The new space race may be more about who can profit most from the renewed push towards the heavens than the thrill of exploration. After all, much of the excitement in space exploration is over. (Sorry, space geeks, but we landed a human on the moon in 1969. Sure, the Mars rover is way cool, but don't bother waking me unless we set foot on the red planet.)
NASA will spend roughly $12 billion over the next five years on getting back to the moon, but the program could require hundreds of billions more, especially if we plan a permanent villa on our lunar satellite, as President Bush has proposed. That kind of ambition creates lots of possibilities for private industry and, therefore, investors.
Check out Lockheed Martin
Go inside Raytheon's
And finally, there's the other half of the United Space Alliance, Boeing
Foolish investors may have a lot to gain by focusing on these beleaguered giants. The shares of all three companies took a hit this week on worries over pension fund contributions. Yet all of them posted profits and generate big payloads of cash from operations. And don't underestimate their stellar dividend yields: Boeing, Lockheed, and Raytheon all offer payouts above the S&P 500's average of 1.53.
The space race is once again on. Honestly, I don't care who wins, but there should be plenty of profits to be found among the contenders.
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Tim Beyers is a tech geek but not a space geek. He doesn't own shares of any of the companies mentioned, but he lives within spitting distance of Lockheed's Space Systems division. Drop on by if you're in the neighborhood, or send him your reactions here.