Nike (NYSE:NKE) just does it. Alphabet‘s (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google delays removing cookies. Visa (NYSE:V) makes a big buy. Peloton (NASDAQ:PTON) ventures into wearables. Accenture (NYSE:ACN) surges on earnings, and FedEx (NYSE:FDX) stumbles. In this episode of Motley Fool Money, Motley Fool analysts Andy Cross, Emily Flippen, and Jason Moser weigh in on those stories and share a couple of stocks on their radar. Plus, Washington Post space reporter Christian Davenport talks about Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and the business of space.
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This video was recorded on June 25, 2021.
Jason Moser: We’ve got some earnings to get to this week. Google’s cookies need a little bit more time in the oven, Visa is making another run at a fintech deal, but we begin this week with the swoosh, Nike reported earnings on Thursday afternoon and to say the market approved, that would be an understatement. Andy, is this a typo, Nike’s revenue for the quarter grew 96%?
Andy Cross: Jason, it’s not a typo. It was a really very impressive quarter from Nike. Now, some of that is just a pull forward from last year, another pull forward, but just the rebound from when things shutdown last year about this time, but sales were up 96%, almost doubled from last year. They were up 21%, Jason, from the previous fiscal quarter. Nike direct sales were up 73% in the quarter. Direct sales now make up almost 40% of the total sales for Nike’s. They really have started to make this push and this migration very aggressively over the last couple of years to much more direct connection with the consumers. North America was up 140%, so a really booming North America market. Higher wholesale shipments, thanks to those weaker comps a year ago. Digital growth was up 50%, so their digital business continues to do really well and now is at a $9 billion run rate business for them. More than 300 million Nike digital members. Digital is three years, Jason, ahead of their plans. Really, when you look at what John Donahoe has done in Nike coming over from ServiceNow and from being really brought this digital focus for Nike, they continue to make these massive innovations into their product, they’re growing across all the lines. China was a little bit of a weakened spot, Jason, as they pulled back in some of their marketing initiatives. But overall, you have a […], $15 billion company, sales of $45 billion a year, earnings very profitable at $6 billion. You got a company selling at about three times earnings, Jason, with 10% sales growth, and they think they can grow their earnings somewhere between 15% and 20% long-term. You got to like what’s happening at the smoosh.
Moser: It wasn’t all that long ago that Kevin Plank, the founder and former CEO of Under Armour, said his goal was essentially to dethrone Nike as the leader in the space. Now, I think we all know how that’s worked out so far. But if Nike is Coca-Cola today, what is Under Armour?
Cross: Oh, my gosh, Jason, I think you got to say Under Armour, they are just losing this game unfortunately, and that’s a stock that I’ve owned for a while, too. Moving in the opposite direction than what Nike is doing. The thing that really distinguishes the two I think is the Nike brand, the innovations they’ve made. It’s a fresh brand, it stands for something. They are making massive investments, their Gen-Z business, what they are doing over in TikTok and with their applications and that digital line is really reaching a different consumer base. They are principled, and that brand now is at a resurgence and really stands for something that is very positive. That’s, I think, just a different direction that unfortunately than Under Armour has gone into. You got to like it if you think about what Nike is standing for. For health, wellness, and positivity, Nike stands above that.
Emily Flippen: Under Armour is like store-brand Coke, Jason, that’s the only comparison here.
Moser: I was going to go with Jolt Cola.
Cross: I don’t even know what Jolt Cola is, Jason.
Moser: Any which way, clearly, they have some work to do. This week, Google announced its delaying plans to stop supporting third-party cookies by almost two years. Now, the plan to stop using these third-party cookies, which was initially slated for early 2022, it’s been pushed all the way back to late 2023. Emily, there’s a lot to dig into here, but let’s just start with a simple question, why are they doing this?
