Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

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Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Fri Jul 26, 2013 12:44 pm

Holding for a general TOC for this thread...

Rough draft status:

Robert Bigelow

Born: 1945 - his age, even on Wikipedia, is approximate.

Las Vegas, NV Native.

Started college in 1962, Reno, NV - graduated in 1967, Tempe, AZ. Interested in "Banking and Real Estate"

Married 1965. Spent the 60's - 90's developing commercial real estate with the ultimate goal of building a private space company. "...he would tell no one—not even his wife—about his ultimate goal. It took more than 40 years." -- Higginbotham

A lucky guy, per Higginbotham again:

"For years, he held on to almost everything he bought, but would eventually unload much of his housing stock in the boom years immediately before the 2008 crash. “People just really wanted to throw money away,” he says. “So that was lucky.”
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Re: Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:14 pm

Via Forbes: ... dlord.html

Cosmic Landlord

North Las Vegas is a 20-minute drive from the loud fantasy of the Strip. In this quieter part of the Mojave Desert, Robert Bigelow’s own fantasy is coming to fruition. His Bigelow Aerospace owns 50 acres of dirt and scrub where he’s put up a few sun-beaten buildings largely resembling those of the neighboring beer distributor and flooring contractor. Except that Allied Flooring Services isn’t barricaded behind two rows of razor-topped fence. Nor does it have a small militia of roving guards whose shoulder patches depict a bulbous-headed alien.

The concertina and armed patrols suggest that Bigelow is up to something unusual, something expensively unusual and quite sensitive. Bigelow, 67, doesn’t let members of the public behind the wire, but is happy to talk about what he’s doing there.

He’s building hotels. Orbiting hotels. High-tech, low-cost inflatable space stations 228 miles above sea level. If the future for humanity is in space, and Bigelow believes it is, we will need a place to stay. Bigelow made a fortune in his lifetime building affordable places to stay on Earth. In the last 15 years he has spent $210 million of his own money, and he says he will spend up to $500 million overall, in order to prove that space is a safe place for a passionate entrepreneurs.

“We have a way of building stations that are far less expensive, far more safe and can be built more quickly,” says Bigelow. “And the timing is right.”

He says he is in talks with more than a dozen nations and has “memorandums of understanding” from countries including Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, Australia and the United Kingdom. In February NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver visited Bigelow Aerospace’s plant in North Las Vegas, and the agency is currently evaluating the company’s expandable modules for use as expansions to the International Space Station.

It would be easy to write Robert Bigelow off as an eccentric. He gave $3.7 million to the University of Nevada Las Vegas to establish a “consciousness studies” program that taught classes about life after death. He gave an estimated $10 million to fund the now-defunct UFO-hunting National Institute for Discovery Science. In 1996 he bought a 480-acre Utah cattle ranch that some believe is the site of an interdimensional doorway used by alien shape-shifters and stationed watchers there.

Bigelow’s success is evident otherwise. FORBES estimates his real estate empire is worth $700 million. Bigelow is entirely self-made and owns all his companies and properties outright, including the Budget Suites chain of residential hotels and more than 14,000 apartment and office units across the Southwest.

Inflatable space habitats (as opposed to the hard aluminum-hulled canisters now in use on the International Space Station) may sound wild, but the technology is real. Bigelow’s prototypes have been orbiting Earth since 2006. He’s at work on a massive expansion of his plant in North Las Vegas that will double the amount of available floor space to 340,000 square feet; inside, he’s building a scale model of the Sundancer, the first habitat he plans to launch into space. When that’s completed, he’ll build a model of its big brother, the BA330: At 11,600 cubic feet, it has nearly as much volume as the entire ISS (see chart, p. 158).

By 2016 Bigelow expects to have a fully functioning station in orbit and to begin charging rent for it. Prices start at $28,750,000 per astronaut for a 30-day tour. That’s a lot of money, he admits, but says economies of scale will drive the price down quickly. He also points out it’s still less than the estimated $35 million Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté paid in 2009 for 12 days aboard the International Space Station (see Laliberté’s story in his own words).

“Bigelow is absolutely viable,” says Phil McAlister, NASA’s acting director for commercial space flight development. “We’re very interested to see how they proceed.”

The market for privately funded space companies is real. This July NASA plans to launch its final Space Shuttle mission; when it concludes, the U.S. government will have to rely on foreign governments and private companies to get into space, including the transport of cargo and crew to the ISS. The U.S. space business had estimated revenue of $40.9 billion in 2010, according to the Aerospace Industries Association, up 18% from revenue of $33.6 billion in 2005. “In ten years time the revenues will be more than double what they are today,” says David Todd, senior space analyst for aerospace consulting firm Ascend.

Wealthy entrepreneurs are scrambling for position. Elon Musk, cofounder of PayPal, is developing new rockets and reusable spacecraft at his company, SpaceX, and has already won a $1.6 billion government contract to carry cargo to the ISS after the shuttle fleet shuts down. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is developing a suborbital vehicle at his company Blue Origin. John Carmack, the videogame programmer and cofounder of id Software, has a rocketry startup called Armadillo Aerospace. And Richard Branson is planning to take tourists on jaunts into low-orbit space via Virgin Galactic.

“Space is not just in the realm of government anymore,” says Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of the X Prize Foundation and chief executive of Zero Gravity Corp., which operates weightlessness flights.

“People were frustrated by the lack of progress in space, and they decided to step up and make something happen,” says George Whitesides, chief executive of Virgin Galactic.

President Obama’s 2011 budget has increased the amount of NASA’s budget that goes to commercial partnerships, including allocating $6 billion over five years for commercial crew services. NASA’s McAlister says the relationship between the public agency and private industry is changing quickly. “It’s more of a partnership,” he says. “It used to be ‘Here’s what I want, go build it.’ Now we’ll give them higher-level goals. … We’re letting the private sector figure out the most cost-effective way.”

There’s strong evidence that private industry can do the job as well or better than government. In April a NASA study estimated that SpaceX spent $390 million developing its Falcon 9 rocket and launch vehicle, but if NASA had done the same work, it would have cost between $1.7 billion and $4 billion.

Says Elon Musk: “It’s certainly possible that we could be ferrying astronauts to [Bigelow's] space station at some point.”

Robert Bigelow runs his businesses out of a Tudor mansion just east of the Strip. The place is the antithesis of space age. Thick curtains block the sun from his office, which are lush quarters reminiscent of an Old West hotel. Sepia-toned photos decorate the walls next to displays of arrowheads and knives. A shotgun leans casually against the fireplace like a forgotten umbrella. Some anomalies creep in: On one wall there’s a letter written by Edgar Cayce, the American psychic credited with founding the New Age movement. A bookshelf contains multiple copies of the title UFOs and Nukes.

“I grew up here in Las Vegas,” says Bigelow. “This was a unique town because it was the only place where you could stand out in your yard and watch [rocket] launches or a nuclear bomb go off.”

Strange occurrences in the desert also made deep impressions. According to a family story, Bigelow’s grandparents Tom and Delta Thebo were driving across Mount Charleston near Las Vegas in 1947 and saw a glowing UFO approach their car, make a 90-degree turn and blast into space. When Bigelow heard the tale, it cemented his interest in space and the paranormal.

But Bigelow never wanted to work for NASA–he wanted to explore the universe on his own terms. “I decided early on that I had to find some way of being involved in space and that I needed to make some money to be able to do it,” he says. “Real estate was the medium.” Bigelow’s father was a broker, so the notion of selling property was a familiar concept and seemed like a reliable path to wealth. So he studied real estate and banking at Arizona State University and, after graduating in 1967, got to work.

He started by borrowing $20,000 from a hard money lender, paying ten points and 10% interest. “I used that money to buy something that I thought was the safest kind of investment I could make,” he says, meaning small rental apartment complexes. By 1970, at only 26 years old, he owned about 100 apartments in Las Vegas and had begun work on his first new construction, a 40-unit apartment building. “I built a number of apartment complexes after that,” says Bigelow. “And finally I got down to where the floor plans were pretty fine-tuned, the facades were fine-tuned, and it was natural for that to evolve into some kind of a chain.”

In 1988 he founded Budget Suites of America, a chain of extended-stay hotels, essentially offering apartments for rent by the week. They appeal to temporary or migrant workers, like the kind who work at hotels and casinos, and emphasize affordability and convenience, not luxury. A Budget Suite hotel might have 300 units in one location, far more than other extended-stay hotels, which cater to more-upscale business travelers.

The business worked so well it provided a model for Bigelow Aerospace, founded in 1996: Just like his hotels, Robert Bigelow would make space stations that were cheap, efficient and available for monthly lease.

Blow-up spacecraft were first developed at NASA in the 1960s. Early prototypes consisted of thick Mylar balloons. Later versions used rubber bladders surrounded by Kevlar. When Congress killed the program’s funding in 2000, Bigelow licensed the government patents and began modernizing them for commercial development.

Bigelow says that in the three most important measures of a space station’s viability–volume, ability to take impact and radiation protection–his expandable systems work much better than traditional hard-sided metal habitats. “We’ve done high-velocity impact testing,” he says. “You shoot a particle at 7 kilometers a second. … The shield that surrounds these habitable systems can defeat those particles much better than the aluminum cans do.”

Bigelow set up his first factory building in North Las Vegas shortly after beginning operations. By 2006 he had spent nearly $75 million on prototypes and was ready to put his first habitat to the test. His Genesis I spacecraft went into space that July on a Russian rocket. It inflated to 14 feet long by 8 feet in diameter and still orbits 350 miles above Earth.

Since then he has accelerated his investments (Bigelow estimates he spent an additional $105 million between 2006 and 2010, and $30 million in the last 12 months) and scaled up his plans. He now offers a wide variety of rental options to suit. An two-astronaut three-month lease on a Sundancer station will cost you $97.5 million; a one-year lease costs $390 million. For those clients with truly cosmic aspirations, a top-of-the-line, 12-astronaut, four-year lease on a larger BA330 station is priced at $440 million a year.

Each lease is all-inclusive, covering a set number of flights for astronauts to and from the module per year, the assistance and support of an onboard Bigelow crew, station maintenance, living supplies, communications and astronaut-training programs. “Our business has always been to create the structures, the environment, for people to do a variety of activities, not for us to conduct those activities ourselves,” he says. “Think of it as if we’re building a regional shopping mall.”

Bigelow is even offering payment plans. Can’t swing that $28.75 million for a 30-day visit? Buy now and spread out your lease over three 10-month periods, with only 30% of your total obligation due in 2012.

“We don’t sell anything, we lease it. Otherwise the checks would be a lot larger,” Bigelow says. “And my background is banking and real estate and all of that. .… I’m like a general contractor, making sure that you have something that is useful and is affordable.”

Still, at those prices, who would consider a lease affordable? Bigelow’s first target is governments. There are more than 50 countries with an official space agency, he says, but nowhere to go and no real access to the International Space Station. The vast majority of astronauts on the ISS have been American and Russian.

In 2006 Bigelow had Chile’s only astronaut visit him in his Las Vegas office. “He was convinced he’ll never fly. Absolutely convinced,” says Bigelow. “And it was at that time I realized there could be a logical market for national clients, because where else are they going to go?”

Corporate clients might be harder to come by but would probably be drawn from sectors that deal with material sciences, particularly engineering or metallurgy, where a low-gravity environment would make possible types of research and production that are impossible or prohibitively expensive on Earth. Medical and pharmaceutical companies might benefit for the same reasons.

Beyond that, Bigelow sees wide possibilities. “Might they be used for movie studios? Yeah, but I don’t know how seriously,” he says. “Will there someday be a space hotel? Sure. Or maybe several.”

Just don’t expect Bigelow to provide the hospitality himself. “It isn’t our business to operate a hotel,” he says. “Our business is to provide the structure for someone like Richard Branson to come in and say, ‘Okay, I want to operate a tourist facility.’” (For his part, Branson is circumspect: “That’s something we may well be able to do one day,” he says.)

If all goes according to plan, by 2014 Bigelow will begin constructing an orbital space complex referred to as “Space Complex Alpha”–at least until he sells the naming rights. Alpha will consist of a complex of connected spacecraft: a Sundancer and a BA330 for customer use, a second Sundancer that will house Bigelow crew to maintain the station and a module that provides a power bus and docking node.

The problem of how to get all that material into space has yet to be resolved. Bigelow is collaborating with Boeing on a commercial crew capsule that may eventually provide transit. Another option is Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which has successfully tested the Dragon spacecraft it will eventually use to supply the ISS. “They’ve already been there and done that,” says Bigelow. “Not only did their rocket work, but they landed within less than a mile of their target. They retrieved their spacecraft. This is the real deal.”

Another tenant could be the first lunar mining expeditions. The moon contains large concentrations of helium-3, a nonradioactive isotope that’s rare on Earth but could be an incredibly valuable fuel for nuclear fusion. Acquiring those lunar resources was always too difficult and expensive to make lunar mining anything more than a fantasy. But Bigelow argues the balance of risk and reward is changing with low-cost private rockets and his own inflatable space stations, which could be modified for surface use.

