Lost in Space ... Again

Three up, three down. SpaceX, the rocket maker created by PayPal founder Elon Musk, misfired on Saturday for the third time when trying to launch a vehicle into space. Musk said in a company blog post that the rocket didn't separate as it was supposed to and thus failed to reach orbit.

It's really too bad. SpaceX, like SpaceDev and SPACEHAB, is working on technologies to lower the cost of exploring the heavens. If successful, these upstarts could accelerate -- or at least make more affordable -- our renewed quest for the Moon.

Why you shouldn't be investing in space
The problem? Not enough investors believe it's possible. Look at SpaceX; it has just one private investor, according to Capital IQ. Musk's millions must be keeping the doors open. Venture capitalists and their private equity peers, meanwhile, are too busy with searching for the Next Big Thing on the Web or in cleantech to bother with the Great Beyond.

In effect, they've left the heavy lifting to Musk and similarly starry-eyed rich entrepreneurs such as Sir Richard Branson, whose Virgin Galactic recently used composite materials to produce a carrier plane for its SpaceShipTwo sub-orbital craft. There's also Jeff Bezos of Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , who is betting on the heavens almost as big as he is on Twitter.

But not VCs. To them, it seems, the real work of space exploration is best left to those who've already spent years working with NASA: Lockheed (NYSE: LMT  ) , Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) , Raytheon (NYSE: RTN  ) , and Rule Breakers recommendation Orbital Sciences (NYSE: ORB  ) .

SpaceX is no doubt a great company, and I wish Musk and his team well. But if you're thinking of investing in space, stick with Orbital. There's a dearth of ideas in the industry and very few of them have attracted venture capital. They'd rather not get lost in space.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. When he's not typing up articles for Fool.com, you'll find him picking growth stocks for Rule Breakers, which counts Orbital Sciences among its holdings. Get a daily dose of his Foolish musings via this feed for your RSS reader.

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