Flippen: Google is waffling. They’ll tell consumers they are doing this, because they really care about their privacy and they want to make sure that they have the right solution. But it’s very clear both from the macro environment we’re seeing today, but also Google’s own press release that they’re doing this as a result of antitrust movements across the E.U, and in particular, the U.K. Google’s cookie alternative, so the rotation out of cookies into this thing they call FLoC, I won’t try to explain it. But essentially, their solution to cookies was not really scratching the itch for a lot of not only consumers in terms of privacy, but also ad buyers and sellers alike. It was not a great solution, but more importantly, it put even more power into Google’s hands. Regulators are looking at this transition saying to themselves, “Man, this is concerning. Are we really going to give these tech giants more power?” We don’t know what the solution is today, but those extra almost two years of time certainly gives Google, but more importantly, other players in the space plenty of time to figure out what’s the medium ground between allowing advertisers to reach their target markets while still preserving privacy online.
Moser: This a space with a lot of opportunity and a lot of uncertainty right now. What’s something you’re going to be watching moving forward?
Flippen: I think it’s important to watch how the ad buyers and sellers respond over the next couple of years. The Trade Desk in particular was having a great day today, along with many of these ad sellers as a result of the privacy push-outs. But The Trade Desk is just one example of a business that is trying to institute their own rules when it comes to privacy and data and reaching advertisers. I definitely want to keep an eye on their UID 2.0 process that’s going to be potentially a seamless solution to this cookie problem that we’re having today.
Moser: In January, it was announced that Visa would not be going through with its plan to acquire a financial services company Plaid due to antitrust concerns, but that didn’t stop management’s wheels from turning. This week, Visa announced plans to acquire Swedish fintech start-up Tink for $2.1 billion. Andy, do you like this move?
Cross: Yeah. Jason, I think for Visa it’s very positive. Hopefully, for consumers now. They pivoted from looking toward San Francisco with the earlier one, and now they’ve pivoted over to Europe and to Sweden, which is a much different market. Europe has more than 440 different third-party providers as part of their open banking initiative they kicked off in 2018. Visa is looking at that market saying, “Hey, wow, here is Tink.” Now, Tink is one of the larger application integrators for financial companies in Europe. But they’re seeing this market is much more open and hopefully not as regulatory challenge like they saw with the Plaid integration, which raised concerns about some of the debit cards taking away some of the competitive opportunities for consumers when you look at the debit market. They hopefully won’t have those in Europe. For Visa, they’re splashing out about $2 billion. Buying this start-up Tink gets them into a market that is really growing and dynamic and open. Hopefully, when you look at it, if you are a Visa shareholder, it won’t run into the regulatory risk that you saw with Plaid. Hopefully, that gets approved. But we will be watching that as you go forward to see how the integration goes and how the approval process goes.
Moser: Bloomberg reported this week that Peloton is venturing into the wearables market with a digital heart rate armband. Emily, there’s a lot of opportunity developing in the wearable space, but it’s also fraught with challenges. Does this move make sense for Peloton?
Flippen: It definitely makes sense for Peloton. If you go back to Peloton’s most recent quarter, the thing that struck me the most and struck a lot of investors the most was the engagement they were having from their core Peloton users. The average user did 26 workouts a month with their Peloton products. That’s truly insane. That to me says, Peloton hasn’t engaged at a potentially even more monetizable body of users. I think this is a smart move, and it’s smart because they’re doing it very slowly. They’re coming out with what seems to be an armband. Again, this is a rumored release, but this armband is potentially a solution for heart rate tracking seamlessly into Peloton’s products. I know a lot of consumers may ask themselves, “Do I really need this though? I have an Apple Watch, I have a Fitbit. These things already integrate into my Peloton, what’s the point of this armband?” Well, it actually fixes a couple of issues in terms of workout tracking beyond just biking with Peloton products, so it could be really attractive to these engaged users.
Moser: Earlier this year, Peloton acquired Atlas Wearables, maker of a heart-rate tracking fitness wearable. If the company sees early signs of success here, do you think acquisitions will be the strategy of choice when it comes to gaining more share in this wearable space?
Flippen: Peloton could certainly go the way of acquisitions, but I think they’d be smarter to keep it in-house. Their brand is so valuable, and I don’t think this is a particularly challenging space for them to compete in, given their technological expertise already. I think it’s critical for them to make a move, whether it’s through acquisition or bringing it in-house. I’m not sure it matters so much to any consumer.