He’s convinced there’s an even better reason there will be demand for cheap, easily installed lunar bases. It’s an idea he’s never talked about publicly but is convinced is inevitable: a Chinese lunar land grab.

The Outer Space Treaty, a 1967 agreement that forms the basis of international space law, has been signed by every major power on Earth. It establishes that the resources of the moon should be shared and that while sovereign nations may explore or build bases, they cannot claim land as their own and must be open to a wide range of United Nations rules, regulations and inspections.

But a few paragraphs from the end of the treaty, in Article 16, Bigelow points out a detail he believes will radically change the future of space exploration. Any signatory to the treaty can send a letter of withdrawal and 12 months later will have been recognized to have withdrawn from the treaty. “Now, can you think of a particular country that is very impressive, that is extraordinary in its potential and its power and its capacity … and that has made no bones about going to the moon?”

If China pulls a land grab, Bigelow says, America’s only option will be to withdraw from the treaty as well and send its own personnel to the moon to start claiming American territory. And they’ll have to turn to commercial providers like Bigelow Aerospace to do it. “Without the private sector, this country is not capable of doing that or getting there in time. It will be too little, too late.”

Via Space Monitor: ... ustry.html

Robert Bigelow has expressed his disappointment in the development of manned space exploration. Growing up captivated by the Apollo 11 moon landing Bigelow has said, "It's been 30 years since the last beginning and we don't have anything to show for it but memories. People are tired of memories." This time he is doing something about it. After acquiring his fortune through his Las Vegas hotel chain Budget Suites of America, he pledged to spend up to $500 million by 2015 to give manned space exploration a much needed boost.

Bigelow envisions a whole new breed of hotels: Space Hotels. He has plans of offering a 330-cubic-meter space station (about the size of a 3 bedroom house) for a paltry $1 million a night. Guests will fly around the Earth every 90 minutes traveling 17,500 miles/hour and absorb spectacular views of the Earth and the surrounding galaxy. Learning weightless acrobatics will also become a common pastime for guests.

These incredible ambitions are not from idle words either. His pledge to front $500 million for the project and the successful launch of Genesis I, the 1/3 scale model Transhab, have already been mentioned (see article) but what else has brought this project closer to reality than most would have ever thought possible? Well, for one, a deal has already been made between Bigelow Aerospace and Elon Musk's SpaceX to have the Falcon 9 launch an expandable space-station in the first quarter of 2008. A $50 million "America's Space Prize" has also been presented by Bigelow for the group who can create a spacecraft that can take 5 or more people to an altitude of 400 km, demonstrate the ability to dock with a Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space habitat, and repeat the trip within 60 days. The deadline is Jan. 10, 2010. The real prize though, is the potential $200 million purchase agreement for six flights of a selected vehicle. This can be awarded to a company after the deadline if it is preferred over the winner's design. In addition to the $200 million deal there is another $800 million available in options contracts for 24 flights over a span of about 4 to 4.5 years!

Like Jeff Bezos (see part 1), Bigelow displays sincere ambitions too. His life's dream is very similar to mine (see site purpose). He was only 15 years old when he vowed to devote his life to establishing a permanent human presence in space. Already aware of the difficulties it would take he knew he would need money--lots of it. Soon after his vow, he aggressively began laying the foundation for accumulating his wealth. He followed in his father's footsteps by studying real estate and banking at Arizona State University. Upon graduation, he immediately put his real estate education into practice by buying small rental properties. Three years later, in 1970, he constructed his first apartment house, a 40-unit building. For the next two decades he continued expanding by building dozens of apartment buildings and motels in the Las Vegas area. In 1988 he founded his lucrative Budget Suites of America.

All throughout this time, Bigelow kept space in the back of his head and only in the back of his head. The motivation for his ambitious expansion of his company was kept entirely secret. “I didn’t even tell my wife,” he says. “She never knew. Because it’s possible that that kind of dream would never happen.” Serendipity struck in 1999 when Bigelow stumbled upon a NASA project for a radical new space station concept. The radical concept was called the Transhab project. In 2000 NASA canceled it for no apparent reason and so Bigelow bought the exclusive development rights. Bigelow believes he can accomplish what NASA couldn't because of his business expertise. "I’ve put together many, many projects involving a lot of money and a lot of people,” he says, and unlike NASA, “I’m used to doing things pretty darn well on budget and pretty darn well on time.”

Thus ends my 3 part series on the money behind the dream. I hope you learned something new about the private space industry or perhaps became inspired yourself to join the industry!
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Re: Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:36 pm

Via: ... fo-contact

Robert Bigelow is one of my personal heroes, a space man who can—and will—change the world because he believes so. Now, the FAA says that you should call one of his mysterious companies if you see an UFO.

Bigelow's main space company—Bigelow Aerospace—already has two private test space stations in low Earth orbit: Genesis 1 and 2. His plan is to have a hotel in orbit, and he's steadily on course to achieve his objectives. The guy and his Errol Flynn mustache may seem eccentric to some, but he means business.

But Bigelow is also a man who truly loves space, and everything that has to do with it. His multi-million dollar investment is not only about hotels in space. Another of his companies is Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies. According to the last order by Federal Aviation Administration—issued on December 10—BAASS is now the organization to contact if you are a pilot or an air traffic controller who gets close to an Unidentified Flying Object:

Persons wanting to report UFO/unexplained phenomena activity should contact a UFO/ unexplained phenomena reporting data collection center, such as Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) (voice: 1-877-979-7444 or e-mail:

They don't list the number or email of the military, nor some special branch of the Secret Service, nor the CIA, nor the NASA. But BAASS. Is this a crazy company? Hardly so. Here's their own description:

Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS), a sister company to Bigelow Aerospace, is a newly formed research organization that focuses on the identification, evaluation, and acquisition of novel and emerging future technologies worldwide as they specifically relate to spacecraft. BAASS is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada. We are seeking experienced scientists to join our research teams. If you are an inquisitive outside of the circle thinker, who is detail oriented and who is looking for a challenge, this is a unique and exciting opportunity to advance your career and to be a part of cutting edge research.

If I had the experience they are looking for, I would love to work there, in their secretive base in the Nevada desert. There has to be something going on when they are hiring astrophysics, biochemists, microbiologists, nanotechnolgists, physicists, and propulsion and stealth technology experts. And not only that:

A Masters or PhD in a relevant field is a plus. Candidates must qualify for secret and top secret clearances and must be willing to submit to a thorough background check.

For all positions, some travel - both nationally and internationally - may be required.
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Re: Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:39 pm

Via Jeff's "Bad Medicine, Part 2"

There does appear to be a thread in need of untangling which connects the US military, high weirdness and Native American tradition and land, particularly sacred sites. The San Luis Valley of Colorado for instance, where Maurice Strong and his then wife built their "Valley Of the Refuge Of World Truths," is a holy place for many indigenous nations, including the Navajo. There's Indio's Cabazon Indian Reservation, notorious for Casolaro's Octopus and now also the trial of Richard Hamlin. (Hamlin's father-in-law Sidney Siemer, whom he accuses of ritually abusing his wife Susan, "freely admits" having worked there in the 1980s during the time of Wackenhut and PROMIS. Before she recanted her testimony, Susan claimed to remember her father subjecting her to mind control torture in an Indio warehouse.)

Via: ... r_emporium

Bigelow’s Aerospace and Saucer Emporium
Robert Sheaffer
Volume 33.4, July / August 2009

Perhaps you’ve seen news stories about Bigelow Aerospace, founded by Las Vegas real estate millionaire Robert Bigelow, who made his money with his chain of Budget Suites hotels. Following a path quite different from that of other companies involved in commercial space ventures, Bigelow Aerospace has a bold plan to launch an inflatable, orbiting space station as a destination for space tourists by 2012. The company plans to offer the well-heeled tourist the opportunity for a four-week sojourn in its orbiting space station for $15 million. But unlike some space entrepreneurs whose plans never leave earth, Bigelow Aerospace has already succeeded in orbiting two of its prototype modules on Russian rockets: Genesis I in 2006 and Genesis II in 2007. These are inflatable modules with sophisticated cameras and electronic packages to demonstrate the feasibility of this unique and untried approach. As of this writing, both modules remain in orbit and continue to send back data. In 2006, Bigelow Aerospace was awarded the Innovator Award by the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation.

But there is one space-related issue troubling Mr. Bigelow, one on which he feels the need to obtain, even at potentially great cost, the best counsel available: UFOs. It is not clear whether he fears that UFOs will interfere with his future orbiting hotel chain or if he believes that UFOs harbor some secrets of propulsion or anti-gravity that his engineers might someday be able to put to good use. Whichever it is, Bigelow has contracted MUFON, the largest UFO group in the U.S., with potentially very large sums of money for the pursuit of first-hand UFO information. Indeed, longtime UFO activist Ed Komarek is suggesting that Bigelow’s goal is nothing less than an “alien reengineering project.”

Bigelow has a long history in the matter of UFOs and “paranormal” subjects. He was the principal sponsor of the Las Vegas-based National Institute for Discovery Sciences (NIDS) from its founding in 1995 until it was placed on “inactive status” in 2004. The NIDS Web site is still up ( but apparently has not been updated since 2004. It reports on a number of UFO investigations, alleged cattle mutilations, and other far-out stuff. The best-known and most controversial project undertaken by NIDS was its purchase of a supposedly “haunted” ranch in Utah (reported in this column back in May/June 1998), which some describe as a “Hyperdimensional Portal Area” or “Stargate.” The ranch is said to be infested by an alien or paranormal shape-shifting creature known as “Skinwalker,” taking its name from Native American legends similar to European legends about werewolves. NIDS researchers investigated the ranch starting in 1996. They compiled an impressive collection of what might be termed “ghost stories” but, in spite of having access to sophisticated electronic equipment, failed to obtain any actual proof that anything unexplainable was going on. For a collection of wild claims and stories about this ranch, check out Rumor has it that MUFON will now take over the investigation of this “haunted” place.

It might be most accurate to describe MUFON as “the largest remaining UFO group in the U.S.” since there used to be others of at least its size. Founded in Illinois in 1969 by Walt Andrus, it was originally known as the Midwest UFO Network. Geographically, it was positioned between its better-known rivals the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), headquartered in Washington, D.C., and the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) in Tucson, Arizona. However, each of these UFO groups maintained its own far-flung roster of investigators and “scientific consultants” so that any group might have a presence more or less anywhere. Andrus had originally been affiliated with APRO but got into a feud with its directors, the late Coral and Jim Lorenzen, and struck off on his own. With the demise of its rivals, MUFON found itself the last man standing. It reformulated itself as the Mutual UFO Network and picked up many of the fading groups’ most active and valuable members.

Walt Andrus remained at the helm of MUFON until his retirement in 2000. I met Andrus at the National UFO Conference in Phoenix in 1984. He was an irascible man who appeared untroubled by doubts about UFOs and who was barely able to tolerate skepticism in any form. He described my 1981 skeptical book The UFO Verdict as “an insult to the intelligence” of the reader. During the Andrus years, MUFON publicly booted out a number of its most prominent investigators for the sin of being too skeptical about one UFO case or another that Andrus was determined to defend, most notably Ed Walters’s absurdly unconvincing hoax UFO photos from Gulf Breeze, Florida. Probably Andrus found that the publicity over the Gulf Breeze photos was helping MUFON gain members, and thus criticism of the case was unwelcome within MUFON no matter how solid and factual.

John Schuessler took over MUFON until his own retirement in 2006, succeeded by the much younger James Carrion. I heard Carrion speak to Mensa last year in Denver and chatted with him afterward. Clearly more cautious than Andrus and not so hostile to skeptical questions, Carrion admitted to a great deal of uncertainty concerning UFOs and would not even make a defense of the Roswell crash claims. His position is essentially the same as that of the late J. Allen Hynek, former scientific advisor for the U.S. Air Force’s Project Bluebook: he is sure that UFOs represent something unknown and significant but does not claim to know what.

Since it became a national organization (now headquartered in Colorado), MUFON has appointed state directors, subdirectors, and investigators, as well as establishing local groups that sponsor lectures and meetings. Throw a dart at a map of the U.S., and wherever it may land, MUFON will have some person whose responsibility it is to investigate a UFO report at that location. While MUFON may seem large, it is very thin. With 2,500 members spread nationwide, this means that an average-sized state will have about fifty members, most of whom do nothing except receive the publication. In reality, 80 to 90 percent of the members of a volunteer organization typically contribute little if any useful work, which shows how thinly spread organized UFOlogy is.

