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Strange Business: First Space Tourist Now Envisions Trip Around Mars


Plus, how working on Wall Street can be more charitable than working in the nonprofit sector.

Mars Becomes the Next Frontier
Source: Universe Today

The first space tourist, Dennis Tito, plans on heading a team to launch a private manned mission that will circle Mars. Right now, the date for the launch will be sometime in January 2018. The major challenge is funding, and industry officials project the costs will exceed $1 billion. Tito's partnership with SpaceX fell through. He's now talking to Boeing (NYSE:BA), Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), and NASA about hardware for the trip.

(Also read: SpaceX to Launch Another Dragon on Friday.)

Doing God's Work

Want to help poor children around the world? Work for Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) or Bank of America (NYSE:BAC). William MacAskill, an ethicist at Oxford and Princeton, calculated that while it may be nice to work for charities, those working on Wall Street earn enough on average to fund the careers of two nonprofit workers. Individuals in banking and investment can expect to earn a lifetime salary of over $10 million while the average nonprofit worker earns $2.5 million over their lifetime. If someone in finance makes a pledge to donate 50% of his or her income over the course of his or her career, two individuals can work in the nonprofit sector rather than just one, plus the philanthropist will still have twice as much money as his or her goodwilled counterparts.

Rubber Is the New Copper in China

The Chinese government owns all the land in the country, creating interesting distortions in commodity markets. Banks require collateral when giving loans, but since the government can seize land on a whim, banks want other tangible objects of value. Like precious metals? Guess again.

Rubber has replaced copper as a popular form of collateral; the country had a surplus of 340,000 tonnes of rubber in 2012, according to the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries. Speculators and borrowers have driven rubber prices to 10-month highs.

Banks face a problem, though: Rubber can only be stored for six months.

Steakhouses May Become Leaner

Corporate cost-cutting may have the negative spillover effect of hurting steakhouses' profits. Del Frisco's (NASDAQ:DFRG) stated, "We believe the majority of our weekday revenues are derived from business customers using expense accounts." Capital Grille (NYSE:DRI) similarly said business professionals represent a key component of its customer base. The slow recovery should keep revenues steady; however, another downturn and subsequent corporate austerity will likely worry investors.

Scientific Paraphernalia May Fetch $2 Million

Want to own a piece of DNA history? A letter outlining the structure of DNA written by Francis Crick and addressed to his young son will go on auction at Christie's. The auction house expects the letter penned by the co-discoverer of DNA to fetch $2 million in April.

Twitter: @ChrisWitrak
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