Moser: Global consulting firm Accenture reported strong earnings this week and raised full-year guidance. Andy, we know as investors that sometimes boring is beautiful and while Accenture may not elicit excitement for so many. It’s certainly worked out pretty well for patient shareholders so far. How did the quarter look to you?
Cross: Well, Jason, if anyone has used technology at all, Accenture probably provides some service to them. It provides a strategic consulting focus, really in the tech area. We’re talking about things like 5G, Cloud migration, blockchain, robotics, all those cool things that we love to use or want to use. Companies are migrating to Accenture to help them get there, especially forming 2,000 large enterprise companies. We’re talking like they have partnerships with Salesforce, Google, Workday, Adobe. So they really focused on that area. In fact, Julie Sweet, their CEO, said pre-COVID, our research showed the digital achievement gap with leaders was growing two times faster than laggers. If you were investing a lot in technology, you were growing two times faster, and that is now widened to five times with leaders really stepping up their investment in technology, and they saw that. Their third-quarter sales were up 21%, U.S. dollars, now at $13.3 billion ahead of estimates, their earnings per share of $2.40 up 26%. Again, ahead of estimates. Their bookings were up 39%. They believe they are taking this significant market share. Julie Sweet said they saw a growth in 11 of 13 industries, growth higher than 10%; North America was up 18%. That was the real growth. They added 32,000 employees to their more than 500,000 employees in Q3, Jason. Really, Accenture looking at the technology market and the demands from their clients, they are seeing a lot of growth, and they continue to see a lot of growth ahead.
Moser: Well, as you’ve noted, this is a massive global business that has benefited from some cost savings over the past year plus due to the falloff in things like business travel. But it does seem, we’re seeing some signs that at least some of that travel is coming back to an extent. That’s the part of the debate I guess we can have there. But ultimately, how do you see that trend impacting Accenture’s profitability?
Cross: They talked about that, Jason, because they do serve these big clients and so they depend on travel. They talked about the fact that now, they will not have those tailwinds that have helped them because they haven’t been able to send their clients around the globe and they are global organization around the globe, and talk to clients that will be coming back to some point, so that will be an impact on their margin picture. There’s still expecting healthy growth on the earnings side of 15%, 17%, 18% this year. But going forward, that’s something you’re going to have to watch with these big companies that depend on global travel because in some way, that will come back now.
Moser: Often seen as a key indicator for the state of the economy, FedEx reported earnings this week that left the market wanting a little bit more. Emily, what stood out to you in the quarter?
Flippen: Well, what stood out to me was the fact that this is a really strong quarter for FedEx, but the market still didn’t really pat them on the back. I guess the beat wasn’t as great as investors expected. They had record revenue and profit for the quarter, beat by nearly $1 billion on their top line, over $22.5 billion in revenue versus $21.5 billion expected. They also raised expectations for next year. I think there was some fear from investors though, about competition and labor shortages. So when you look at some of their bottom-line movement, it wasn’t as good as it could have been this quarter because of some pricing pressures they had, in terms of attracting talented labor. But still, they were able to have raised prices around 5% year over year in terms of their package delivery and are just operating in such a good space right now. The U.S. domestic parcel market, according to their management, is expected to be over 107 million packages a day in 2022. That’s rising to 172 by 2026. Great market to be in, strong business. Just the stock market didn’t quite appreciate it the way they could have.
Moser: Well, I wonder if we’ve seen the inflation has just been ramping in the headlines here over the past several weeks. We’ve been really having much more of this conversation lately. With that, comes the discussion of stocks that may be better suited for inflationary times and others. How does inflation impact businesses like FedEx?
Flippen: I love that you asked that question, because very few businesses have what we call pricing power, which is really the opportunity to pass along price increases to the end consumer. What FedEx saw during the pandemic was their ability to pass along their increasing costs to the people who are paying for these packages and people would pay for it because guess what? You need during the pandemic, you need packages and they actually expect for this to continue throughout 2021 as well. I always like to say if you are an investor and you’re looking at your portfolio and thinking about moving into things like gold or commodities, don’t forget about the equities in the world that have this pricing power. They can be a great inflation hedge as well.
