Elon Musk's SpaceX has apparently agreed to launch a satellite with its Falcon 9 rocket that would project ads in space. Even better, a "selfie stick" with a camera attached will livestream a feed so that you can watch it on YouTube or Twitch. I'm not entirely sure why anyone would tune in to YouTube purely to watch a livestream of space ads, but there are a lot of people with interesting content consumption habits, so hey, maybe they'll find a market.
If you're thinking this sounds rather absurd, I'm with you. The fact that the Canadian startup behind this, Geometric Energy Corporation, plans to eventually let anyone buy an ad, and eventually do so with Dogecoin, doesn't do a lot to make me feel like it's anything more than a publicity stunt.
Of course, I can't think of anyone that has mastered the modern publicity stunt better than Elon Musk. Which is why, despite the bizarre premise, it might also be brilliant. Hear me out.
While it might seem like SpaceX is only really providing a ride for the satellite, the company has already partnered with GEC in a venture meant to bring "Space Art" to the moon. First, however, it appears they plan to launch it into orbit. I don't know if the thing our solar system really needs is Space Art, but it's hard not to think it's probably inevitable.
The private space race has at least some degree of "we're doing this because we can." For now, that's true of sending rockets into space, and sending people into low orbit joyrides. Sure, someday the goal might be to send people back to the moon or to colonize Mars, but that's not happening yet. Besides, that's all fine, but not all that practical.
This, on the other hand, might actually be useful. Honestly, I can think of three reasons this is brilliant.
The first is that advertising is big money. Before you argue that the last thing we need is more ads, I don't disagree, but I'd just offer that the pursuit of where to put more ads isn't ending anytime soon. Companies, however, only have so much money to spend on ads. If they start spending them on ads in space, there's at least a chance we won't have to look at it here on earth.
Seriously, though, considering that advertisers don't blink at spending a few million dollars to run a 30-second or one minute spot at the Super Bowl, or to take over a digital billboard in Times Square, it isn't hard to believe there might be a market for a space billboard.
The second reason is that, even if the entire thing is a stunt, that's perfectly in character with Musk. Even if GEC never perfects the technology needed to instantly send large digital files over long distances, that's really not SpaceX's problem. It still gets the benefit of all the hype associated with launching a digital billboard into space. I don't think Musk has ever met a publicity stunt he didn't like, and this is right up his alley.
Finally, unlike billionaires with extra disposable income they're willing to set on fire in exchange for a ticket into low orbit, the rest of us are pretty much stuck here on earth. This might be the only opportunity the rest of us have to spend money we can't really afford on the experience of sending a little part of ourselves--albeit digitally--to space.
If naming a star after your first girlfriend, or proposing to her on the Jumbotron at a sporting event, isn't enough, now you can take out an ad on a satellite in orbit. It's hard to imagine a better way to impress, well, anyone.
Who wouldn't want to be the reason behind it all. Even more than that, doing things that no one else is doing is literally the driving purpose behind an entrepreneur. Even when the idea is bizarre, that doesn't automatically mean it's bad. Even if it seems a little far out there, that's fine--it is space, after all.