Billionaires Back Space Projects
A new era in space exploration, the billionaire age, seems to have dawned.
The SpaceX ship scheduled to launch May 19 from Cape Canaveral as the first privately financed cargo delivery vehicle to the International Space Station is powered not only by liquid fuel but by millions from PayPal mogul Elon Musk.
Paul Allen, billionaire Microsoft co-founder, announced last year that his Stratolaunch Systems firm would build a jet with a 385-foot wingspan — longer than a football field — to launch light rockets from high altitudes into space. Allen funded aerospace designer Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne, which won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004.
Last month, X Prize foundation chief Peter Diamandis announced that Bellevue, Wash., start-up Planetary Resources plans to put vehicles into space to capture and mine minerals from near-Earth asteroids in about a decade. Its financiers hail from the ranks of America’s superwealthy, including Google tycoons Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, film director James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar) and Ross Perot Jr., the real-estate-developer son of the onetime presidential candidate.
“We’re now seeing a new generation of (hundred)-millionaires and billionaires who are interested in space,” space entrepreneur Diamandis says. “This is smart money investing in one of the largest commercial opportunities ever: going to space to gain resources for the benefit of humanity.”