An Emerging Market Segment
The entertainment industry within the space economy is a multifaceted market segment that merges technology, innovation, and creative storytelling to deliver entertaining content related to space activities and exploration. It is an emerging market segment, providing audiences worldwide with an array of experiences and knowledge about the universe beyond our planet. This article explores several key aspects of the space economy’s impact on the entertainment industry.
Perhaps the most striking development in this new frontier is space tourism. Spearheaded by companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, space tourism has begun to transition from science fiction to reality. These pioneers offer private citizens the opportunity to travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere, a once exclusive realm reserved for trained astronauts.
The experiences of these tourists, their training, their journeys, and their impressions of space have already been broadcast on Netflix, Prime Video and YouTube. This captivating content serves to fuel public interest and engagement, stimulating both the growth of the space tourism industry and the wider space economy.
Films and Documentaries
Space has always been a powerful source of inspiration for films and documentaries. However, as technology advances and space travel becomes increasingly accessible, the potential for authentic storytelling expands. NASA, for instance, has partnered with IMAX to produce documentaries about space that provide viewers with stunning visuals and enlightening narratives.
The first feature film shot in space was the Russian movie titled “Challenge”. In October 2021, Russian actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko traveled to the ISS to shoot scenes for the movie. The plot of “Challenge” involves a surgeon (played by Peresild) who has to operate on a sick cosmonaut in space because the cosmonaut’s medical condition prevents him from returning to Earth to be treated. The movie was published in 2023.
This is a significant milestone in the entertainment industry and space economy, and it could pave the way for more films to be shot in space in the future. The next feature field might be a Tom Cruise film. In 2020, Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman announced plans to film a movie aboard the International Space Station in collaboration with SpaceX and NASA.
Augmented and Virtual Reality Experiences
Technological advancements in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) provide another exciting avenue for space exploration. These technologies allow users to ‘visit’ space without leaving their homes, creating immersive experiences that can be both educational and entertaining. AR and VR can simulate planetary landscapes, mimic the sensation of zero gravity, or provide interactive tours of space stations, offering an accessible and safe method of space exploration for all.
Examples of notable attempts to bring the International Space Station (ISS) experience to virtual reality (VR) include:
- Space Explorers: The ISS Experience: This is an immersive VR series produced by Felix & Paul Studios in collaboration with Time. The project uses advanced VR cameras placed aboard the ISS to provide an immersive, 360-degree cinematic VR series documenting life aboard the ISS. It offers viewers the chance to virtually float alongside astronauts in the ISS.
- Mission: ISS: Developed by Oculus, this VR experience allows users to explore a realistic simulation of the ISS, learn about the spacecraft’s inner workings, take on an astronaut’s role by conducting tasks, experience zero gravity, and even perform a virtual spacewalk.
- BBC’s Home – A VR Spacewalk: While not set on the ISS, this immersive experience lets you embark on a spacewalk in orbit above Earth, based on NASA’s training program. The VR simulation was inspired by the experiences and anecdotes from astronauts who experienced space walks.
The space economy also intersects with the education sector, offering a wide array of learning resources. online courses, webinars, podcasts, YouTube channels, and other platforms dedicated to space science. All of which provide content that is not only entertaining but also serves to educate the public about space. As our understanding of the universe grows, so does the demand for accessible and engaging educational content.
While there are many online platforms that host courses related to astronomy and space exploration, they are typically created by government space agencies, educational institutions or individual educators rather than commercial companies. However, some companies are involved in this space indirectly. Here are a few examples:
- Coursera: Coursera is a platform that partners with universities and other educational institutions to offer online courses. They host a number of courses related to astronomy and space exploration, such as “Astronomy: Exploring Time and Space” from the University of Arizona, or “Space is Everywhere” from University of Colorado.
- Udemy: Udemy is another online learning platform where individual educators can create and sell courses on a wide variety of topics. This includes an extensive selection of courses on space.
- The Great Courses: The Great Courses partners with experts to produce college-level courses, including a number of courses on astronomy and space exploration.
Please note that while these companies facilitate the offering of online courses, they typically do not create the content themselves. Instead, they partner with universities, educational institutions, or individual educators to provide the courses.
Live Broadcasts and Streaming
Live broadcasts of space activities, including rocket launches, spacewalks, and rover landings, have become increasingly popular. These events allow audiences worldwide to participate in these monumental moments in real-time, creating a sense of global community and shared excitement. As space activities become more frequent, the demand for live content from space is expected to grow.
Several government organizations and commercial companies YouTube channels regularly broadcast space launches. Here are some of them:
- NASA: The official NASA channel broadcasts live coverage of launches, spacewalks, and other mission events.
- SpaceX: SpaceX’s official YouTube channel provides live streams of their Falcon and Starship launches, as well as other significant events like spacecraft docking with the ISS.