It is exactly this matter of “a volunteer organization” that Bigelow is seeking to change. Bigelow’s proposal is to generously fund the efforts of MUFON investigators to enable them to respond quickly to alleged UFO incidents. The agreement between Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) and MUFON sets up a “Star Team Impact Project” (SIP), with an initial funding period from five months to a year, with the option to renew for a second year. Investigations will be limited to cases where physical effects of a UFO are reported or where “living beings” are allegedly sighted or where “reality transformation” is said to occur. “Lights seen in the sky” do not qualify for paid investigation, a decision with which Hynek would have surely agreed. Anyone who is already a MUFON investigator can apply for a position with SIP, although new or inexperienced investigators are expected to demonstrate their skills by performing investigations of routine UFO sightings before moving up to SIP. Additionally, Bigelow is in the process of contracting up to fifty scientists, who are expected to be on the scene within twenty-four hours after significant UFO incidents, to perform state-of-the-art investigations of whatever artifacts or data the SIP investigators may obtain. All of the investigators’ travel expenses will be covered, as well as a paid stipend of $100 per day of investigation. Incentive payments and bonuses are also available for those whose contributions excel. The results of SIP’s first few months of investigations are scheduled to be presented at MUFON’s annual convention in Denver this August.

While Bigelow and MUFON are no doubt expecting great results, perhaps even dramatic breakthroughs, from investigations of UFOs in near-real time, this “Star Team” is not, however, the first attempt within organized UFOlogy to create a “rapid response team” to quickly investigate reports. In an article in Playboy (December 1967), Hynek proposed (and later implemented) a national toll-free UFO Hotline to be “manned 24 hours a day by competent interrogators capable of recognizing a true UFO report from a prankster’s report.... If the report passes preliminary and immediate screening, headquarters notifies the local police and they rush to the scene.” He explained how he expected solid and irrefutable UFO data “within a year of the initiation of such a no-nonsense program.” But in a moment of perhaps unguarded optimism, Hynek added, “if the UFO-1000 program is sincerely and intensively carried out for a full year and yields nothing, this, in itself, would be of great negative significance. Then we could go back to the ‘real, common-sense world’ of pre-UFO days—shrugging it all off with ‘There must have been a virus going around.’”

In an interview in Saga UFO Report (August 1976), Hynek explained how his national hotline was working out: “In an unprecedented move, the FBI printed an article of mine in their monthly bulletin [February 1975]. We furnished them with a special toll-free number which they can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Every night we get at least one call ... we contact one of our 300 regional representatives, and they go and interview the witnesses. Geiger counters, soil samples, physiological effects, etc., are all involved in the investigation.” Hynek gave no explanation of why he had not given up on UFOs as he earlier said he would if a year-long study yielded no solid evidence.

Other “rapid response” efforts to catch UFOs have likewise been attempted. Peter Davenport’s National UFO Reporting Center has been collecting UFO reports on its telephone hotline since 1974, many from law enforcement and emergency service agencies, yet UFO proof continues to elude them. In 1977 France’s CNES, their equivalent of NASA, created the agency GEPAN to officially sponsor investigations of UFO reports. It, too, failed to come up with anything really convincing, and CNES terminated all UFO investigations in 2004. In the late 1990s, when according to news reports Mexico City was being inundated by a Saucer Blitz, Mexican UFOlogist and TV personality Jaime Mausson organized Los Vigilantes, who were supposed to be ready to respond to saucer reports with cameras and such at very short notice. They never obtained anything of significance, so far as I am aware. Obviously Bigelow and MUFON must expect that their “rapid response” efforts will bear more fruit than these others did, although I cannot see any reason to expect them to have any greater success than others who valiantly chased the UFO will-of-the-wisp.
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Re: Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby DrEvil » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:48 pm

Edit: Foiled again. Daaamn you Wombat! :hrumph

I found that job listing I mentioned elsewhere via the wayback machine: ... m/careers/?

The company is/was called Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies, and they were looking for:

BAASS Career Opportunities

Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS), a sister company to Bigelow Aerospace, is a newly formed research organization that focuses on the identification, evaluation, and acquisition of novel and emerging future technologies worldwide as they specifically relate to spacecraft. BAASS is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada. We are seeking experienced scientists to join our research teams. If you are an inquisitive outside of the circle thinker, who is detail oriented and who is looking for a challenge, this is a unique and exciting opportunity to advance your career and to be a part of cutting edge research.

Numerous positions are available in various fields

Impressive candidates will need to have 10 or more years of research and hands on experience in the disciplines related to aerospace sciences, specifically including:

Stealth Technologies
The Engineering Disciplines

Several positions are also available for research scientists in the disciplines of:

Biological Cognitive Interaction
Electromagnetic Fields

A Masters or PhD in a relevant field is a plus. Candidates must qualify for secret and top secret clearances and must be willing to submit to a thorough background check.

For all positions, some travel - both nationally and internationally - may be required.

Bigelow also recently became NASA's point man for utilizing the commercial space industry:

NASA Banking on Bigelow Study To Break Big Contractor Bias

WASHINGTON — Bigelow Aerospace has produced a report for NASA that shows how the agency could use privately operated space systems beyond low Earth orbit.

A draft of the report, essentially a catalog of space systems and technologies that companies like Bigelow have proposed flying in space, was delivered to NASA’s top human spaceflight official during a May 23 press conference at NASA headquarters here. The report is the first deliverable due to the agency under a nonexclusive, unfunded Space Act Agreement the North Las Vegas, Nev.-based developer of inflatable space habitats signed with NASA in March.

more at link: ... ctor-bias#
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Re: Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Fri Jul 26, 2013 2:49 pm

Via: ... =all&_r=1&

In New Space Race, Enter the Entrepreneurs

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. — At the Bigelow Aerospace factory here, the full-size space station mockups sitting on the warehouse floor look somewhat like puffy white watermelons. The interiors offer a hint of what spacious living in space might look like.

“Every astronaut we have come in here just says, ‘Wow,’ ” said Robert T. Bigelow, the company founder. “They can’t believe the size of this thing.”

Four years from now, the company plans for real modules to be launched and assembled into the solar system’s first private space station. Paying customers — primarily nations that do not have the money or expertise to build a space program from scratch — would arrive a year later.

In 2016, a second, larger station would follow. The two Bigelow stations would then be home to 36 people at a time — six times as many as currently live on the International Space Station.

If this business plan unfolds as it is written — the company has two fully inflated test modules in orbit already — Bigelow will be buying 15 to 20 rocket launchings in 2017 and in each year after, providing ample business for the private companies that the Obama administration would like to finance for the transportation of astronauts into orbit — the so-called commercial crew initiative.

President Obama’s budget proposal for 2011 calls for investing $6 billion over five years for probably two or more companies to develop spacecraft capable of carrying people into space. Then, instead of operating its own systems, like the space shuttles, NASA would buy rides for its astronauts on these commercial space taxis.

“This represents the entrance of the entrepreneurial mind-set into a field that is poised for rapid growth and new jobs,” Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said in February. “And NASA will be driving competition, opening new markets and access to space and catalyzing the potential of American industry.”

Officials have been careful not to say their commercial crew plan relies on a market beyond NASA, but for now, Bigelow appears to be the only non-NASA buyer for commercial crew services.

“Nobody,” Mr. Bigelow said of competition he sees on the horizon.

Thus, the rosier promises of the president’s plan rest on this enigmatic, 100-employee company located on 50 acres of desert not far from the casinos and strip clubs and the ability of Mr. Bigelow, an iconoclast who made his fortune in real estate including the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, to get his dreams off the ground.

He has spent about $180 million of his own money so far and has said he is willing to spend up to $320 million more. An expansion of the factory will double the amount of floor space as the company begins the transition from research and development to production.

Mr. Bigelow only occasionally gives interviews, and except for Michael N. Gold, the director of Bigelow’s Washington office, the employees almost never speak publicly. A company document titled “Some Important Bigelow Aerospace Cultural Values” implores employees, “Keep your work and the work of your co-workers very private from people outside the company.” (Mr. Gold said that the confidentiality stems from federal regulations designed to protect technological information and that the engineers are busy working.)

The Las Vegas site is hemmed by barbed wire and patrolled by armed guards.

The soundness of the business case is unknown to outsiders. Mr. Bigelow declines to say if he has firm commitments from any countries or companies to rent space on his space stations. In recent years, he has played down the notion that he is building a space hotel for rich tourists, although he says space tourism could provide a part of his business.

Over the past year, Mr. Gold visited countries like Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the Netherlands, England and Sweden to gauge interest. A stay on a Bigelow station, including transportation, is currently priced at just under $25 million a person for 30 days. That is less than half the more than $50 million a seat that NASA is paying for rides alone on Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. Doubling the stay to 60 days adds just $3.75 million more.

For a country or company willing to sign up for a four-year commitment, the lease for an entire six-person module would cost just under $395 million a year, and that would include transportation for a dozen people each year. “You see why this is attractive for the sovereign client market,” Mr. Gold said.

The Bigelow prices are good through 2018, and Mr. Bigelow said the prices would drop by then if, as he expects, rocket prices drop.

“We’re very comfortable with our numbers,” he said, although he declined to discuss the details. Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, which is the most optimistic in reducing launching costs, estimates that rides to space on its Falcon 9 rockets would be $20 million a seat.

“You have to trust a little bit that we’re making these investments because we think it’s going to make sense economically at the end of the day,” Mr. Bigelow said. “We won’t execute our business plan if those numbers aren’t there.”

His space stations are not his only interest in space. “I’ve been a researcher and student of U.F.O.’s for many, many years,” Mr. Bigelow said. “Anybody that does research, if people bother to do quality research, come away absolutely convinced. You don’t have to have personal encounters.”

He added: “People have been killed. People have been hurt. It’s more than observational kind of data.”

Other views that run counter to mainstream science include a belief in the power of prayer and a disbelief in the Big Bang theory.

The idea of inflatable spacecraft dates back almost to the beginning of the space age, solving a stubborn conundrum with putting stuff in space. Rockets are tall, but not particularly wide. With inflatable spacecraft, the structure can be packed tightly into the payload and then filled with air once in orbit.

NASA’s Echo I and Echo II satellites, launched in 1960 and 1964, were large Mylar balloons. NASA commissioned Goodyear to build prototypes of an inflatable space station, which looked like a big rubber inner tube.

The rubber space stations never flew, in part because of an obvious design weakness — they could pop if hit by meteoroids.

The idea remained dormant until the 1990s, when NASA started exploring how to build living quarters for a human mission to Mars. William C. Schneider, then the senior engineer at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, returned to the inflatable design.

Instead of rubber like the 1960s Goodyear design, Dr. Schneider used an airtight bladder surrounded by Kevlar straps. “It dumps its pressure load into the straps,” Dr. Schneider said. “Those two together make a very efficient design.”

Outside the straps, alternating layers of aluminized fabric and foam absorb and disperse the impacts of micrometeoroids, providing better protection than metal structures, Dr. Schneider said.

Even though he was sure the design was sound, he built two prototypes of the TransHab module and demonstrated their resilience in a swimming pool and a vacuum chamber. “People would think of it as a balloon,” said Dr. Schneider, who now is a visiting professor at Texas A&M University. “In cases, it was six times as good as needed. It’s absolutely verified.”

In the meantime, the Mars plans were shelved as too expensive, and TransHab was reimagined as a crew quarters module for the International Space Station. Then the space station costs grew, and in 2000, Congress prohibited NASA from spending any more money on TransHab.

Mr. Bigelow, 66, said that he was inspired by NASA’s successes of the 1960s, culminating with the Moon landings, and that he always hoped to invest in space someday. He read about TransHab in 1998, and learning of the project’s imminent demise, he established Bigelow Aerospace in 1999 and bought an exclusive license to the NASA patents.

Dr. Schneider joined Bigelow as a consultant. The Bigelow designs are essentially very close to his NASA work, Dr. Schneider said, with some changes like replacing the Kevlar with Vectran, another bullet-resistant fabric. There are also some notable improvements like the addition of small windows, already tested on the Genesis I and II test modules that were successfully launched from Russia using converted ballistic missiles.

“He had great manufacturing capability,” Dr. Schneider said. “They have some real good engineers as well. I’m sure they will be very successful.”

The biggest hole in his plans, Mr. Bigelow said, is the one not entirely in his control: getting to and from the space stations.

For a while, Bigelow and Lockheed Martin were collaborating on a small capsule that would launch on an Atlas V rocket, which currently launches Air Force satellites and other payloads. Lockheed Martin won the NASA contract for building the Orion crew capsule for NASA’s Constellation program and dropped out of the work with Bigelow.

Mimicking the $10 million X Prize that spurred the development of the suborbital spaceplane SpaceShipOne, Mr. Bigelow offered $50 million to anyone who could build an orbital spacecraft. No one tried to claim the prize before it expired in January.

Bigelow is collaborating with Boeing using $18 million that NASA has provided for preliminary design of a commercial crew capsule.

Keith Reiley, the program manager at Boeing for the capsule, said he was not very familiar with Bigelow’s space station plans, but was impressed with what Bigelow has contributed to Boeing’s capsule. “They’re a lot more entrepreneurial than we are,” Mr. Reiley said, “and it’s refreshing for us.”

If the Boeing spacecraft is ready by 2014, that is when the dance of Bigelow space station modules will begin.