Cross: Many businesses have pricing pressure. Not many have pricing power.
Flippen: Not nearly as good.
Moser: Well, really quickly, we can go around the table here because this is such an interesting question. I think the deliberate, who do you consider FedEx’s primary competition today? I mean, in the age of Amazon, who’s FedEx’s primary competition?
Flippen: I would say Amazon is, if you look at that domestic parcel market, I mentioned it was $107 billion expected in 2022. That actually falls down to only $72 million if you remove Amazon from the equation. I think Amazon is probably a formidable competitor.
Cross: Well, gosh, I think when we look at some of the logistic companies that are just driving so much more of the logistic network, like Shopify for example, as they think about building out their shopping, they’re shipping, or even MercadoLibre, someone like that. I think as these companies look to build out their own networks, that’s probably going to put some pressure on FedEx.
Moser: OK. Time for some stocks on our radar and we’ll bring in our man Dan Boyd for a quick question, or even better, an observation. Emily Flippen, you’re up first, what have you got?
Flippen: My radar stock this week is Virgin Galactic. That ticker is SPCE. The stock is flying this week because the Federal Aviation Administration granted the company the license it needs to fly just regular passengers on future space flights. The market’s rewarding it. I think this is such a cool, exciting idea. I’m happy to be a shareholder.
Dan Boyd: Emily, are you trying to go to space? Is this what I’m hearing?
Flippen: I have aggressively tried to go to space, Dan, nobody will take me. So if there’s any listeners out there that want a passenger, I am free.
Moser: OK, Andy, you’re up. What are you looking at?
Cross: Jason, I’m looking at FactSet Research, symbol FD, as they report earnings next Tuesday, much different than Virgin Galactic. It’s a market cap of $12.5 billion, which is a little bit bigger than Virgin Atlantic, but they provide analytical tools, data feeds, content insights for more than 150,000 investment professionals. In 6,100 global clients that pay more than $10,000 per year. It has 24 unique datasets, Dan, from 850 different independent providers. It takes this data, provides these tools for their clients to help their clients make better investment decisions for their clients and is very profitable, great returns on capital, you get a little dividend, 1% yield and that dividend has grown 11% per year over the last five-years. Dan.
Boyd: If I didn’t know, if you were on the show, Andy, I would’ve said Ron Gross, pick this stuff.
Cross: It is a very Ron Gross stock. Hey, you got a nice little growth from it. You get these 30% operating margins and you get that dividend yield that we know Ron loves.
Moser: All right, Dan. Virgin Galactic and FactSet, two very different businesses. You got a favorite for your watch list?
Boyd: I’m going to the moon. Jason, let’s go Virgin Galactic.
Moser: Good enough. On July 20, the Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is scheduled to go into space via his aerospace company, Blue Origin. Here to talk about that and the business of space is Washington Post space reporter Christian Davenport, author of The Space Barons. Christian, welcome back to Motley Fool Money. Thanks so much for joining us.
Christian Davenport: Sure, thanks for having me.
Moser: Real quick is a refresher here, can we just explain Bezos and space flight and its significance or even lack thereof in regard to this space race. In other words, is this really something that matters in the long run as far as the investments in the race toward space go? Or is this an Evel Knievel kind of thing?
Davenport: Well, in some ways actually it’s both. It’s an Evel Knievel thing in the sense that this is a suborbital space flight. This is a 10-minute ride in total, where you shoot up and come straight back down. It’s the first human space flight for Bezos’ company Blue Origin. A lot of people don’t even still to this day, realize that Jeff has a space company and that he has these ambitions in space, and that they are finally after 20-something years, flying people. Jeff has raised his hand and said, “I’m going to be on that first flight,” which I think that’s designed to show his confidence in the vehicle and the rocket, and his brother’s going as well. But it’s significant in the sense that, if you can fly people routinely on a regular basis, that sets the stage for bigger, more ambitious missions. That’s really what Blue Origin is designed to do. These suborbital spaces tourism flights, that’s practice for the big game, which is routinely taking people to Orbit and then to the moon and beyond. Think of it as a stepping stone.
Moser: Were you surprised when you heard this news? Were you surprised when you heard that Jeff wanted to go to space?
