The Bizarre Idea of Space Billboards

Advertising is all around us. In nearly every bit of media that we consume, there is usually an advertisement attached to it. For many, going outside for some nice fresh air can be a relaxing break from the world of advertising, but giant space billboards might change that.

Imagine a floating billboard that orbited the Earth that was the same relative size as the moon advertising a new show on Netflix. Wherever you went, the billboard would be visible.

This doesn’t only sound absurd, it sounds flat-out impossible – but that hasn’t stopped clever marketers from dreaming the idea up. In 1993, an American company named Space Marketing Inc. proposed a 1 square kilometer space billboard that would be launched into low earth orbit. The company planned to manufacture this massive sign from sheets of mylar which would, in turn, make it the same brightness as the moon.

Image Source: Concerning Reality

If you take a glance at the sky right now, you might notice that Space Marketing Inc. failed. Engineers estimated that the sign would be impacted by space debris around 10,000 times and ultimately the company couldn’t find funding for the insane idea… I wonder why?

Even though this is an example of extreme space advertising, space advertisements have long been a staple in the industry. No, there haven’t been any orbiting billboards, but there have been rockets plastered with corporate logos, commercials shot in space, and even a Pizza Hut pizza delivered to the International Space Station.

The first recorded example of space advertisement was in 1990 when a Soyuz TM-11 rocket carried a reporter from the Tokyo Broadcasting System into space. The network paid for his seat on the craft and additionally for a large logo to be featured on the third stage of the rocket’s launch vehicle. This launch vehicle was also shrouded with logos for Sony, Unicharm, and Otsuka Pharmaceutical.

The first “space commercial” was one for milk, filmed by an Israeli company called Tnuva aboard the space station Mir in 1997.

Perhaps the most memorable modern example is from 2001 when Pizza Hut decided that they were going to deliver pizzas to the International Space Station. The accomplished the task by packing the pizza in a vacuum-sealed bag to be opened and enjoyed by the crew at the time.

Image Source: Concerning Reality

As you might be able to guess, space advertisement hasn’t exactly had a smooth ride into public acceptance. In 1993, U.S. Congressman Ed Markey introduced a bill banning U.S. advertisement in space in direct response to the plan from Space Marketing Inc. The bill was eventually changed to only cover obtrusive advertising, which allowed for logos to be placed on rockets or astronauts clothing.

The USA is currently the leader for advertisements on spacecraft with Russia coming in second. They accept corporate sponsorships on many of their missions.

While space may seem like the perfect place for a massive billboard, it turns out most people really aren’t okay with that. We can all be thankful there isn’t a massive billboard floating in the sky right now advertising a new Netflix show. It’s nice to be able to escape the ads every once and a while.

Trevor is a civil engineer (B.S.) by trade and an accomplished writer with a passion for inspiring everyone with new and exciting technologies. He is also a published children’s book author and the producer for the YouTube channel Concerning Reality.

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