A habitat called Sundancer, with an inflated volume of about 6,400 cubic feet, would launch first. A separate rocket would then carry two Bigelow astronauts to take up residence in Sundancer as additional pieces — a second Sundancer, a larger habitat of about 11,700 cubic feet, and a central connecting node — are launched. The modules are to dock by themselves with the astronauts present to fix any glitches.

Once the stations are up, Bigelow still needs to demonstrate that it can juggle the logistics of supplying food, water and air, as well as fix the inevitable glitches that will arise. Mr. Bigelow said that he would hire people with the needed experience and skills, and that space stations were not all that different from hotels.

“I’ve had four decades of serving people, tens and tens and tens of thousands of people, all over the southwest part of the United States,” he said. “I have four decades of building all kinds of things. The principles are the same.”

As a private company, Bigelow can operate space stations much more efficiently than NASA and its governmental partners can operate the International Space Station, Mr. Bigelow said. (Another of the company values declares: “Make up your mind quickly. Don’t take forever, people are waiting, the company is waiting, the future is waiting and time costs money.”)

NASA’s interest in inflatables has also been revived once again. Among several large technology demonstration projects proposed in the president’s 2011 budget is an inflatable module for the International Space Station. Bigelow is currently talking to NASA about that.

Mr. Bigelow envisions variations of the inflatable modules being used for a Moon base or a mission to Mars.

“Our hope is that we can serve NASA,” he said. “Because we can do it so much more economically.”
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Re: Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Fri Jul 26, 2013 8:06 pm

Some gems in here. Via: ... e-in-space

Robert Bigelow Plans a Real Estate Empire in Space
By Adam Higginbotham

Robert Bigelow was no more than 9 years old when he heard his first atom bomb explosion. He was upstairs in his bedroom, in a two-story brick house in Las Vegas. There was a low rumble in the early hours of the morning; a bright flash seared the horizon. “All of a sudden,” Bigelow remembers, “it lights up like daytime.”

After that, there were dozens more explosions, out on the Nevada National Security Site just 75 miles away in the Mojave Desert. During the day, he and his classmates at Highland Elementary School were often sent out into the playground to watch as mushroom clouds roiled 40,000 feet into the sky.

The atomic tests were Bigelow’s first encounter with the wonders of science. As he grew up in the Las Vegas of the early ’50s—then still a small town—foretastes of the Space Age transfixed him: exotic jet planes screaming overhead from Nellis Air Force Base and stories of UFO sightings recounted by friends and family. At 12, Bigelow decided that his future lay in space travel, despite his limitations. “I hated algebra,” he says. “I knew I was no good at it.” So he resolved to choose a career that would make him rich enough that, one day, he could hire the scientific expertise required to launch his own space program. Until then, he would tell no one—not even his wife—about his ultimate goal. It took more than 40 years.

At 68, Bigelow is courtly and reserved; tall, thin and vulpine, with a thick head of silver and black hair swept back from his forehead and a crescent-shaped moustache trimmed around the corners of his mouth. His office, on the second floor of a taupe-colored mock Tudor mansion in suburban Las Vegas, is filled with bric-a-brac and gee-gaws. The leather top of his wooden desk is covered almost entirely by a dozen or more thin piles of documents, arranged into neat rows; in the space that remains, there are two telephones, a desktop calculator, and a green marble pen set, but no computer. “Oh,” he says mildly, “I don’t find the need.”

It’s left to a pair of small but painstakingly detailed models, crowded into a corner by the clutter, to suggest where Bigelow Aerospace, founded in 1999, might be going. These are the designs for Bigelow’s space station modules, the BA 330 and the Olympus, intended for use in low earth orbit and beyond as the first independently owned destinations in space. The modules will be far larger than the living quarters so far used in orbit. The exterior walls of the biggest single module of the International Space Station, the Japanese-built Kibo, enclose some 150 cubic meters, or about half of a squash court. The BA 330, by comparision, has the same volume as a small three-bedroom house—and the Olympus, at 2,250 cubic meters, would be large enough to contain the entirety of the ISS, twice over. “It could be a hospital, a dormitory, a warehouse … a spacecraft carrier,” Bigelow says.

Unlike traditional spacecraft and space stations, which are restricted in size by the outer dimensions of the rockets used to deliver them into orbit, Bigelow’s vessels are inflatable. Using the same principle as a football or a car tire, these “expandable habitats” are housed within an inner airtight bladder surrounded by a protective cocoon built from layers of foam and bullet-resistant Vectran fabric; in the center is a metal core containing electronics and equipment. The soft envelope of the habitat is folded tightly into the trunk of a rocket for launch and then released on arrival in orbit, where it’s inflated with a breathable atmosphere, taking the shape of a giant watermelon. Internal pressure then makes the hull rigid to the touch, and the layers of protective material—up to 40 inches thick—make it safer than conventional aluminum modules yet, by volume, around 50 percent cheaper to launch. So far, Bigelow has spent a quarter of a billion dollars on the project, all of it from his own pocket.

Fifteen years ago, Robert Bigelow’s ideas might have seemed unlikely to get further than the pages of a glossy prospectus, and all the more improbable when publicized as dreams of “hotels in space.” But now he has both the tested hardware and the contracts to back his ambition. He’s had two prototype habitats in orbit since 2007, launched from Russia on repurposed SS-18 “Dnepr” ICBMs. At the beginning of this year, he signed a $17.8 million deal with NASA to provide another for use on the ISS—the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM—to evaluate the technology for use as an astronaut habitat; and, at the end of last month, the agency selected Bigelow Aerospace as a partner to investigate commercial opportunities in space beyond low earth orbit.

Out there, Bigelow says, there are plenty of ways to make money—for example, mining the rare element Helium 3 from the surface of the moon—which will be feasible only with the facilities for living, working, and storage made possible by his inflatable technology. “I think expandable systems hold the key,” he says. By the end of 2016, he expects to have two BA 330 modules docked in orbit, to form the world’s first privately owned space station, Station Alpha. “Our long-term goal as a company is to have a lunar base that might be a modest size, initially, in somewhere around 2023.”

Although he’ll be quite happy to sell habitats outright to his customers, he points out that for NASA—or the agencies of any other newly budget-conscious nations with ambitions beyond earth’s atmosphere—leasing is by far the more affordable option. For only $51.25 million, Bigelow’s sales brochure suggests, a client can travel to the Alpha Station and enjoy dominion over 110 cubic meters for 60 days.

“The main thing is trying to save them a lot of money on good quality hardware,” he says. Bigelow’s intention is to become the first full-service landlord in space. “Bring your clothes and your money. We provide everything else.”

Before the creation of his aerospace company, Robert Bigelow was known locally as the idiosyncratic tycoon who had made his money from Budget Suites of America. The chain of long-stay motels—laundry, cable TV, and swimming pool included, slogan: “It’s as suite as it gets”—often provides accommodation for temporary workers in Nevada, Arizona, and Texas. Budget Suites began with a single outpost in Las Vegas in 1987. But the foundation of his empire as a landlord—recently estimated to be worth $700 million—goes back much further.

Bigelow first chose a career in real estate because it was how his father, Robert L. Bigelow, a successful broker, made his living. In 1962 he enrolled at the University of Reno to study banking and real estate, but his father didn’t live to see him graduate: At the age of 41, he was killed in a light plane crash in California. His son finally graduated from Arizona State University in 1967 and spent nine months back in Las Vegas trying to make it as a real estate agent, without much success. Then, at 20, with a new wife and a baby to support, Bigelow borrowed $20,000 from a hard money lender. “South of loan sharking but north of traditional banking,” he explains. “It was at 10 percent interest, and 10 points.”

He intended to use the cash to buy apartments to rent out, but property he could afford proved scarce. He watched his $20,000 dwindle until, with $14,000 left, in late 1968, he found a house with four apartments behind it. He did the cleaning and painting himself, and rented the units out on weekly terms. Bigelow had absorbed the principles of managing rentals from his grandfather, who had converted a single-story barn next-door to his house into a cluster of small apartments. “I learned, ‘You’d better be there to show it; you’d better be there to collect the rent, and you’d better have something that works and is clean.’ And then it didn’t have to be fancy, so long as it was reasonable,” Bigelow says. “And that was very important.”

In a city better known for monumental hotel developments and Babylonian excess, this no-frills formula served Bigelow well. Although he lacked cash, he quickly acquired new rental properties all over Las Vegas. “I caught on to how to talk to sellers and convince them to sell to me on sweat equity,” he says. “Little or no money down. The most extreme example was, I bought a couple of buildings for $140,000, and my down payment was 10 bucks.” By 1970 he’d amassed $1 million in assets and raised the money to begin his first construction project, a 40-room apartment complex built on the site of his childhood home.

For the next 30 years, he kept buying and building in other sprawling Southwestern towns: Phoenix, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio. The privately held Budget Suites chain, which put a recognizable brand on his expanding inventory of short-term-let apartments, put Bigelow on the path to billionaire status. He’s lost track now, but thinks in total he’s built 15,000 units, and purchased another 8,000. For years, he held on to almost everything he bought, but would eventually unload much of his housing stock in the boom years immediately before the 2008 crash. “People just really wanted to throw money away,” he says. “So that was lucky.”

By the early ’90s, Bigelow had amassed a fortune large enough to dabble in philanthropy, and began funneling his money into extracurricular, extraterrestrial interests. Of all the UFO stories he heard as a boy, Bigelow recounts one in particular that had a profound effect on him. One night in May 1947, his maternal grandparents were driving down the remote Kyle Canyon highway, returning to Las Vegas after a trip to the mountains, when they saw in the sky ahead something they thought was an airplane on fire. But as it drew closer, they realized it was a huge and unidentifiable oval object, glowing bright red; when the terrified couple pulled over to the side of the road, it bore down on them, finally filling their field of vision, before at the last second executing an abrupt 90-degree turn and disappearing. Bigelow heard about the incident years later, from his grandmother; his grandfather never liked to talk about what he’d seen. “He was still bothered by it,” he says, “because they both thought they were going to die that night.”

The story kindled an interest in UFOs and unexplained phenomena that Bigelow has pursued ever since. In 1995 he set up the National Institute for Discovery Science, a team of scientists and investigators, including former FBI agents, dedicated to conducting research into alien encounters and out-of-body experiences. He’s spent tens of millions of dollars gathering evidence “the hard way,” he says. “Painstaking effort, doing all kinds of research.” Bigelow frequently accompanied the NIDS teams on their investigations, flying with them to incident scenes on his private jet; he has personally conducted interviews with 235 different witnesses to paranormal events. “I’ve never had so much fun,” he says. As for his own encounters, he will only concede, “Yes. I’ve had many anomalous experiences … that I want to keep private. I don’t get into discussing those.”

In 1996, Bigelow bought a 480-acre ranch in Utah from a family who had reported experiencing a frightening range of paranormal incidents, including cattle mutilations, unexplained lights in the sky, and objects that moved on their own. Bigelow now maintains this as what he calls a “living laboratory,” with a perimeter patrolled around the clock by armed guards. As an example of the kind of work done there, he produces two 8 x 10 color photographs of a child’s ball and jacks left unattended on a kitchen table at the ranch. The second picture appears to show that, in the few minutes between shots, when the room was empty, the items have subtly changed position. “We call this the jacks experiment,” he says. “Really amazing.”

In 1997, Bigelow provided $3.7 million to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas to start a Consciousness Studies program with the aim, he says, of establishing “whether there is a survival of your consciousness beyond your bodily death.”

Today, the FAA directs all new reports of UFO sightings to another Bigelow-funded organization, Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies, of which he is operating manager. Bigelow is unequivocal about the evidence he’s accumulated over the years: He’s convinced of the existence of extraterrestrial life. “I have no doubt,” he says. “Zero doubt.”

In 1999, Robert Bigelow turned 55, and decided that the time was finally right for his long-simmering ambitions in space travel to be addressed in earnest. “I had some money to work with, and I felt that the clock had already ticked along quite a ways, and if I were gonna do something, I’d better fish or cut bait.”

Bigelow had already spent a couple of years casting around for a promising aerospace business when he stumbled upon a magazine story about TransHab, an experimental NASA program developed for manned missions to Mars. One of the principal problems of these expeditions would be sending astronauts out with enough supplies and living space to sustain them on a round trip that might take years; the soft-walled, inflatable crew modules of TransHab were designed to be used as accommodation during the flight out, and then on the surface of the planet as a Martian base. Arranged vertically over three separate levels, and including a kitchenette, dining room, and gym, early TransHab internal layouts more closely resembled a conventional house than a spacecraft module. “And I thought, ‘Wow! What a cool idea! This really makes so much sense,’ ” Bigelow says.