Davenport: No, I think everybody was. Space is, there’s a lot of hype and it’s inspiring and you see in pop culture and in the movies, it’s romanticized. But in reality, it’s dangerous, it’s really dangerous. To put yourself on that flight, you have to be thinking, eh. But it is interesting, too. It makes sense once you realize that he will no longer be CEO of Amazon at that point. He will have stepped down from Amazon because I don’t think the Amazon board would have allowed it. It is risky, but they’ve flown the New Shepherd vehicle, this configuration, 15 times to space successfully. They’ve done it and done it and done it; there are abort scenarios, emergency scenarios, they’ve played all that out. Yeah, but I was surprised he was on that first flight.
Moser: I agree with you. I was surprised as well. It’s romanticized, of course, obviously, a tremendous risk, but clearly, he is very excited about it. But what do you think this looks like years from now? Now that the cat’s out of the bag so to speak, I have a hard time believing this is the only time he does this. Are we looking at the early days of Jeff Bezos, astronaut?
Davenport: Yeah, and early days of us being astronauts. They auctioned off that seat to see who is going to fly with Jeff and his brother, Mark and it went to $28 million, which is crazy that you would think that’s what someone would pay for a 10-minute ride to space. But I think, again, there’s a caveat to all of this; that they’re able to do it successfully and reliably and safely. If that happens, there have been a total of 560 people who have ever been to space, and imagine Blue Origin starts taking people on a regular basis and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, instead of it being 560, it’s 5,600. Then within a matter of years, as you’ve talked about, it’s 56,000 people who have had this experience of going to space, seeing the earth from a distance, land masses without borders, a thin line of the atmosphere, that transformative experience that astronauts come back and they talk about. That could have a profound effect. But I think what Jeff’s goal is, yeah, he’ll go up and down on a suborbital space trip. I think what he really wants to do and is working toward is the next step, which is New Shepard, it’s name for Alan Shepard, the first American in space that just went on one of these suborbital trajectories. The next rocket they’re building, called New Glenn, for John Glenn who went to Orbit. I could see Jeff ultimately doing that and going to orbit.
Moser: Let’s say 10 years from now, obviously, we’ve made a lot of progress in the space, on a personal level, is this something you’d be interested in doing one day?
Davenport: Yeah, no, absolutely. I’ve talked to Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson about it. I think that if the public is going to be doing this, a journalist should go to experience it and then see what it’s like and be able to tell a story. In fact, that’s what NASA was going to do. People forget, in the early days of the space shuttle, they thought the shuttle was going to be flying so frequently that NASA would need ordinary people to fill the seats. If you remember, they filled the seat with a teacher, Christa McAuliffe.
Davenport: In 1986, and obviously, she was aboard Shuttle Challenger when it exploded. But at that time, NASA was already looking at the next round, which was going to be a journalist. They had thousands apply, they had a list of 40 finalists by the time that Challenger launched. They were already working through picking out who the journalist was going to be. Obviously, they canceled that program when Challenger blew up. But journalists have been talking about going to space for a long time, and I want to be there.
Moser: Well, as someone who writes for The Washington Post, which is, of course, owned by Jeff Bezos. How do you and your colleagues feel about this? Is there some trepidation about the fact that he’s going into space?
Davenport: Well, you wonder what the succession plan is going to be. But we cover Jeff the way we cover anybody else.
Moser: That’s right.
Davenport: Without fear or favor when we say that, and that’s true that he doesn’t have a hand in the editorial decisions and he’s going to go and that’s just his choice and he can be able to do that. I’m sure there’s a succession plan in case anything would happen, but I do think that the fact that he is going tells me there is a high level of confidence in the safety of this system and that they’ve really put it through its paces and tested it, and frankly, I would go.
Moser: Yeah, I’m glad you said the word confidence and I think that’s a really important word in regard to this, and it leads me to my next question. Because we, of course, want to take this from an investing angle and I start looking at what’s going on here. The investments that have been made in Blue Origin, and Jeff going to space, you start thinking 10, 20, even 30 years out as an investor, what kinds of opportunities do you think could come for investors from all of this space work? He’s stepping down as the CEO of Amazon and I guess he’s really technically stepped down. Is this his second act? Could we be witnessing some of the early days of another Amazon-esque investing opportunity from all this?
