Close Up: Space Investor

Find out one successful entrepreneur's plans for his future in space.
This story first appeared in the September 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Name: Robert Bigelow

Age: 55

Occupation: Owner of Las Vegas-based Budget Suites of America Hotel Chain, and owner and president of Bigelow Aerospace, a general contractor providing design, engineering and assembly of space complexes.

Long Term Experiment: To invest $500 million over the next 15 years towards the development of a resort orbiting in space and a few lunar cruise ships.

On Opportunities: Bigelow cites the enormous potential of exotic biomedical and pharmaceutical material production in micro-gravity orbits. "If we can access those substances, we're talking about a second industrial revolution."

On The Next Frontier For Entrepreneurs: "Right now the aerospace industry is basically NASA, so NASA s holding all the cards. But it takes the private sector-free enterprise, capitalism and a marketplace-to drive costs down to the point that they're affordable."

On Bigelow's Mental State: Why would Bigelow take such an enormous investment risk? No, he's not "out there"- he has a vision: to invest in space access and pioneer a pathway for entrepreneurs in the outer regions. "We'll see an incomparable amount of new resources and [space-related] opportunities over a period of just a few decades."


Space Facts
  • The arcade game Space Invaders was released in 1978. It created a nationwide coin shortage in Japan.
  • Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up.
  • Thanks to space research, we have: faster computer processors, pressurized ink ballpoint pens, robot arms, cordless drills, satellite weather forecasting and granola bars
  • Five of the top 10 grossing movies of all time are about life in, or from space.
  • A recent survey shows 33.9 percent of Americans would be interested in taking a space vacation.
  • Astronauts who became entrepreneurs:
    • Edgar Mitchell, sixth man to walk on the moon, started the Institute of Noetic Sciences, a foundation that researches consciousness in cosmology.
    • Walter Cunningham, pilot of Apollo VII, founded the Capital Group, which provides investment services and consulting to entrepreneurs.
    • Charles "Pete" Conrad, third man to walk on the moon, founded six commercial space services firms.
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