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Economic Growth and Return on Investment

Space exploration jobs
NASA engineers and technicians work on the Mars 2020 spacecraft (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech, source)

Working together, national space agencies and the private space sector generate a significant number of jobs, stimulate substantial economic growth, and provide tangible return on investment. Far from being a drain on our financial resources, space exploration increases the health of our financial systems. Consider the following points:

  • A 2015 socio-economic impact assessment determined that the Canadian Space Agency contributed $2.9 billion CAD to Canada’s Gross Domestic Product in 2013. Its total budgetary expenditure for the same year was $278 million CAD.
  • As of 2020, the Canadian space economy generates nearly $6 billion CAD annually, directly employs 10,000 Canadians, and indirectly employs another 11,000.
  • In 2008, G. Scott Hubbard, former Director of NASA Ames Research Centre, estimated that the American space program generated $8 of economic benefit for each $1 spent.
  • A 2002 study at George Washington University estimated that a NASA investment of $64 million USD into life science technologies stimulated an additional $200 million in private research and development.

These figures demonstrate clearly that investments in space result in economic benefits here on Earth. The magnitude of this financial impact, however, has been only a tiny fraction of what is available to our economies if we are to establish a permanent presence off-world. In the next 20 years, the global space industry is expected to triple in size, reaching more than $1 trillion by the year 2040.

As of August 2020, SpaceX – a company with the primary objective of establishing a multi-planetary future for humanity on Mars – was estimated to have a value of $46 billion USD. By launching satellites and cargo into orbit, through the development of the Starlink internet service, and by leading the way in reusable launch vehicles, they are developing a sustainable framework for aerospace companies to pursue deep-space exploration activities while maintaining profitability.

Similarly, Blue Origin has dedicated $1 billion annually towards developing their own reusable launch vehicles. Their mission is to achieve affordable access to the vast resources and energy available in space.

The exploration and settlement of Mars will be an enormous undertaking. It will require substantial investment and the hiring of thousands (and eventually millions) of specialists and laborers. It will necessitate the design, manufacturing and shipping of innumerable physical assets. Humans-to-Mars will generate the same economic benefits that we have already observed resulting from space exploration but on a far greater scale.

An economy spanning two planets will provide growth and opportunity to Canada and the world for centuries to come.

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The Mars Society of Canada offers a professional and credible platform for all space advocates to promote Canada’s participation in Mars science and exploration. By becoming a member of our federal not-for-profit, you provide direct support for our educational, public outreach and analog research efforts. We proudly represent the voice of thousands of Canadians who believe in the profound benefit of Mars exploration, and a multi-planetary future for humanity.


Written by Evan Plant-Weir, 2021