Financing the Project
Section 3.3.
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Market Surveys for Lunar Artifacts

Jim Davidson

Making market survey instruments to obtain data that can be rapidly and accurately analyzed using statistical relationships is something tedious, but well-understood. Implementing a survey among a representative sample of the population of consumers is far more tedious and time consuming. Especially when the population of consumers is not domestic to the US but very international, the time required to implement such a survey can be large. Taking appropriate care to make sure the results of the survey aren't tainted by self-selection errors or other forms of poor sample selection is vital, but also tedious. Analyzing the data from surveys is the most fun of all, but involves some very esoteric statistical mathematics which are clearly not enjoyed by everyone. However, it is necessary.

It is clear that "hundreds of dollars" will be a price for an attractively mounted piece of the Moon that many will find difficult to pay. And tens of dollars for a piece of dust encapsulated in a small sphere of plastic will be a price that will cause many to question the value of the purchase.

But let's talk about some actual data. Four accurate surveys indicate that about 80 million Americans and about 80 million from other nations around the world have a strong personal desire to fly in space. Let us limit our further discussion to these 160 million consumers.

Let's say that only one-tenth of those "space-interested" folks have the money to buy a $200 piece of artwork or lunar rock conversation piece. Of the 16 million who can afford it, let's say that only one-tenth are willing to pay for the product. We thus have 1.6 million customers, and a potential revenue stream of $320 million. We can safely say that this market is not smaller than $3.2 million in revenues and not larger than $32 billion in revenues. Only a specific market survey will tell us more accurately.

If the market for a $200 item of lunar origin represents $320 million in revenues, what about the market for a $50 item? Let's assume that the elasticity of demand is linear, so at 1/4 the price some 4 times as many can afford it. Thus, 64 million can afford it, 6.4 million actually buy, and we again have a market worth $320 million in revenues.

With many products considered luxuries, the elasticity of demand is actually inverse, since a more expensive piece of artwork is considered more likely to appreciate in value. So, just for grins, if the number of space-interested folks who can afford to pay $1,000 for a piece of lunar rock artwork is only 3.2 million but 50% of them would actually buy it, we have another market worth $1.6 billion.

What is interesting about the way market economics actually work is that with all three products on the market, one can tap a total revenue stream that is at least as large as the sum of its parts. While many who buy the $50 item won't buy the $200 item, many others will buy both. While many who will buy the $1K item won't buy the other items, there are still some who buy all three. And, of course, for every ten people who each buy one of an item, there is usually one who buys two or more.

I would say that the initial market for lunar artifacts is roughly $1 billion plus or minus $500 million. Having made my prediction, I am even more eager for real market data. I am also eager to see whether that stream of revenues can be served profitably. As the only source of revenues for a human lunar settlement, it isn't likely to be profitable. As a secondary source of revenues it might still be unprofitable. Both the market data and the engineering details must be examined before the choice will be clear.

Financing the Project

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