Davenport: Yeah. The way Jeff talks about it is that, when he started Amazon, anybody could start an internet company like in their dorm room. There’s Facebook. Because the telephone company had been there and laid down the lines that ultimately carried the broadband for the internet. There was this thing called the postal service that could deliver the books that he was selling. There’s this invention called the credit card, and he could take people’s money to sell those books. The infrastructure for Amazon was there. The infrastructure for space is not there. You can’t today start a space company in your garage, and what he wants to do, and what Elon wants to do is create that infrastructure to space. The barriers to entry are just too high. What we’re seeing now is the dawn of a new age so that what Jeff calls this new economic dynamism can come to life, but in space, where you’re doing things like manufacturing in space, mining asteroids, celestial bodies, things like that, exploring. That this could open up all new possibilities like the internet did, and that’s what they’re hoping to build. But now you can’t get there, it’s too hard. That’s why I was saying earlier, the space tourism thing is often derived as a thing for the rich. The way Jeff sees it is, “No, this is the practice. We are going to get to go to space so we can make it more affordable and efficient and then open up all of those economic opportunities in space.”
Moser: Well, I’m with you. I think I asked you last time we spoke if you felt like going to the moon in my lifetime was a reality and I believe you said, yes. I’m with you, I’d go, too. I really would. This is something that just fascinates me and I really do feel like there’s so much potential here for this. A lot of times, when it comes to these types of investments, these types of long-term trends here, clearly capital is a big deal. These companies, these investors need a lot of money. Obviously, Mr. Bezos is not hurting in that regard, but by the same token, with Blue Origin, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being no way on earth and then 10 being, I can’t wait, what do you think his feelings on taking Blue Origin public? Do you think we’ll ever see that?
Davenport: That’s a good question. They say space is hard. The easy way to become a millionaire in space is to start out as a billionaire. [laughs] I wouldn’t rule it out because he’s got huge ambitions in space and this stuff. There’s a reason why only governments operated in space and human exploration. Governments had a monopoly on this for 50-60 years and we’re seeing the erosion of that. But the government is still the biggest contractor. They’re still the biggest customer and they are all contractors buying for these government contracts worth billions of dollars. If space is, if it becomes a self-sustaining economy, you’re going to need more access to capital to get over that tipping point, I could see it. Another reason I say that is I go down to Cape Canaveral a few times a year for launches to see people. Every time I drive by, Blue Origin has a manufacturing site right near the Kennedy Space Center. It’s like a college campus. It is massive. I know he is investing $1 billion a year of his own money into this. Jeff says that Blue Origin is the most important work he is doing. I do think you all in on this, but if he is going to open up a whole new industry to open up space for commerce, I don’t know if that’s something that Elon and Jeff and Richard Branson can do on their own. That seems like that’s a societal thing, moving along with governments and even international partners. I could see it. I don’t think it’s on the short-term horizon, but maybe at some point if they have a big ambition, they want to build a colony on the moon. That’s not cheap.
Moser: That’s so cool. You go down in Cape Canaveral for those launches. What is that like? From a personal level, I had never seen a launch before. It strikes me as being something that would be utterly life changing, but how does that impact you as just a human being?
Davenport: A rocket launch, I would highly recommend it. Take the family, take the kids and go see it. I go down there. You see a lot of the Atlas V launches for the United Launch Alliance, SpaceX’s Falcon 9. You’ve got to be a couple of miles away from it. You’re not allowed too close in case something bad happens. There’s a clearout zone. You’re 2-3 miles away and that rocket takes off, you feel it in your chest. Because sound travels a little bit slower it takes a while for that sound to hit you and literally, it hits you. There is a wave that comes over to you. The cool thing now is for years, I’ve been watching these rocket launches and it’s satellites going up. We’re humans, and now, we’re back to human space flight, SpaceX launch, the first NASA astronauts in almost a decade. Because Spatial retired in 2011. There were no astronauts launching from US soil until that happened last year. They’ve now, SpaceX has done it three times. When you look at that rocket in that ball of fire and you realize, wait a minute, there are people on that thing. That gives us an extra emotional level.
