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Note to NASA: Try Rent-to-Buy

January 22, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s hard times for everybody, the space business included. As aerospace blog Universe Today reports, NASA is having trouble finding a buyer for “three slightly used…orbiters” that it hopes to sell “to educational institutions, science museums or other organizations who could publicly display them.”

When NASA first put the items up for sale about a year ago, Universe Today reports, the initial asking price was $42 million an orbiter. But it turns out that $42M is a lot to ask for in the middle of a recession. So NASA has slashed prices down to fire sale levels: down to $28.8M per orbiter—a mere pittance.

We wish NASA the best of luck in finding a buyer. But we also think the move is a mistake. Rather than settling for less money for its product (at a serious loss on NASA’s investment, we’d assume), a rent-to-buy option would go much further toward helping everyone—NASA and NASA’s customers alike.

With a rent-to-buy plan, museums or schools can hold on to orbiters long enough to see if the space souvenirs really bring a crowd, or otherwise advance their key educational goals. And over time, NASA would ensure a steady revenue from rental costs while being able to continue seeking a buyer who can pay full price (or could wait for a time when more organizations can afford $42M for a museum display). The museums would be sure they’re spending wisely, and NASA would be able to get the money it needs to keep the space program flying at full throttle.

When times are hard, all types of sellers face enormous challenges–as buyers simply can’t afford to pay for the things they want, or even need. Sometimes, slashing prices can be the best option (if market share is your chief objective, for example). But often, rent-to-buy programs go much further toward helping everyone: allowing sellers to keep their businesses healthy, and allowing buyers to pay small sums towards the things they want or need, even if they can’t afford to pay the full price just now.

With rent to buy programs, everyone wins. That’s why we see rent-to-buy as the prefect sales model for hard times, even for the space age.

(If you’re reading this blog post and are interested in purchasing a space orbiter, we suggest you visit the official Contact NASA webpage, here.)

Categories: Spacecraft