- Blue Origin: The official YouTube channel of Blue Origin streams their launches, including the notable New Shepard tourist flights.
- European Space Agency – ESA: The ESA’s official YouTube channel broadcasts their missions, including launches from the Guiana Space Centre.
- Rocket Lab: This company also streams their launches live from their own launch sites.
In addition to the official channels of space agencies and companies, there are community channels on YouTube that provide coverage and analysis of space launches, as well as other space-related content. Here are a few:
- Everyday Astronaut: Run by Tim Dodd, this channel provides comprehensive coverage of space launches, as well as detailed explanations of rocket science concepts.
- Scott Manley: Scott Manley covers a wide range of topics related to space and astronomy, including space launches.
- NASASpaceflight: Despite its name, this is not an official NASA channel. It’s a community-run channel that provides extensive coverage of all things related to spaceflight, including live broadcasts of launches.
- What about it!?: This channel focuses heavily on SpaceX’s activities but also covers other launches and developments in the space industry.
- Marcus House: Marcus House provides weekly updates on the latest events in space exploration, including upcoming launches.
Games and Simulations
In the context of the space economy, games and simulations present a fascinating and engaging way to entertain, educate, and prepare people for the realities and possibilities of space exploration and living. There are numerous ways in which games and simulations intersect with the space economy, and they provide both direct and indirect economic benefits. Here are a few examples:
- Space-Themed Video Games: Games like “Kerbal Space Program”, “Elite Dangerous“, and “No Man’s Sky” allow players to build and fly spacecraft, explore vast galaxies, and even colonize planets. These games can stimulate interest in space exploration and might inspire players to pursue careers in the space industry. They contribute to the space economy by creating a market for space-themed entertainment products.
- Astronaut Training Simulators: NASA and other space agencies use advanced simulators to train astronauts for the realities of space travel. Private companies are also developing similar technologies. While these simulators serve a practical purpose, they can also be seen as a form of entertainment. For example, Space Camp offers a taste of astronaut training to students and adults.
- Educational Games: There are many space-themed educational games designed to teach players about astronomy, physics, and engineering. These games not only entertain but also foster a deeper understanding of the science behind space exploration.
- Space Tourism Simulations: As space tourism becomes more of a reality, potential space tourists can use simulations to get a feel for what the experience might be like. For example, Virgin Galactic created a VR experience of their space tourism rocket.
These games and simulations contribute to the space economy by driving demand for space-related products and services, stimulating interest in space exploration, and helping to prepare humanity for a future in which space travel is more common.
Advertising and Sponsorships
Like any major industry, the space economy offers opportunities for advertising and sponsorships. Businesses might sponsor rockets, spacecraft, or astronauts, bringing their brands to a new frontier. Often, the advertising is in the form of a publicity stunt, which offers entertainment value.
In recent years, space companies have used various advertising strategies to promote their products and services. Here are a few examples:
- Blue Origin: In addition to using social media and live streams of their launches, Blue Origin has also advertised their services with high-profile events. For example, they auctioned off a seat on their New Shepard rocket for their first manned flight, which generated considerable publicity.
- Virgin Galactic: Virgin Galactic has also used high-profile events, and publicity stunts, to advertise their space tourism services. Richard Branson, the company’s founder, was one of the passengers on the company’s first full crew spaceflight, which was widely covered in the media.
- Satellite Providers: Satellite providers such as DirecTV and Dish Network have run extensive advertising campaigns on television, online, and in print to promote their satellite TV services. These advertisements often highlight the breadth of channels available and the quality of the satellite signal.
While advertising in space is a relatively new concept and it’s not yet widely used due to logistical, technical, and regulatory challenges, there have been a few instances of brands trying to make their mark beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Here are some examples:
- Pizza Hut: In 2001, Pizza Hut delivered a pizza to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Russian rocket. The event was used as a publicity stunt to advertise Pizza Hut’s new delivery guarantee.
- Pepsi: In 1996, Pepsi created a giant replica of a Pepsi can and had it launched into space on a Russian rocket. The can, which was about 30 feet long, was released in orbit and captured on video.
- Hyundai: In 2015, Hyundai launched a campaign called “A Message to Space”. They used 11 Hyundai Genesis cars to write a giant message in the sand of Nevada’s Delamar Dry Lake. The message was big enough to be seen from the International Space Station.
A comprehensive history of space advertising and marketing is provided in this article Timeline of Space Marketing from 1962 to the Present.
The entertainment industry within the space economy is still in its infancy, and it’s potential is uncertain at this point. As technology advances, space becomes more accessible, and public interest continues to grow, we can expect a surge in space-related content across various media and entertainment platforms. The final frontier is not just for astronauts anymore – it’s becoming a new stage for storytellers, entertainers, and educators. The universe, it seems, is open for business.