Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bob Bigelow, Space Gigalo

Robert Bigelow, millionaire, real estate magnet, hotel mogul, spaceman.

Yep, Mr. Bigelow, founder of the hotel chain, Budget Suites of America, and multi-millionaire has already launched a one-third-scale model of his inflatable space hotel. He’s one of the new visionary space entrepreneurs that include Burt Rutan and Sir Richard Branson looking to the final frontier to conquer and make oodles of cash. According to a report in the LA Times, he has many obstacles that include launch costs and safety issues. At present the price tag for a space tourist is $20,000,000. If only Visa offered that spending limit on my 0% card, I’d be there. But alas that will have to wait a few more years. Mr. Bigelow imagines that in ten years the price to soar into space will be a mere $9,000,000, still out of range for the average Joe’s salary.

The inflatable hotel is based on a design called TransHab that NASA discarded a few years ago when budget cuts forced them to pare down projects. When the design became available Mr. Bigelow snatched it up and formed a new company called Bigelow Aerospace. They hope to have a full sized model up in orbit in five years with guests arriving in ten. Those are grand dreams. Mr. Bigelow imagines the inflatable hubs to be used as conference centers, sports stadiums, and of course, hotels. While the amenities are sparse, you can’t beat the view.

The inflatable design, around since the 1960s, has advantages over a metal space station like the International Space Station currently in orbit. The main one being that it is much lighter. A downside is that if it pops, you’re dead. The current design has a shell strength of 3-inch thick aluminum. It’s a start.

Like other space entrepreneurs, Mr. Bigelow has been fascinated with exploring the outer limits since he was a child. It seems that a generation of Baby Boomers—fed a steady diet of Twilight Zone and Star Trek on television—are now indulging their childhood dreams of traveling to the stars and they have the funds to do it. Not only that, Mr. Bigelow has founded The National Institute for Discovery Science a center to investigate paranormal events including UFO abductions. He believes in the paranormal experiences that cannot be explained by science.

His clients will not necessarily be the space tourists lining up with millions in disposable income burning a hole in their Brooks Brother’s suit pockets. He envisions small nations without space programs of their own to be his first customers. They will be able to ride a launch and experiment with zero gravity all for less than $10,000,000 per trip. Mr. Bigelow claims that he already has a few countries lining up but he will not disclose their identities, yet.

You can read the LA Times story here.


1 comment:

The Phoenix said...

What's the fascination with people living in bubbles???

But seriously, I used to train at a tennis facility that was basically two large bubbles. It was actually very cool, but the accustics were a bit strange.

I guess it was cheaper than actually building some buildings.