Congress, however, did not agree, and was already moving to cancel funding for the program when Bigelow called to arrange a visit to the TransHab team at Johnson Space Center. NASA administrator Daniel Goldin suggested rescuing the technology by offering it for development to a consortium of aerospace companies, including Mitsubishi, plus Bigelow, who attended meetings as an independent investor. “I had no employees at that time. I was just there as me,” he says. When the corporations proved reluctant to put their own money into the program, the deal collapsed. But Bigelow was less interested in being a cost-plus contractor of the old school than in owning a technology he believed represented the future of space travel. So he decided to pursue the expandable habitat technology alone, with or without NASA’s permission. He went back to Nevada and, in April 1999, quietly formed a new company: Bigelow Aerospace. Then he bought 50 acres of land in an industrial park in North Las Vegas, and set a handful of engineers to work on figuring out how to build an inflatable house that could fly in space.

But in 2002, NASA finally canceled the TransHab project, and Bigelow applied to license the technology, in exchange for an initial $400,000 fee and a commitment for a far more significant sum—what he now says was “tens of millions” of dollars—into a development program. Under the terms of the agreement, Bigelow was able to bring many members of the original TransHab team to Las Vegas, including William Schneider, the veteran engineer, by that time already retired from NASA to teach, who had overseen the agency’s project from the start. The first prototype habitat, Genesis I, was successfully launched into orbit aboard a repurposed Russian ICBM in July 2006; Genesis II followed a year later. Bigelow was shocked. “I was totally prepared for abject failure.”

Although he has no training in science or engineering, Bigelow insists on participating in every stage of development, from overall concepts to the smallest component parts. Of the 15 patents the company now holds in expandable habitats, 11, from the design for the external meteoroid and debris shield to an internal truss, are in Bigelow’s own name. “I am not an armchair president of Bigelow Aerospace,” he says. Today, Bigelow spends roughly 70 percent of his time at the aerospace plant in North Las Vegas. He’s currently completing a huge expansion of the facility, which now covers almost half a million square feet. One morning in March, electricians are at work in the steel skeleton of Bigelow’s new office there, on a mezzanine overlooking the factory floor, which opens out into a 12-story tower where vertical assembly of the habitats will take place. The outside of the tower bears the corporate logo, visible from several blocks away, the contrail of a rocket forming the “I” in the CEO’s name. But within the razor-wire perimeter of the plant, one more distinctive icon is also visible. High up on the corners of the assembly buildings, and on the shoulder patches of the armed guards who patrol them, are black logos depicting the bulbous heads of creatures with saucer eyes: the popular image of an extraterrestrial visitor. As he escorts me back to the main gate, I ask a security guard what these signify. “It’s a Mr. Bigelow thing,” he says.

Bigelow’s business model for his new venture has always been simply to export his terrestrial experience into space, creating multi-use rental buildings containing, for example, hotels to accommodate tourists or scientific laboratories for corporations and even countries without space programs. “It’s just real estate in a different location. So you can sell these space buildings; you can lease these space buildings; the person that you lease them to can sublet them,” Bigelow says. “You just better be sure that you have a way of getting back and forth to it. Otherwise, you’re really screwed.”

After the launch of the two Genesis prototypes, Bigelow’s aggressive development program came to a halt as he waited for the rest of the commercial space industry to provide a viable way to deliver his habitats—and crews to run them—into space. In 2004 he offered up $50 million for America’s Space Prize, which would go to the first company that could launch a vehicle capable of successfully transferring a crew to one of his habitats in orbit. But the five-year deadline came and went without anyone making a serious attempt to claim it. The recession hardly helped, and for a while Bigelow undertook layoffs and a scheme of “furlough Fridays.”

Following January’s NASA deal, and in preparation to begin production of the BA 330 module, Bigelow is hiring again. The BEAM module is scheduled for delivery to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Dragon rocket in 2015. And while the company collaborates with Boeing (BA) on the CST-100 crew capsule, designed to deliver astronauts to the ISS, Elon Musk also plans to have a manned rocket flying in two years’ time. “Now there’s a lot more credible vehicles out there,” says Jay Ingham, Bigelow’s vice president for assembly and engineering. “They’re not done yet. But between Boeing and SpaceX, one of these guys is going to succeed in the very near future.”

William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, says he chose Bigelow as the agency’s lead in investigating commercial opportunities beyond low earth orbit precisely because of his independence and recent arrival in the field. “I wanted to pick someone that I thought would have a broader exploration focus, someone that I thought would be respected, had a good business sense, and could look much broader than any particular product line,” he says. “He’s been trying to do things on his own.”

And Bigelow’s fellow spaceflight entrepreneurs recognize that, while they have been working on the means to eventually take paying passengers into orbit, he’s the only one to have built a potential destination to visit once they get there. Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson says he’s already considering Bigelow’s multiple-use orbiting platform as part of his space tourism business. “We haven’t developed our own hotels,” Branson says. “We would be much more likely to work with Bigelow in sending people to his. We’d be delighted to one day take people there.”

If the company fulfills its current plans, Bigelow Aerospace will be managing its first property on the moon within a decade. By then, Bigelow will be 79. Even at that age, he still fully expects to be running the company that bears his name. “I do. I definitely expect to be. The rocking chair isn’t for me,” he says.

Before that, he’d also like to make sure he gets into space himself. He thinks he’s fit enough; he’d be happy to test himself against whatever training regime was necessary. “I have kind of secretly wanted to,” he says. “But in a serious mission, not a stunt or a very expensive ride.”
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Re: Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Sat Jul 27, 2013 12:31 pm

Via: ... en_27b.htm

For the sake of thoroughness, of course, not an endorsement of the source's horseshit (writing raps all morning, sorry) ....

The Bad - Knowingly compromises the truth in a major way

JOHN ALEXANDER He is in the loop of the part of the military complex under private control that deals with ETs. As Robert Bigelow’s spokesperson, he knows about three-quarters of what Bigelow knows.

ROBERT BIGELOW There is little this member of the power elite doesn’t know about government involvement with ETs. He is staunchly fundamentalist-religious and believes ETs are evil gods. He created NIDS (the National Institute for Discovery Science) to vacuum UFO information and become a trusted organization to handle the ET situation, but many in the UFO Community did NOT trust it, and it is being downgraded. He has paid investigators to gather information for him and at the same time to discredit them in the eyes of their colleagues. He is too cocky to have had a psychic shield placed around him.

HAL PUTHOFF As chairman of the board of Robert Bigelow’s NIDS and a good friend of Bigelow, he is part of the same power elite but is less of an insider.

For the sake of casual readers in some alternate future: please note that this author also lists under "The Bad" Jacques Vallee, Martin Cannon, and...William Shatner. Recipe calls for grains of salt the size of crack rocks.

Less egregious material:

The Strange History of Robert Bigelow, Who Just Sold NASA Inflatable Space Station Modules


Robert Bigelow then shut down his Las Vegas-based Institute For Discovery Science and announced a new company, Bigelow Aerospace. An earlier NIDS study suggested that the triangles were "lighter-than-air, blimp-style craft of the U.S. military’s making" powered by new "electrokinetic/field drives, or airborne nuclear power units." The silent deltas reported around America in the 1990s and early 2000s may well have been prototypes of the massive airships that have just gone into official production in Southern California. Or maybe these monster blimps that will carry tanks and helicopters to Afghanistan are something altogether different—the black triangles have been seen worldwide for half a century now, with some sightings dating to World War II.

The idea of NIDS fascinated me, both then and now. This was an actual paranormal investigations organization, and the more I looked into it, the more fascinating it became. Bigelow, who made a fortune from the extended-stay motel chain Budget Suites of America, had for years been pouring money into paranormal studies at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. The physics lab at UNLV is named for Bigelow, who also gave $3.7 million to "for the creation and continuation of a program that would attract to the university renowned experts on aspects of human consciousness." A parapsychologist named Charles Tart was the Bigelow Chair of the program, which dealt with "altered states of consciousness, near-death experiences and extrasensory perception."

NIDS assembled a team that would go into the field, investigating weird places and strange events. It even purchased a Utah ranch with a history of UFO sightings and "skinwalkers," a kind of ancient monster which apparently travels through dimensional portals on the property. These things would routinely turn into werewolves and terrorize the ranch's caretakers and animals. The house itself was a paranoid nightmare, with a long hallway lined with closets that locked from the inside.

The top man at NIDS is a familiar name to anyone who ever waded into these esoteric topics: Retired U.S. Army Col. John B. Alexander, the real-life psychic Jedi warrior in Jon Ronson's book The Men Who Stare At Goats. Alexander is called "Col. Harold E. Phillips" in longtime Vanity Fair reporter Howard Blum's book about Reagan-era UFO hunting by the Pentagon, Out There The Government's Secret Quest for Extraterrestrials. The rest of the NIDS crew had similarly spooky backgrounds.

What did Bigelow find out during his years as the benefactor of a well-funded Scooby Gang of paranormal researchers from the Pentagon? Maybe nothing—the mysteries of consciousness and reports of the bizarre have baffled even the most dedicated minds. Maybe thinking about extended-stay motels and reports of space-worthy stealth blimps just gave him a good idea for a cheap space station. In any case, if you have enough money, you can book an extended stay in one of Bigelow's planned private orbital motels right now: "$26.25 million for a 60-day stay, including the ride to orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket built by Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX," according to The New York Times, which will always write about travel for the rich but very rarely about rich people investigating werewolves.
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Re: Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Sat Jul 27, 2013 12:40 pm

Via: ... -aerospace

Robert Bigelow founded Bigelow Aerospace in 1999, bankrolling the company using some of his fortunes from construction, real estate deals and his hotel chain, Budget Suites of America.

Ten years and $180 million later, the sprawling complex Bigelow Aerospace occupies in North Las Vegas, Nevada, includes an assembly facility packed with fabrication hardware and tooling, test structures, and full-scale mockups of the firm’s three-person Sundancer module and the larger BA-330, a unit that offers 330 cubic meters of internal volume for a crew of six.

Sundancer and the BA-330 are the intended successors of the Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 prototype space modules launched in July 2006 and June 2007, respectively, atop Russian Dnepr boosters.

An on-site mission control center monitors the company’s spacecraft now in orbit and will control Bigelow Aerospace’s future space facilities. At present, the firm has four ground stations — in Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and Nevada — that serve as communications relays between the company’s spacecraft and the mission control center in Las Vegas.

In 2008, as part of developing the first commercial space habitat capable of supporting a human crew, Bigelow Aerospace contracted Sacramento, Calif.-based Aerojet to supply the aft propulsion system for Sundancer. That same year, Huntsville, Ala.-based Orion Propulsion — since acquired by Dynetics — was contracted to supply the attitude control system for the forward end of Sundancer.

In 2009, Bigelow unveiled the “Orion Lite” seven-person crew capsule design for low Earth orbit, a bare-bones copy of the Orion vehicle that Lockheed Martin Space Systems is developing for NASA.

Bigelow recently spoke with Space News correspondent Leonard David.

Has the global recession impacted your commercial venture?

It hurt everybody, including us. We hunkered down and became more conservative in what we were doing. We downsized in staff a little bit, but have started to rehire again.

One thing we postponed was the construction of our 24,000-square-meter A-3 building that will become the assembly line facility for mass production of our habitable spacecraft and the docking nodes attached to the power buses. I’m going to start bidding out that building again in the first quarter of 2010. It should be finished in November and cost about $20 million.

When do you foresee operation of your first station?

The long pole in the tent has been the transportation, and still is.

2014 is the year in which all the spacecraft components would be deployed and assembled. We need seven rocket flights to succeed. 2015 is designated as when the first station operations would actually begin. But that’s predicated on what is going to happen in 2010, with the Crew Transport Vehicle, the CTV. We are hoping SpaceX will have a successful lifter in Falcon 9 and is going to continue to work on getting its Dragon CTV operational.

So we’re hopeful that SpaceX is going to be there supplying boosters and also hopeful that the Atlas 5 is in there. We are anticipating United Launch Alliance is going to be a major supplier of our needs.

I also have a design for a “Big Bertha” spacecraft for NASA’s Ares 5. We can create a module that has twice the volume of the entire international space station. One module alone could have 2,100 cubic meters of volume. We’re volume productive, not mass concentrated. We produce many times the volume comparable to another volume that’s a metal structure.

Are you interested in working with Russia , making use of the Soyuz rocket?

Not really. It’s so impractical for us. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence in the performance of foreign systems. It has everything to do with the inconvenience of logistics.

And you learned that from your Genesis launches?

Yes, we did in spades. It was a nightmare. Not because of the Russians but because of the U.S. State Department. They were very difficult.

How are those two Genesis modules doing?

We’ve learned all we need to know out of those, basically, within the first six to 12 months after launch. There are a number of systems that are not now functioning. But we really don’t care. We’ve gotten so much data. They’ve served their purpose.

Has NASA considered use of your expandable modules for utilization on the international space station?

They contacted us a few months ago. We worked on something for them, gave them cost figures and the architecture for what they wanted. They were supposedly impressed and kind of surprised with how relatively inexpensive things were going to be. We don’t know what their intent is.

Would NASA’s use of Bigelow modules be a plus?

