According to the journal Nature, the Milky Way Galaxy alone contains at least 100 billion planets.
Now forgive me if I sound excited...but that is huge.
After all, just 20 years ago, astronomers still widel y believed that our own tiny solar system contained all of the major planets.
So when I talk about how we are entering an Era of Radical Change, this is exactly what I'm talking about.
It's not about tiny incremental changes but gigantic shifts in thought.
And here is something else to ponder...
With all of this new data, scientists now believe the universe may contain more than 150 billion galaxies. The math is enough to make your head spin.
How Nuclear-Powered Robots Are Winning the New Space RaceAll this brings to mind one key point: The odds that we are alone in the universe grow smaller and smaller every day.
That puts us on the cusp of a New Space Race - one that will undoubtedly favor robots.
That's why I think NASA's new Spidernaut is such an important piece of technology. It's an eight-legged robot that looks like it crawled right out of a sci-fi movie.
NASA plans to use these robots to help construct a new generation of space-science platforms that are so large and fragile they'll have to be built in orbit.
As it turns out, spiders are really nimble creatures. NASA designed the prototype arachnid robot to have the grace and weight distribution of real spiders.
If the technology works as planned, these giant spider robots would crawl across a "web" of space tethers so as not to damage delicate equipment.
Now how cool is that?...
It all goes to show you that despite the soft global economy and budget cuts, we've actually never had more interest in space exploration.
But this time it's not just the United States and Russia. Indeed, China, India and Japan are also funding major programs.
We also will send a manned mission to Mars, where the plan is to build at least some type of base. It's why NASA launched a new robotic vehicle last November expected to land on Mars in August. Roughly the size of an SUV, the robot has 10 "eyes," a six-foot robotic arm, and is nuclear powered.
Riding Robots in The New Space RaceAt the same time, we have a new generation of space entrepreneurs. That's why I keep track of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) co-founder Paul Allen and Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic and their space tourism companies.
Don't get me wrong. While I find the prospects for commercial space travel exciting, my experience tells me investors will have a much better chance to make money on robotics.
First of all...Here on earth, airlines struggle to break even. Several have gone bankrupt.
So if an airline can't cope with the high costs of jet fuel, how can a company launching rockets for a limited number of tourists be any more profitable?... It just doesn't make sense.
As for robots, these businesses manage to touch the entire technology supply chain. From software to artificial intelligence to sensors to chips, robots employ all of these things.
So, even if we can't find a robot company that justifies a direct investment, we will find numerous opportunities with key suppliers. That's why I think the future of space travel is actually going to ride on robotics.
But don't take my word for it...
Just ask the senior execs at Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG). They obviously believe in the future of spacebots.
In fact, Google will award $30 million to the first team that can land a robotic vehicle on the moon.
To take home the prize, the bot must travel more than 1,600 feet on the surface, then send hi-def images and video back to earth.
It's called the Lunar X Prize, and twenty-six privately funded teams are now vying for the reward. And don't think for a minute this is some kind of gimmick.
After all, it was the Ansari X Prize that provided a huge amount of support for the New Space Race and upcoming commercial travel. And that prize was worth only $10 million!
And remember, when it comes to actually working in hazardous environments like other planets, nothing beats a bot. It doesn't need oxygen, food, or coffee breaks. It doesn't get homesick for its loved ones.
Also consider that new technology promises to keep robots steeped in the latest tech changes, greatly expanding their life spans.
For instance, reprogrammable chips will provide instant upgrades so the robotic hardware lasts longer. We'll beam software patches via satellite so robot "brains" remain rich in new knowledge.
And robots will give us incredible economies of scale...
In the near future, we'll have automated factories in space or on other planets building the robots needed for exploration, experiments, mining, and helping humans.
I recently told you how an arm of the Pentagon known as DARPA wants to recycle dead satellites worth some $300 billion. To do so, it also is pushing advanced robotics.
Thus, the federal government and private industry agree on one key fact about the future - to conquer outer space, they need to invest heavily in robotics.
So, keep your eye on space technology. Eventually, it will earn robotics investors rich returns.
News and Related Story Links:
How the "New Cold War" with China Will Change America's Future
The "Miracle Material" That Will Change the World
3D Chips Will Deliver an Era of Radical Change