between improved telescopes and rovers and an array of other technology both currently and imminently online, we should know if life is common in the universe by 2030. At least, according to Alok Jha, a science correspondent for The Economist.
“The technology to actually look at those exoplanets and understand what is on them is really coming of age now,” Jha said.
Not just the ability to look farther into the universe but the understanding of what to look for has advanced dramatically in the past 20 years. Improved tech and theory have come together to “…put scientists in a position where they got the theory, they got the technology, and all they now need to get is the data from space.”
Percy is just one of the data providers searching to prove we are not alone in the universe. But even with the advacement in tech, looking light years away for signs of life, well, difficult. For hope closer to home, Mars is really our best bet for signs of previous life whereas Jupiter’s and Saturn’s watery moons might harbor existing life.
“Mars for all intents and purposes is dead,” Jah says. “But Europa and Enceladus; these places might actually have microbes of some sort floating around right now.”
As for little green men on Mars or elsewhere, it’s a one in a trillion shot, Jha says.
This means that we are likely, for now, all alone and stuck on Earth. Or worse, stuck in Texas. With the winters getting colder and the summers getting warmer, no doubt we will keep looking to the stars for an escape route. But until we can live in space with our elusive alien friends (I am hoping, as Jah is, that we do find intelligent life, however unlikely), we are going to have to settle for space tourism.
True, we could thwart climate catastrophe by tripling down on clean energy sources while using nuclear energy to tide us over, thus also increasing the reliability of our energy grids. Yes, nuclear energy also failed in Texas this week, but, like wind and solar, nuclear power represents a small piece of the energy pie, with most of the state’s power coming from natural gas.
Nuclear needs to be revisited. In 2014, nuclear power generated about 60% of carbon-free electricity in the United States. Nuclear is also 1.5 to 2 times more as natural gas and coal units, and 2.5 to 3.5 times more reliable than wind and solar plants.
Recently, a short squeeze has lifted share prices in small-caps Denison Mines Corp. (DNN), NexGen Energy Ltd. (NXE), and UR Energy Inc. (URG)—all uranium exploration stocks betting on nuclear. According to uranium mining giant Cameco (CCJ) an approximate 50% increase in electrical demand that is expected between 2019 and 2040 mostly due to increasing economic growth in emerging markets.
But, in this country, while both political parties should find common ground with nuclear, Republican love for oil and the Democratic 1970s-ish stance on nuclear power makes betting on the explosive power source a weirdly risky bet.
And so, since we can’t figure out how to work together to save the planet and stabilize our energy grids, to space we go. And invest in space we should—just in case Texas becomes even more unlivable.
There is always the obvious: Virgin Galactic, which entered into a Space Act Agreement with NASA in May to work on developing a sustainable high-mach supersonic vehicle. And Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which just raised $850 million at $420 per share. SpaceX is currently privately held, but there are rumors it will go public after Musk ensures Bitcoin will be the sole currency used in space. There are also SPACs specializing in space travel and tourism.
But an easy way to play space is to invest in the cosmos via ETF. One space ETF to invest in is Procure Space ETF (UFO), which launched back in April 2019. The fund includes holdings in space stocks like Boeing, Maxar (MAXR), Iridium Communications (IRDM), Intelsat (I) and Airbus (EADSY).
There is also a new one on the event horizon. Cathie Wood's Ark Investment Management is looking to start the ARK Space Exploration ETF (ARKX), according to a January filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. ARK will focus on stocks that are “leading, enabling or benefiting from technologically enabled products and/or services that occur beyond the surface of the Earth,” according to the filing.
So, jump aboard these exciting stocks; the big returns they may offer might be your ticket out of Houston—and onto Mars. It’s darn cold there, too, but you’ll get used to it.