Absolutely. Any business that you can do with NASA is always a credibility booster.

But we also will take great pride in serving clients like Japan and other foreign clients. We have contacted a number of countries over the last 12 months and we look forward to evolving into agreements to serve their needs. We want to serve their needs according to what they are prepared to spend, and what kind of space future they want to design.

How much revenue do you anticipate from leasing your orbiting space facilities?

I don’t want to go broke because we have been careless and cavalier about estimating our expenses or because we have been really inefficient. But I also don’t want us to make too much money. If we make too much money, we are not maximizing the number of clients. So our goal is to maximize the number of clients, not maximize the dollar per client.

We want to help change the 21st century space future for maybe 50 or 60 countries, and I haven’t even talked about the corporate world. We’re more successful the more clients we have on our roster. To me, that’s the proudest symbol of success.

What about marketing your modules to corporate clients for such things as pharmaceutical research and microgravity materials processing?

That’s another ball game. In 2010, we need to move out significantly in our marketing efforts. We need to hire a couple of astronauts to be part of our marketing team.

One thing we discovered. A lot of the experiments that were flown were mishandled and were botched. Science teams couldn’t be held together long enough for experiments to fly after three or four years. Essentially, the research pond was contaminated and companies wanted to disassociate themselves from space.

I don’t think it has ever been given a fair chance. You have to have large enough facilities and opportunity for serendipitous events to evolve. You have to have time. It’s always been carried up in a tool box, so what do you expect? You can’t work out of a glove box of a car and expect that you are going to generate all kinds of miracle devices.

By the time you have people inhabit your first orbiting complex, how much money will you have invested?

By that time, I will have spent several hundred million dollars. So far, I’ve spent about $180 million. I will have spent that much at that time because that will be prior to any kinds of government contracts and prior to any kinds of client deposits.

The spacecraft are already in production, so there’s a confidence here that we believe in what we’re doing. When the client comes along, we have already put our money where our mouth is.
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Re: Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Sat Jul 27, 2013 1:05 pm

Via: ... ntPage=all

Hotel Biz Zillionaire's Next Venture? Inflatable Space Pods.
By Vince Beiser

A uniformed guard, his pistol holstered on his hip, waves me to a halt outside a sprawling compound 15 minutes north of Las Vegas. On either side of the main gate, razor-wire fence stretches out into the Nevada desert. The rent-a-cop leans inside the open window of my van, giving its contents and me a quick, professional appraisal. On his shoulder is a military-style patch. But in place of an insignia denoting rank is an oval alien head.

"Morning," he says affably. "You can just follow me."

They've been expecting my visit. No one comes here without an invitation — or without having their identity verified in advance. The guard takes me into a trailer, where someone else checks my driver's license and pats me down to make sure I'm not carrying weapons "of any kind," as he puts it. For good measure, I will have an armed escort at all times while meeting with The Boss: the supersecretive, super-rich owner of the Budget Suites hotel chain, Robert T. Bigelow.

It's easy to snicker at the James Bond theatrics at the headquarters of Bigelow's eight-year-old company, Bigelow Aerospace. It's even easier when you find out he's trying to build his very own space station. An inflatable space station, to be precise — a massive bouncy castle meant to expand when it gets into orbit. It will be the first privately owned destination in space, and Bigelow proposes to rent it out as an orbital research lab, a training facility, or even a tourist hotel. Sure, have a chuckle. But here's the thing: He's actually doing it.

In the past 16 months, BA has successfully shot two Hummer-sized prototypes of the station into orbit. Dubbed Genesis I and II, they're circling the globe as you read this. The last one went up in June, blasting out of Earth's atmosphere on the back of a modified Soviet-era SS-18 missile. It was launched from a space complex in central Russia, ISC Kosmotras, the rocket-for-hire venture run by Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.

The Genesis prototypes are one-third-size models of the inflata-structures Bigelow plans to launch eventually. Their outer shells are made of a superstrong Kevlar-like fabric that rolls up tightly for transit and then expands to full size in orbit. The system offers a crucial advantage over conventional metal spacecraft: Its smaller mass and weight make it cheaper to build and launch.

These proof-of-concept test models aren't just idly traipsing through space. Dozens of cameras mounted on the pods take regular photos of Earth from 350 miles up; you can check them out on the company Web site. Genesis II also sports a projection system that currently displays, on the outside of the craft, images of BA staffers; later, Bigelow intends to sell ads to go on these exterior walls. Inside the vessels, a menagerie of ants, cockroaches, and scorpions are being studied for their responses to microgravity. There's even an onboard bingo game involving a system that randomly selects numbered balls floating around in a box. Fans can play over the Internet. Also drifting about: hundreds of photos, figurines, ornaments, mechanical pencils, Ping-Pong balls, and other keepsakes. Before the launch, the public was invited to put such personal trinkets aboard for $295 a pop.

This peculiar mix of ambition, technical sophistication, and gimmickry tells you something about Bigelow. Even by the standards of reclusive zillionaires and would-be space entrepreneurs, the 63-year-old is particularly odd. Take his obsession with secrecy. He has never sent an email in his life — not secure enough, he says. Neither he nor any of the 120-plus staffers have office voicemail. Until a few years ago, Bigelow didn't allow pictures of himself to be printed. A framed sign in the guard trailer reads KEEP YOUR WORK AND THE WORK OF COWORKERS VERY PRIVATE FROM PEOPLE OUTSIDE THE COMPANY.

His signature quirk, however, is an obsession with space that extends beyond his business interests. In addition to the $100million Bigelow has already put into BA (and the $400million more he has promised), he has doled out millions to fund research into alien abductions and UFO sightings. He's done some of the work himself, personally interviewing hundreds of people who claim to have had extraterrestrial encounters. In fact, one of the main reasons he's so eager to get his stations launched is that he thinks they might provide a step toward making contact.

So it's not too surprising that when this flying-saucer-chasing hotel operator started talking a few years back about building his own space stations, almost everyone laughed him off. But of all the private entrepreneurs trying to make money in outer space — a list that includes CEO Jeff Bezos, PayPal cofounder Elon Musk, Doom creator John Carmack, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, and Virgin impresario Richard Branson — Bigelow is the only one to have actually gotten something into sustained orbit. What's more, his company built a working spacecraft of flexible materials — a feat even NASA hasn't pulled off. So these days when Bigelow talks about his plans to reach the stars, a great many people have stopped laughing and started listening.

When I meet Bigelow inside the vast spaceship factory at his Nevada compound, he is dressed in white sneakers, dark pants, and a blue company shirt. He is lean and tall, with a Clark Gable mustache and deeply lined, slightly lupine features. Notorious for his compulsive attention to detail, Bigelow has been known to get involved in decisions as minuscule as whether a strap should be enlarged by an eighth of an inch. In person, he comes across as a gentleman of the old school, his voice even and moderate, his manner unfailingly polite. Still, as he talks about his recent successes, he allows himself a moment of triumphalism: "Some graybeards at the old aerospace companies might still be snickering at us," he says. "But not as much as a few years ago."

Bigelow is a product of Las Vegas — born, raised, and still living in the world's most preposterous city. That fact does not seem coincidental. Vegas is built on the proposition that if you've got the money, you can create anything you want. A re-creation of Venice, complete with indoor canals? Sure. An ersatz beach with a wave machine so tourists can body surf in the middle of the desert? No problem. A privately owned, inflatable space station? Why not?

"When I was a kid, things were more unique here than any other place," he says. "They were doing aboveground nuclear tests in those days. We'd watch the mushroom clouds from the playground at recess. You'd feel the earth shake."

Bigelow made his money not in the glittering fantasy realm of casinos (he doesn't even gamble) but in the solidly pragmatic precincts of real estate. After earning a business degree from Arizona State University, he returned to Vegas and, with his father's help, started buying, selling, and developing apartment buildings and motels — an easy way to make money in an eternal boomtown. In 1988 he founded Budget Suites of America, an apartment-hotel concept that offered modestly priced, furnished living spaces rentable by the week, month, or year. His timing was perfect: Newcomers in need of comfy but temporary digs were flocking to Las Vegas, Phoenix, and other fast-growing southwestern cities. The privately owned chain now has 18 outlets in three states and has earned him a fortune totaling at least $1 billion (Bigelow declines to comment on his net worth).

But 35 years of empire building have been just a means to an end. Bigelow acknowledges that he got into real estate because it seemed the most practical way to get rich enough to fulfill his real goal, which he committed to when he was all of 15 years old: getting humanity into outer space.

Bigelow started BA in 1999. The plan was always to launch a private space station, but he didn't talk publicly about the details until last April. His coming-out party was the Space Foundation's annual conference in Colorado, a schmooze fest for the outer-space wing of the military-industrial complex. It's attended by some 7,000 officials from NASA, the Air Force, and pretty much every other federal agency having anything to do with the sky, along with their counterparts at corporations like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing. Bigelow was one of the featured speakers. He took the stage wearing a pin-striped suit and a gold tie, with a big diamond-studded horseshoe ring gleaming on his finger. Diane, his wife of 42 years, watched from the front row amid a gaggle of BA staffers, her bright orange hair piled elaborately atop her head. Only the general outline of Bigelow's enterprise had been reported before that point, leading to considerable derisive press characterizing Bigelow as the guy who was trying to build an inflatable hotel in outer space. Irritated by the coverage, he decided to make the company's business plan public. "We've been identified a lot as a space-hotel company. That is not the case," he told the crowd right off the bat. "Our complexes have a wide variety of uses, including space-hotel businesses — for Sir Richard Branson, or Marriott, or whomever, and we'd be very happy to talk to those folks about that. But we have an economic reach far beyond tourism."

BA, Bigelow says, will initially focus on courting governments and large corporations. On the government side, he hopes to market to the dozens of countries that are either assembling or already have a space agency but are stuck in the years-long wait for a trip to the International Space Station. (Japan, for example, has been waiting four years to start shuttling its experiments to the ISS). BA will offer them a place in orbit that can be tailored to whatever experiments or national-pride-burnishing displays they desire. As for corporations, Bigelow expects that many companies will be happy to pony up for the chance to do things in microgravity that they can't do on Earth. For instance, research suggests that, because of how molecules behave in zero gravity, it might be possible to manufacture superefficient fiber-optic cable or new pharmaceuticals in orbit. And just imagine the TV commercials Madison Avenue could shoot.

As a result, Bigelow expects his business customers to come from the communications, biotech, health services, and entertainment fields. These clients will want privacy, of course, so they'll get modules separate from those rented to government types. The pods will lease out by the month or year. For an extra fee, BA will also transport back to Earth any products developed or manufactured in space. "Satellites have gone from being a novelty in 1957 to a necessity today," Bigelow declared to his audience. "That's the direction we're going. We're trying to make low-Earth-orbit destinations a necessity."

In his speech to the Space Foundation audience, Bigelow outlined an ambitious timeline. In 2010, BA aims to send up Sundancer, a module that will house three people. By 2012, the company plans to launch the first of what will be its standard, six-person module. This will link up with Sundancer to form the nucleus of the first space complex. Subsequent modules can be ganged together; the idea ultimately is to have multiple stations that can hold anywhere from six people to several dozen.

These space habitats will be more comfortable than the ISS, with private sleeping quarters, plenty of windows, and, Bigelow promised, better food. The price for staying in his complex? About $12million for transportation, training, and four weeks of "hang time." Lower rates will be available for longer bookings. The company, Bigelow informed his audience, is currently accepting reservations. The terms: 10 percent down, fully refundable.

The Colorado crowd reacted with a mixture of shock and hope. "Can a real estate guy actually do this?" said Elliot Pulham, president of the Space Foundation. "Well, Bill Boeing was in the lumber business before he built airplanes. In this industry, no one knows where the next small company with a big idea will come from."

In a cathedral-sized warehouse at BA, deputy program manager Jay Ingham walks me through a scale model of the station-to-be. We climb metal stairs to enter a central cabin that links three gray inflatable units, each slightly larger than a shipping container and shaped like a giant watermelon. Their 16- inch-thick skin, kept inflated by compressed, breathable air released from tanks in a steel core, is composed of numerous layers of flexible fabrics. The first is an air bladder that keeps the craft's atmosphere contained. It is surrounded by interwoven straps that hold it in the proper shape and ensure it doesn't burst. The outermost skin is five sheets of protective shielding, made of heavy-duty Kevlar and Vectran-like materials (the company won't reveal the exact composition). Its main job is to keep the craft from being punctured by micrometeorites like an expensive balloon. Sounds like a tall order for fabric, but the walls have more stopping power than three inches of aluminum.

Inside, the station feels like an empty submarine. The curving walls are set with portholes, and the space is cut into three floors by interlaced fabric bands. "The modules can be configured to whatever the user wants," Ingham says. "Living spaces, experiment areas, whatever." You'll be able to float around in your shirtsleeves. Or put on a spacesuit and step out into the void for a change of scenery.

