Funding the Final Frontier
By Siri Schubert

(Business 2.0) – Great rocket science requires more than great rocket scientists--it also takes some profit-minded entrepreneurs. That's why NASA is launching Red Planet Capital, a venture fund that will nurture technologies needed to aid the agency's push to land humans on Mars by 2030. (See "The Entrepreneur's Guide to Outer Space," March.) The fund will begin operation later this year with $11 million to invest, followed by annual infusions of $20 million. The effort is modeled after In-Q-Tel, the CIA-supported venture fund that has invested in more than 80 companies since its inception in 1999. (NASA chief Michael Griffin was president of In-Q-Tel from 2002 to 2004.) Red Planet will focus initially on water-recycling technology, environmental sensors, communications systems, and devices to facilitate human-machine interaction. For entrepreneurs with the right stuff, the rewards could be otherworldly.