The Final Ad Frontier

Only in America would people figure out a way to block out the moon with an ad. One unnamed company’s plans for just such a “giant collapsible billboard” led Congress five years ago to ban certain types of space ads, which the FAA has clarified as those “capable of being recognized by a human being on the surface of the Earth without the aid of a telescope or other technological device.” But are space ads really such a bad idea? For answers, Shoptalk asked a few space bloggers.

Rand Simberg of Transterrestrial Musings doubts the FAA’s authority to enforce the ban. Further, he says, the scenario it describes is “pollution,” not advertising. (He points out that there were logos on SpaceShipOne when it won the X Prize.) “Advertising in space will be a vital part of making more space activity financially viable,” he says, and will “make space affordable to the masses.” Martian Soil’s Fred Kiesche isn’t buying it. “I get enough advertising everywhere else I go, I’d like to see some nature!” says Kiesche, who (while he would “hate to sound like a tree-hugger”) wonders what sky-high advertising would do to bats, insects, birds and other airborne wildlife. HobbySpace honcho Clark Lindsey agrees that large ads “would be intrusive on everyone’s view of the sky and would obviously be a disaster for astronomers.” But he asks, “What about an ad that is visible for only a very brief period?”—like an orbital light show (which could be sponsored by a company) or ads on suborbital rockets like SpaceShipOne. “Would such an ad really be so different than those banners pulled behind planes at the beach?” He also thinks shooting ads in space wouldn’t be a terrible thing—with astronauts possibly serving as amateur directors. Lindsey’s reasoning is airtight: “We are supposed to be a market-friendly, capitalist country, after all!”