Moser: We see this push and pull between private interests like Blue Origin and then the public interest, government’s trying to invest in and make progress in this area, but it feels like there needs to be some cooperation. But by the same token, it also feels like one side maybe wants it a little bit more than the other. The future of space travel, to me, seems like it’s going to require all hands on deck, but I don’t know. Is this something you feel like it’s going to continue to be cooperative or is it leaning in one direction more and more so than the other?
Davenport: That’s a great question. Early these were public-private partnerships where NASA was reaching out to the private sector and hiring them for services was really controversial. Within, inside NASA, people at the government space agency were like, why are we outsourcing space? Why are we giving space these missions over to Elon Musk? This is what we do. We should do this. I think other people within NASA could see the commercialization of space and see the capabilities in the private sector and see how frankly, they can move faster. They can innovate. They’re not a big government bureaucracy. They can just move a lot quicker and said no, we need to harness that and leverage that and invest in that and build up that capability in the United States industry. That will allow us as a space agency and as a country to do more and to go further and to have this leadership and space. The fascinating thing is, that has transcended governments and parties within the U.S, so it doesn’t matter if it’s a Democrat or Republican. We saw with Obama, we saw with Trump, and now we’re seeing it again with Biden, and it’s become normal to have these public-private partnerships. It’s become normal to have Elon Musk fly U.S. astronauts to the international space station. Their lives are in his hands. That was enormously controversial and NASA first decided to do it. Now, it’s becoming more accepted and routine. They’re talking about taking that paradigm and extending it to get us to the moon and relying on private industry to help us get to the moon. It’s a huge shift.
Moser: I’m glad you mentioned Elon Musk. Clearly, he plays a big role in this as well. The investments toward getting into space and beyond. Do you feel like it’s the rivalry between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk? Is that real or is that more of a media narrative?
Davenport: I think it is real for sure. Yeah. They’ve gone at it for a long time now. It’s maybe overblown, but there are key moments. Just look at what happens when there’s a big NASA contract to build the Lunar lander, the spacecraft that would land NASA astronauts on the moon. There was an initial round of contracts and Blue Origin, Jeff’s company, came out on top, they won the most funding. But in the final down select, SpaceX won and beat everybody. That way, that was a huge shock and Blue Origin turnaround. They’ve now protested this through the GAO, Government Accountability Office. They basically filed a lawsuit to try to overturn that contract award. They are working through Congress to try to have multiple awards. Elon and Jeff have gone at it. There is a real rivalry there for sure. The bottom line is that at this point, Elon is winning and winning big.
Moser: Yeah, does it feel like that rivalry needs to exist though. It goes back to that whole thing. Competition is a good thing. This is something that’s ultimately going to make this better. It’s going to get us there faster and hopefully more safely. Speaking of getting places, do you feel, it seems like the discussion with Elon Musk really all centers around Mars. Do you think we’ll see Elon Musk go to Mars in our lifetime?
Davenport: It all depends on this new next-generation rocket he’s building called Starship. You may have seen the videos. This is a thing that falls down. They’ve been trying to land it, they’ve blown it up like five times, and they finally landed it. This is the spacecraft actually that NASA put up for that Lunar lander bid that would land astronauts on the moon. NASA looked at it very carefully and awarded SpaceX basically $3 billion to continue developing it. This is the rocket and spaceship that Elon says will eventually take people to Mars. I used to be very skeptical whether we would see people on Mars in our lifetime. I’m starting to think that maybe that is in fact a possibility. Elon is talking about the next four, five years to this happening. I don’t think that’s a possibility, but I do think within 15-20 years or now, maybe.
Moser: He is the space reporter for The Washington Post, author of The Space Barons. Christian, thanks so much for joining us this week on Motley Fool Money, really appreciate your time.
Davenport: Thank you so much. That was a blast.
Moser: That’s going to do it for this week for Motley Fool Money. The show was mixed by Dan Boyd, our producer is Mac Greer, I’m Jason Moser. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.
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