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Close Up: Space Investor

Find out one successful entrepreneur's plans for his future in space.

This story appears in the September 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. 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.