Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced at the New Space Age conference in Seattle his plans to sponsor a project to send spaceships to Saturn’s moon Enceladus to search for alien life. Milner appears to be the latest in a recent trend of billionaires setting their sights on the stars and using their money to help man explore the cosmos.
Between the cost of paying scientists, gathering materials and building state-of-the-art equipment, space travel is expensive. But what about those for which money is not an issue? As technology continues to advance and the idea of space travel becomes more realistic, an increasing number of the world’s richest citizens have become involved in the international rush to explore our universe and perhaps even find alien life along the way. Here are five of the most recognizable (and most wealthy) individuals giving NASA a run for its money in the international space race.
Milner announced his plans to fund a mission to Enceladus at the New Space Age conference in Seattle this week. The Russian billionaire is cited in Forbes as Russia’s most influential tech investor. Milner was an earlier investor in Facebook and Twitter, and more recently invested in Spotify and Airbnb.
Today, Milner is more interested with alien life than tech, and at the conference explained his hopes to send a privately funded mission to Enceladus “relatively soon” to investigate whether recently observed plumes are an indication of alien life, New Scientist reported.
Perhaps the most recognizable name on the list, Musk is the CEO of SpaceX, a company that designs, creates and even launches spaceships, satellites and rockets out into the solar system. However, Musk isn’t so much concerned with intergalactic travel as he is with setting up a colony on our closest solar system neighbor.
Musk outlined his intergalactic goals in a paper published in June and suggests that if everything goes to plan, ships could begin flying to Mars in as little as 10 years from now.
Bezos is the founder of Amazon and worth an astonishing $99 billion. He also wants in on the space race and announced earlier this year his plans to use some of his billions to fund research into getting man to Mars and beyond.
At the moment, Bezos is starting small and working to make space travel affordable and realistic. This involves the creation of commercial flights to space that are far cheaper than the quarter of a million dollars offered by Virgin Atlantic. However, Bezos has expressed that eventually he would like to work toward the goal of having millions of people living and working in space, The New York Times reported.
This Billionaire real estate developer is very open with his belief in extraterrestrial life and boasts that he has spent “millions and millions and millions” and more than anyone else in the U.S., in the search to prove aliens are real. Bigelow is also the founder and president of Bigelow Aerospace, a Las Vegas based company that works to design and create space crafts that humans would be able to live in for both the government and private enterprises.
So far, the company has successfully launched two spacecrafts, the Genesis I & II. It is also responsible for the the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which is now attached to the Tranquility module of the International Space Station.
Not even the Facebook mogul can resist the allure of knowing what’s beyond the stars. Last year Zuckerberg partnered up with Star Shot Project, a project aimed at sending robots deep into space, to check things out. The project has been hailed as the “most-ambitious alien finding project ever” and has backing from Stephen Hawking.
Although the project would not send humans into space, the robots would be take photographs that would be sent back to Earth, allowing us to see what (or who) lays hidden in the furthest reaches of the universe.
Private companies also may be in the lead, but the finish line for this Space Race isn’t exactly clear. The first iteration was arguably “won” when Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the Moon, so does this sequel end when we establish the first Moon base? When a human walks on Mars? When we leave the solar system?
Truthfully, the likelihood of humanity ever calling it a day on space exploration is slim to none. The universe is huge, with galaxy estimates in the trillions, so the goalpost will continue moving back (to bring another sport into the analogy). Rather than focusing on competing in what is ultimately an unwinnable race, private and government-backed space agencies can actually benefit from collaboration thanks to their inherent differences “The way that SpaceX, Planetary Resources, or Virgin Galactic approaches space exploration is going to be very different from NASA or the Air Force,” explains Lewicki. Private companies aren’t beholden to the same slow processes that often stall government projects, and they can secure or reallocate funding much more swiftly if need be. However, unlike agencies like NASA, they do have shareholders to keep happy and a need to constantly pursue profitability.
The two sectors, therefore, have a tremendous opportunity to help one another. Private companies can generate revenue through government contracts —for example, NASA has contracted Boeing to transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), and SpaceX just closed a deal with the U.S. Air Force to launch its secretive space drone. This leaves the government agencies free to pursue the kind of forward-thinking, longer-term research that might not immediately generate revenue, but that can be later streamlined and improved upon in the private sector. These ambitious space travelers are focused on creating habitats in space for astronauts or others to inhabit, and has spent millions to prove that aliens are real.
This is going to get interesting, especially if (when?) we find out we’re not alone in the universe, but the question is will they show us the truth and not like mr ,mrs NASA that’s cuts and edit life feeds.