The idea of an inflatable space habitat isn't new. In the 1960s, Goodyear Aircraft drew up designs for a doughnut-shaped expandable orbital station. At one point, NASA considered using inflatable passageways to connect space modules. In fact, Bigelow's technology started as a project called TransHab, an effort to add low-cost crew quarters to the ISS. When NASA killed that program in 2000, Bigelow bought the rights to the designs and hired more than a dozen ex-NASA professionals to put them into effect. BA technicians have since made countless modifications and upgrades, eight of which are patented under Bigelow's name — including the useful-sounding "biomass waste disposal method."

The manufacturing facility next door also houses the mission control area. Here, technicians at crescent-shaped desks face two banks of monitors covering a pair of walls. Some screens track the movements of the Genesis modules, others show their video feeds, and one displays the alien-head logo. Currently, BA engineers can communicate with the prototypes only during the 15-minute windows in which Genesis I and II are within range of company stations in Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and Virginia. BA plans to add another half-dozen outposts in the coming years.

It's an enormous undertaking. But for Bigelow, it's just the first stage of a bigger, far stranger plan.

Bigelow's grandparents were driving down an empty stretch of blacktop in the desert north of Las Vegas one night in 1947 when they saw the UFO. At first they thought it was an airplane on fire — something glowing in the sky, hurtling toward them. But it was moving much faster than an airplane, and its light filled their windshield, eclipsing the night sky. They thought they were going to die.

Bigelow pauses here in telling me this story, regarding me levelly, his hands clasped on the table. Then, he says, the glowing craft made a right-angled turn and shot off into the sky. "Our aircraft don't make those maneuvers, even today — especially at close range," he notes.

Bigelow first heard this tale when he was 10. He also had an aunt and other people he knew who reported what he calls "very convincing" UFO-sighting experiences. It was these stories that made reaching space his life's work. "I kept it to myself for a long time, not even telling family or friends what I hoped to do," he says. "When you actually get involved in your dreams, that's a more appropriate time to talk about them."

Years before he started building space habitats, Bigelow began looking for the truths he was sure were out there. He says he has met with more than 230 people who claim to have witnessed ETs. In the 1990s, he gave millions of dollars to launch the National Institute for Discovery Science, whose staff — which included several PhDs and ex-FBI agents — researched alien abductions, out-of-body experiences, cattle mutilations, and other paranormal phenomena. In 1997, he donated $3.7million to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to create a Consciousness Studies program, which offered classes about near-death experiences and psychic phenomena. At one point, he even bought a 480-acre ranch in Utah that had been the scene of a number of alleged UFO sightings, animal disappearances, and other spooky weirdness. He wanted to own the land so he could monitor what went on there.

Bigelow stresses that all of this research has been carried out with as much scientific rigor as possible. He says that he has interviewed only carefully chosen subjects — sober-seeming people with jobs in the military or the sciences, or people who had experienced a phenomenon as a group. Wherever possible, he has cross-checked their assertions with those of other witnesses and with "forensic evidence" — samples he obtained of "various kinds of organic or nonorganic substances." He also claims to have been granted access to "very confidential" information from sources he won't disclose. He won't answer directly when I ask whether he has concluded from all of this that ETs have visited our planet. Choosing his words carefully, he says: "I have an enormous amount of data from a lot of different sources that give me some pretty strong convictions about the authenticity of the existence of anomalous phenomena, such as UFOs."

In 2000, one year after he started BA, Bigelow was less cautious with his views. In an essay posted to the NIDS Web site, he wrote: "I strongly believe that at least some UFOs owe their beginnings to being manufactured... from materials made in a microgravity environment." The effects of Earth's gravity, he explained, limit us to the elements and compounds we have here: In space, we might be able to develop all kinds of new substances with unguessable properties. Working in microgravity, Bigelow concluded, is therefore essential for manufacturing interstellar craft. "As for our UFO friends," he wrote, "we will not begin to match their early craft until we also begin to exploit space for manufacturing purposes."

But before anyone sets foot in one of his space stations, let alone starts building spaceships to help us catch up with our UFO friends, Bigelow has a long list of challenges to overcome. For starters, is there even a market for a private space station? NASA tried getting corporations interested in its proposed space station in the 1980s and, because of the price tag, received only a tepid response. There are also major technical hurdles; the craft's power supply, navigation, and life-support systems are all still in development. But at least Bigelow has people working on these things. He's leaving it up to others to answer perhaps the biggest question he faces: How will people actually get to his orbital complexes? Even though Bigelow's fee includes transportation to and from a station, he has no idea how this will work.

One obvious ferry, NASA's space shuttle, is scheduled to retire in 2010, and it could be years before its successor is ready. That will leave the Russian space agency's Soyuz capsules as the only vehicles capable of taking humans into space, and there aren't nearly enough of them for the dozen-plus annual launches Bigelow envisions needing by 2013. To solve the problem, he is following the example of the Ansari X Prize — the $10 million award that drove the creation of SpaceShipOne — by offering $50 million to any privately funded US company that builds a craft capable of getting to space and then docking with his stations. There haven't been any serious takers yet.

But Bigelow has a growing list of supporters, many of whom may be able to provide transportation service in the future. In particular, he enjoys enormous respect and goodwill among private space entrepreneurs. To them, his orbiting stations are both inspiring examples and potentially lucrative business opportunities. He already has agreements with two of them, Rocketplane Kistler and Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to work on transportation options. (Neither qualifies for Bigelow's $50 million prize because both take federal funds.)

"He's got the right idea," says Lon Levin, one of the founders of XM Satellite Radio who is now an executive with tSpace, another rocket startup. "There are a number of players chasing the transportation piece of space. But there are no destinations. He's chasing what should be a very profitable business."

Bigelow is also winning over a constituency in the stodgy world of established aerospace corporations and government agencies. "We're interested in partnering with him," says John Elbon, vice president of space exploration at Boeing. "There's no sense of threat, but rather an opportunity to work together." He likewise has an agreement with Lockheed Martin to study the use of its Atlas V rockets to get passengers to his space stations. His hobbies may raise the bureaucrats' eyebrows, but his successes have caught their attention. NASA, which plans to start sending people to the moon in the next decade, is interested in possibly adapting his technology to build inflatable lunar structures.

"He's got the money, the drive, and the expertise," says Pete Worden, director of NASA Ames Research Center in California. "I think he is going to succeed." As Bigelow would be the first to tell you, stranger things have happened.

Vince Beiser ( wrote about the Army's simulated Iraqi cities in issue 14.06.
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Re: Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby tazmic » Sat Jul 27, 2013 3:44 pm

"It ever was, and is, and shall be, ever-living fire, in measures being kindled and in measures going out." - Heraclitus

"There aren't enough small numbers to meet the many demands made of them." - Strong Law of Small Numbers
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Re: Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Sat Jul 27, 2013 8:19 pm

Thanks for the heads-up!


FOR many years, parts of America's space industry have complained that the rules governing the export of technology are too strict. Understandably, the government does not want militarily useful stuff to fall into the hands of its foes. But the result is a system that is too strict in its definition of “militarily useful” and which favours lumbering dinosaurs such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which survive on fat government contracts, rather than nimble but small “furry mammals” that need every customer they can get, domestic or foreign.

In December 2007 one of those mammals, a company called Bigelow Aerospace, filed the first legal challenge to America's rules for exporting space technology. It disputed the government's claim that foreign passengers travelling on a spaceship or space station were involved in a transfer of technology. The outcome suggests that there may be a chink in the armour of the export-controls regime.

Improbable as it sounds, Bigelow Aerospace makes and launches inflatable space-station modules and hopes, one day, to build a commercial space station. Under the existing rules, any non-American passengers on its space stations would have to comply with onerous export controls. These take months to satisfy and could plausibly even culminate in government monitors being present while the foreigner was near American space technology. Even training on the ground in a mock-up module was deemed a transfer of technology and therefore required export controls.

Yet, taking a passenger flight does not mean you can build an aeroplane, observes Mike Gold, head of Bigelow's office in Washington, DC. His line of argument, it seems, has been accepted. Mr Gold says that the company received the ruling in February and that it has spent the past two months digesting it. He says that Bigelow has got “everything we could want”, though the ruling still precludes passengers from what he describes as the “bad-boy list of export control”—nationals from Sudan, Iran, North Korea and China will not be allowed to fly or train on suborbital passenger flights, or visit Bigelow's space station.

Other private space companies have welcomed the ruling. Marc Holzapfel, legal counsel for Virgin Galactic, describes it as a “major development” because it frees the industry from having to go through the “complicated, expensive and dilatory export-approval process”. Tim Hughes, chief counsel of SpaceX, says the approval is exciting, because it seems to represent a “common-sense approach” and bodes well for similar requests made by companies such as his own to carry foreign astronauts hoping to work on missions to the International Space Station.

The result also means something to the entire export-control regime, known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Robert Dickman, executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, says the decision appears to convey a new willingness to “move away from the very restrictive approach that has been in place for almost a decade”. His organisation is hosting a forum later this month involving the private spaceflight industry and senior government officials to discuss the regulations.

During the American presidential campaign, Barack Obama said that, if elected, he would review ITAR, focusing on space hardware. George Nield, associate administrator for commercial space transportation within the Federal Aviation Authority, says although he has not seen the new ruling, it was good news that the government “may now be willing to revise some of its export-control restrictions to enable American firms to be more competitive in their efforts to sell aerospace products and services globally”.
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Re: Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Sun Jul 28, 2013 1:28 pm

Via: ... -2011.html

Going back to part two of the Chinese wisdom, or curse, we have Robert Bigelow. Wikipedia states:

Bigelow is a hotel and aerospace entrepreneur. He owns the hotel chain Budget Suites of America and is the founder of Bigelow Aerospace.

Bigelow Aerospace has launched two experimental space modules, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, and has plans for full-scale manned space habitats to be used as orbital hotels, research labs and factories.

He is also the founder of National Institute for Discovery Science.

How delightfully innocuous. America’s largest UFO organization, MUFON, is currently in crisis, and many, rightly or wrongly, are blaming Bigelow. His old friend and colleague, George Knapp, would maintain his innocence, as I’m sure many of Knapp’s radio listeners on Coast to Coast am would. But many do see him as an insider, engaged in some form of contracted Intelligence gathering, using MUFON and their high strangeness first responders as data cows, only later to send them to slaughter. Like in Sherlock Holmes again, if crime is afoot, and you have the Baker Street Irregulars running around, you may as well make use of them.

From what I understand, Bigelow really came onto the scene when the Skinwalker Ranch was publicised by George Knapp and Colm A. Kelleher in their excellent book Hunt for the Skinwalker. Bigelow bought the ranch after discovering it was a focal point for ufological and paranormal activity in a disturbing way, and his National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) went to work pinning it down. At least, they did their best. At least, as far as we know. Richard Dolan said to me that he probably knows more about UFOs than anyone around that we can name. But the last year has seen serious allegations from former MUFON members Chase Kloetske, Elain Douglas, andJames Carrion, amongst others, who are involved in Committee to Reform MUFON:

Chase and Elaine have spoken of how on numerous occasions files have simply disappeared within hours of a significant case being engaged with by MUFON investigators, accusations of people being offered bribes from Bigelow, and threatening, abusive, histrionic phone calls from mysterious figures claiming to be high on the food chain. Clifford Clift also threatened Elaine that if she put her name down for reform of MUFON, she would be fired. I gather that Elaine was fired essentially for pissing of Clift, an accomplishment I’ve heard that is not hard, and several veteran regional directors have been kicked out recently. In email correspondence with Jerry Pippin, Clift wrote: 'I didn’t say she lied, I said she told and untruth.'

Richard Lang, on the other hand, has defended Bigelow throughout. A couple of years ago, MUFON was teamed with he former, and for the first time in their history had any serious funding to do field investigations across the nation. Bigelow wanted, apparently, no privileged access to any information and data, but to act as benefactor for a cause both parties share life-long passion for. Disagreements arose over how the money was to be spent, serious accusations were made by MUFON about Bigelow’s character and motivations, and Bigelow eventually pulled out. An account of this can be found at Lang’s website: http://www.thedarksideofthelookingglass ... am_06.html

George Knapp also did an interview on Coast to Coast am with Lang earlier in the year which is worth hearing for the record. Both as far as I know, stand by Bigelow, who has not as yet made any statement surrounding MUFON’s current situation.

James Carrion, in his blog,, wrote of the relationship:

'What I see in the MUFON-BAASS relationship is active management of MUFON’s work, despite assurances from BAASS otherwise. By carefully controlling the purse strings with each contract evaluation period, they are ensuring they receive a constant flow of information from MUFON while also making sure that MUFON does not end up with operational funding to stabilize its long term financial well being.'

Carrion goes on to explain that he believes Bigelow’s people were planting false information and evidence to hide what the true story of the Skinwalker ranch is.

