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Entrepreneurs on the Moon? NASA Takes a Step in That Direction. How NASA and private space firms are trailblazing the giant leap to the final frontier.

By Kim Lachance Shandrow

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

How cool would it be to do business in outer space some day? Making a buck on the moon, and even on Mars, too, might not be as far off as you'd think. Not now that NASA is taking some serious steps toward creating water, hydrogen and oxygen -- all essential elements for supporting human life -- on both celestial bodies.

The agency's ambitious plans could put Americans one small, but hopeful step closer to colonizing planets. And the first step after setting up house and home would naturally be setting up shop, right? Ah, the entrepreneurial side of the Moon looks bright.

NASA also just announced that it's working with private companies to mine the moon for rare natural resources like Helium-3, which could be used as a clean energy source here on Earth. It looks like some very lucky businesses, big and small, will soon be, forgive the pun, over the moon about the promising (and presumably insanely profitable) prospects out there in the great beyond.

But let's get back to the big news about NASA making vital-to-human-life liquids and gases on the moon and Mars, where so many average Joe astronaut wannabes dream of one day surviving and thriving.

Instead of hauling elements we can't exist without from Earth to space, which is a heck of an expensive hassle to pull off, NASA will concoct them directly on the moon. To get the job done, the agency says it will put a rover scout on the 4.527-billion year-old rock by 2018 to sniff out and gather samples of subsurface hydrogen. The rover would then extract oxygen from the moon's surface soil and process it with hydrogen to create water. And, voila, we could theoretically live and breathe -- and, better yet, make a living -- in outer space. At least that's the big, crazy idea.

The first-of-its-kind lunar mission is named Resource Prospector. A similar mission is set to take place on Mars in 2020. If the Mars mission is successful, it could lay the groundwork for sending humans to the Red Planet.

More than a few space entrepreneurs are already burning up the private commercial race to the moon and Mars. Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic aims to make its first commercial spaceflight later this year and has plans to get to Mars -- at some point.

Another pioneering private space travel company called Mars One pledges to send four people to the red planet by 2024, then four more two years later, and yet four more two years after that. More than 200,000 brave souls have already signed up for a chance at the first four spots.

If there's one thing we know for sure, where humans are, commerce is sure to follow.

What crazy apps and gadgets have you come across lately? Let us know by emailing us at FarOutTech@entrepreneur.com or by telling us in the comments below.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated Virgin Galactic's plans to travel to Mars.

Kim Lachance Shandrow

Former West Coast Editor

Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here

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