Richard Branson seems an unlikely pick to be the world’s first trillionaire.
With a US$4.1 billion fortune, Branson is certainly rich. Just not uber-rich.
According to Forbes he’s the 478th richest person in the world. Well behind frontrunner Jeff Bezos, with his US$131 billion stockpile.
If the Amazon founder can maintain his form, by 2030 he is set to become the world’s first trillionaire. The inaugural member of the ‘Four Comma Club’.
However, a lot can happen in a decade. And as much as Bezos is still a safe bet to clinch the title, I think Branson could be a dark horse.
Why? Because of Virgin Galactic of course.
In case you missed it, Virgin Galactic made its public debut this week. It is now the first publicly traded ‘human’ spaceflight company. At least that’s what they’re claiming.
On face value, they’re just a space tourism company. For a quarter of a million dollars they plan to rocket you into space for a few minutes.
That may seem excessive, maybe even dumb to the average punter. But I guarantee they will get plenty of interest. They’ve already got a long list of celebrities and wealthy people queuing up to take a ride.
As my colleague, Sam Volkering, wrote on Wednesday: they’re a lifestyle brand. People will pay for the prestige of the experience.
Hell, I’d do it if I had the spare cash.
However, that’s just the first stage of Virgin Galactic’s plans. What comes after the tourism pitch is far more vague, but also far more fascinating.
The end goal isn’t tourism, it’s affordable space travel. And that, could be the key to making Virgin and Branson the first trillionaires…
A floating goldmine
Let me introduce you to 16 Psyche. Take a good look at it:
Source: European Southern Observatory
Doesn’t look like much, does it? More like a smudge than anything else.
That’s because 16 Psyche is circling somewhere in-between Mars and Jupiter. It’s an asteroid — a rock floating through space.
This isn’t your average rock though. Technically, it is the core of a now dead planet. The leftovers from what was likely an intergalactic collision.
More important than how 16 Psyche was formed though, is what it is made of. Our best estimates suggest that the surface is 90% metallic. Largely consisting of iron and nickel. Underneath that there may even be gold.
All of this, has led experts to value 16 Psyche at US$700 quintillion!
That’s a one followed by 18 zeroes in case you’ve never seen the word before. More money than currently circulates on the whole of planet Earth.
A literal, floating, goldmine. And there are hundreds — maybe even thousands — of other asteroids just like it.
Space is chock-full of these resource-dense rocks. We just need to find a way to get to them, mine them, and bring the plunder back. Which, is obviously easier said than done.
I know it sounds farfetched now, but in the near future space mining will be a very real possibility. Getting to that future, though, will be gradual. Which is where Virgin Galactic comes into the picture.
First comes the tourism, then the great beyond…
Out of this world potential
Judging by the market reaction it seems investors think Virgin Galactic is a bit of a lemon.
After a strong first day, the stock has tanked. A troubling sign of the wider pessimism.
Honestly I could understand — if they were just a space tourism company. But, as I’ve been saying, there is much more to this company than that.
Just have a read of their vision statement:
‘Our initial operations will give us unequalled experience of flying large numbers of non-professional astronauts, safely and enjoyably, in high acceleration and micro-gravity environments.
‘In time, we expect to be operating a variety of vehicles from multiple locations to cater for the demands of the growing space-user community. Whether that be transporting passengers to Earth orbiting hotels and science laboratories, or providing a world-shrinking, transcontinental service – at Virgin Galactic we will always be striving to open space to change the world for good.’
While this doesn’t guarantee anything, it does show you where their ambitions lie. Long term, Virgin Galactic plans to be a part of something much grander. A burgeoning space economy if you will.
My point, is that it is from this space economy we will see wealth kick up a notch. It may not mint the first trillionaire, but it will certainly lead to more of them.
For you and me though, dear reader, it is also an opportunity. Space is one of the most exciting and promising areas for future investment. Dare I say…the final frontier.
Most of us may not ever make it to the Four Comma Club, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a small fortune.
Whether Virgin Galactic will be the golden ticket, I can’t say. But, they’ve got as good a chance as any. And right now the market seems to be sleeping on this fact.
Time will tell who the real winners are.
In the interim, I’d be keeping an eye out for others who can see this imminent future. Because once it arrives, no one will want to miss out on the fortunes that will be up for grabs.
Editor, Money Morning
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