Elaine Douglas, on the Jerry Pippin show:

'There are people who will tell you, really, that Bigelow is harmless, some people will say well you know there’s a war going on inside MUFON netween the Bigelow and the CIA or something. Obviously, we don’t know, we don’t know and we probably never will know...And this board that we have, shouldn’t have let it become like it is. They shouldn’t have let the secrecy creep in, and they shouldn’t have let the authoritarianism creep in. They shouldn’t be calling David Wisbey in Colorado and saying you take your name off that proposal or you’re going to be fired. I mean, that’s not a 501c3 volunteer charitable organization dedicated to the betterment of mankind. It’s turned into something else.'
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Re: Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Mon Jul 29, 2013 9:53 am

What fascinates me the most about Bigelow is the blank spots. Budget Suites of America is not exactly a huge chain: we're talking about just 18 hotels, mostly West Coast with a little dab of Texas for good measure. He made a fortune in "finance and real estate" -- a nicely opaque industry to generate your war chest in, but what I keep coming back to is the fact that nobody, but nobody, makes a fortune in "finance and real estate" alone.

I am very interested in tracing the networks he was plugged into while he was making his money because I think that will tell us more about his motivations and worldview than his beliefs about the power of prayer.

Anyways, more grist for the mill:


Since the beginning of his career in real estate, the scope of Robert Bigelow’s business endeavors has included ownership of banking operations, real estate acquisitions, sales, real estate brokerage, design, development, financing, general contracting and management of many thousands of apartments in 5 southwestern states including the extended stay hotel chain Budget Suites of America.

Some of his accomplishments through his finance and banking experience include being the second largest shareholder of a savings and loan, serving for five years on its board of directors and for another five-year period, he served as a director and largest shareholder of a commercial bank. Mr. Bigelow has owned and operated his own mortgage company, where he originated loans and bought and sold trust deeds and mortgages.

Bigelow Management Inc. (BMI)
Although Mr. Bigelow has managed his own properties for many years involving hundreds of staff, this management function was not formalized until 1984. All of the staff worked under the individual legal entity ownerships of each property. Currently, BMI, functions as the management for approximately 7,500 apartments and other facilities.

Bigelow Development Corp
Bigelow Development Corporation as general contractor has developed and constructed approximately 14,000 units over the years. This has included multiple categories such as apartment, office, residential, hotel, motel and industrial properties.

Bigelow Aerospace, LLC
Owner/President/Operating Manager
In 1999, he founded Bigelow Aerospace (“BA”). BA is a general contracting, investment, research and development company that concentrates on achieving economic breakthroughs in the costs associated with the design, development and construction of habitable space stations, space transportation and launch facilities to the extent that they will be affordable for private enterprise use.

Furthering aerospace technology, he has been personally granted fifteen patents and has more that have been submitted and are awaiting approval. To date, he has spent over $250 million on Bigelow Aerospace and is prepared to invest $500 million by 2015 into space station structures. Bigelow Aerospace’s first flight of the 33%-scale prototype Genesis I took place on July 12, 2006. The second flight of Genesis II was launched June 28, 2007. In the fall of 2007, BA shifted its focus to the creation of its full-scale system, the BA 330. As the name indicates, the BA 330 will provide roughly 330 cubic meters of internal volume and can support a crew of up to six. Developed exclusively via private funding and without receiving any financial support from the federal government, Bigelow Aerospace has continued to mature the BA 330 and is currently on schedule to finish construction of its first privately developed habitat in 2016 ready for flight.

Bigelow Aerospace has developed strong relationships with various large and small aerospace companies both foreign and domestic. In 2003, BA acquired exclusive licenses for the commercialization of NASA expandable space habitat technologies, and has several other licensing agreements with NASA for docking, shielding systems, and expandable habitat development. In 2002, BA entered into a Space Act Agreement with NASA Johnson Space Center, and an updated version of this Agreement remains in force today. Additionally in December 2012, BA entered into an agreement with NASA to test the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (“BEAM”) to gather knowledge on the certification process for expandable habitats as part of an integrated human qualified system and to obtain critical performance data on radiation performance, thermal control, and overall on-orbit utilization.

Honors, Awards & Memberships
In 1995, he received the Distinguished Nevadan of the Year Award from the Board of Regents for the University and Community College System of Nevada. UNLV gave him the honor of naming two buildings within colleges after family members and in 1997, the UNLV Foundation gave him the distinguished honor of being a member of the Palladium Society. He chaired and funded the Bigelow Chair of Consciousness Studies at UNLV. Mr. Bigelow was awarded the AIAA Durand Lecture for Public Service in 2004 presented for notable achievements by a scientific or technical leader. Mr. Bigelow received the Innovator’s Award from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation in October of 2006, and the Space Foundation Award for Space Achievement in 2007, as well as the Space Frontier Foundation Award “Vision to Reality” in 2007. Robert Bigelow is a member of the National Space Society, The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, The Space Frontier Foundation, an associate member of the Society of Scientific Exploration to name several organizations to which he belongs.

Robert Bigelow is active and a member in various business, scientific and community organizations. He is a member of the UNLV Foundation, with personal donations to UNLV exceeding $3,000,000. Mr. and Mrs. Bigelow are Founders of the Nevada Cancer Institute with personal donations exceeding $2,550,000. He supports many other charities such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Shade Tree, Child Haven, and the Salvation Army, Smile Train, Boys and Girls Club of Las Vegas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Institute, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Boys Town, The Lou Ruvo Brain Center and a variety of family tragedy victims.

The "Consciousness Studies Chair" was held, while it lasted, by Dean Radin.

Via: ... -habitats/

Robert Bigelow: the innkeeper of inflatable space habitats
January 31, 2013
James Bregenzer
General Business

Robert Bigelow got rich off budget hotel suites that start at US$189 (Dh694) a week. Now they are funding his dream of building inflatable space habitats with rates topping $400,000 a day.

“I guess it seems strange or unique to other people,” he says. “To me, it’s just following a dream that I have had all of my life of doing something important that was space- related.”

For the Las Vegas businessman, his desire to build low orbital dwellings is the ultimate gamble. He has bet $500 million of his own money on his closely held venture, Bigelow Aerospace — five times what the billionaire Elon Musk invested in his own space company.

“If you don’t have bucks, there’s no Buck Rodgers,” says Mr Bigelow, 68, echoing a phrase from the film, The Right Stuff, about the early days of the US space flight programme.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration this month announced a $17.8m contract to Bigelow Aerospace for an inflatable room that will be attached to a port on the International Space Station some time in 2015. Astronauts will use the prototype for two years, allowing Nasa to test the technology for “pennies on the dollar”, says Lori Garver, the agency’s deputy administrator.

Mr Bigelow has spent about half of his stake. He may never recoup the investment, according to Jeff Foust, an analyst at Futron, a Bethesda, Maryland-based technology consultancy.

“Are there enough customers out there to make this a worthwhile venture?” Mr Foust says. “It’s yet to be seen.”

Nasa’s award to Bigelow Aerospace means that the 1,300-kilogramme inflatable spare room that uses a Kevlar-like fabric called Vectran will be tested to see how it withstands space debris and radiation.

The technology is based on an idea conceived in the 1990s by Nasa, which let Mr Bigelow licence the patents, according to Mike Gold, the director of Washington operations for Bigelow Aerospace. The company has taken the blueprints to fruition by building actual test structures, Mr Gold says.

Nasa retired its shuttle fleet in 2011 and relies on Russia for rides to space at a cost of about $63m per astronaut. It has turned to the private industry to ferry cargo and eventually humans to the station.

Mr Bigelow needs US companies such as Boeing and Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp, known as SpaceX, to develop lower-cost alternatives, Mr Foust says. Otherwise, he says, Mr Bigelow’s private stations “literally won’t get off the ground”.

SpaceX’s first flight last year of an unmanned cargo ship to the International Space Station signalled the start of a new era in commercial space flight, Mr Bigelow says.

Eventually, Mr Bigelow intends to build stand-alone stations launched by privately operated rockets that can be used as research laboratories orbiting Earth or be part of an effort to establish a permanent presence on the moon or Mars. Although a permanent habitat will not be ready before 2016, his company is promoting a round-trip flight and 60-day stay aboard the “Alpha Station” for $26.3m a head.

Mr Bigelow is a lesser known figure in the privately funded space race that has drawn high-risk adventurers such as Mr Musk and the British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, whose Virgin Galactic is taking bookings online for $200,000 “Pioneer Astronaut” suborbital flights. Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments holds a 32-per-cent stake in Virgin Galactic, which proposes to build its second spaceport in the emirate.

Mr Bigelow likewise has an ally in the Emirates. In early 2011, he signed a memorandum with the Dubai-based Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology to “explore joint efforts”.

The hotelier grew up in Las Vegas. During his first semester in college, his father died in a plane crash. He later graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in business. He and his wife, Diane, raised two sons.

Mr Bigelow has nursed a lifelong obsession with unidentified flying objects after his mother regaled him with the tale of his grandparents seeing a glowing flying object while driving through the desert in 1947.

He has amassed a library of about 3,500 books about UFOs, cosmology and related subjects. He gave financial backing to the National Institute for Discovery Science, which hunted UFOs and studied paranormal activities before disbanding in 2004. He has recorded interviews with almost 250 people who claim to have had a sighting or encounter with a UFO, and says he believes alien wreckage was discovered in Roswell, New Mexico, in the 1940s.

“I’m in the camp that has zero doubt” that UFOs exist and have visited the Earth, Mr Bigelow said.

Mr Bigelow, who declines to discuss his net worth, made his fortune through a chain of residential hotels in the south-west US. He caught the property bug from his maternal grandfather who leased several apartments on his property.

“I kind of, by osmosis, got the notion that you could make a good living off of that and have regular income, if you did the right things,” he says. He says he sold about one-third of his Budget Suites of America properties before the recent recession. “People were just throwing money at you and begging you to sell,” he says. “It became ridiculous.”

James Oberg, a former mission control specialist for Nasa and space consultant in Dickinson, Texas, who accompanied Mr Bigelow to Russia in 2007 for the launch of a prototype habitat, says the hotelier has the passion to help shape the next generation of space travel.

“Bigelow has his own style and his own passions,” Mr Oberg says. “He struck me as a builder of things rather than a master and user of wealth and privilege.”

On the ground, Mr Bigelow is distinctly low-tech: he shuns email. Visitors to his space venture’s headquarters in North Las Vegas will notice that security guards refer to him as “Mr Big”.

Even if he completes his dreams on schedule, Mr Bigelow will then be in his 70s, making it unlikely that the entrepreneur will ever make the trip out to his low-earth orbit habitat.

“This isn’t about benefiting one human,” Mr Gold says. “This is about opening up space for all of humanity.”
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Re: Robert Bigelow / Bigelow Aerospace

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Mon Jul 29, 2013 1:29 pm

“This is about opening up space for all of humanity.”

...but no smart businessman is averse to a little agitprop in the name of profits...

Via: ... ispcs.html

China Will Own the Moon, Space Entrepreneur Worries

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A new game of "Solar System Monopoly" is under way, and the United States is losing, commercial space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow said today (Oct. 19).

The first prize, ownership of the moon, is up for grabs, and China will likely snag it, Bigelow said here at the 2011 International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight.

Bigelow's Las Vegas-based company, Bigelow Aerospace, is constructing private inflatable space modules that it hopes to rent out to government and commercial customers. The firm is even working on a series of labs for a human lunar colony.

But by the time the America gets into gear to build its own moon base, large swaths of lunar territory may already be claimed, Bigelow said in a talk that the firebrand entrepreneur warned the audience would be "controversial." "Americans are still basking in the lunar glory from 40 years ago," Bigelow said. "But we don’t own one square foot of the damn place. NASA is a shadow of the space agency it once was in the 1960s and 1970s."

In contrast, he argued, China has the motivation and ability to win the next space race and claim ownership of much of the moon. Bigelow argued that international law would allow a nation to make such a claim, especially if it were able to enforce it through continuous human lunar presence. Owning the moon would be a windfall both financially and for international prestige, he said. Not only does it offer a jumping off point for further exploration of the solar system, but it also contains vast stores of valuable resources such as water and helium-3, a possible fuel for nuclear fusion. Moreover, the symbolic and global psychological impact would be huge, Bigelow said.

"I think nothing else China could possibly do in the next 15 years would cause as great a benefit for China." In addition to China's growing technological prowess, the country has the cash, the lack of debt and the national will to become the owner of the moon, Bigelow argued. He predicted China could claim ownership of vast swaths of lunar territory by 2022 to 2026. "Hopefully this will produce the fear factor necessary to motivate the Americans," Bigelow said.

But while the U.S. could be losing the race to own the moon, Bigelow said that Mars offers another frontier up for grabs. He advocated for putting 10 percent of the money the United States currently spends on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan toward space exploration with the goal of establishing a presence on Mars. "America would experience a rebirth of vision, excitement, science and global prestige," Bigelow said.

However, competition with China is not the only option, Bigelow said. If the Chinese would have us as collaborators in moon exploration, space cooperation with China would be a great idea. "A piece of something is better than a piece of nothing," Bigelow said.
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