The Billionaires Betting On Space Travel
The space race is on for some of the biggest names out there. Leading technology giants like Amazon.com, SpaceX, Microsoft, Virgin Group, Google, and Facebook are all getting in on the action.
Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s second richest man after Microsoft’s Bill Gates, is funding rocket company Blue Origin to the tune of $1 billion a year. Blue Origin has been putting together a rocket factory in Kent, Wash., for several years. The company also plans to launch its rockets from a NASA launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, in the near future.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who also heads SpaceX, is overseeing space flights with the mission of eventually making it to Mars. A new version of the ship, Dragon 2, next year will send astronauts to the International Space Station still in orbit around planet Earth.
A Morgan Stanley analyst even claimed that Tesla could lose Musk’s attention as he devotes more time to his SpaceX intergalactic travel company, with the possibility of an alliance between Tesla and SpaceX in the future.
“Investors widely expect Elon Musk to, over time, devote increasing amounts of his time and talents to SpaceX, raising the very real question of who could replace him at Tesla,” Jonas wrote. “A combination of efforts between the two firms could address this important issue.”
The two companies will play on this alliance during a TV commercial that will be broadcast in January. A SpaceX rocket will carry a Tesla Roadster sports car owned by Musk as payload when it travels toward Mars.
While an avid fan of vehicles running off renewably produced electricity, Musk’s Dragon flights are powered by Falcon 9 rockets running off of LOX (liquid oxygen) combined with RP-1, or rocket grade kerosene.
Bill Gates’ old business partner, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, sees a large opportunity in offering shared rides to outer space. SpaceFlight, backed by Allen, is already booking payloads on flights and has bought up the capacity of a SpaceX rocket that can be shared by paying customers.
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson’s has already spent more than $600 million to help get commercial passenger flights into suborbital space by the end of 2018.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceflight company will be bringing hyper-fast airline flights to get from places like Boston over to Beijing. Its vehicles will likely fly at a top speed of Mach 2, about twice the speed of sound - or about 774 mph. Branson sees Virgin Galactic someday providing luxurious flight experiences to passengers going to places like Mars.
A study published in August by Bloomberg profiled some of the world’s wealthiest entrepreneurs who’ve invested in space travel startups and technology innovations.
Bill Gates is investing in Kameta, supporting efforts to bring the company’s mTenna satellite technology to market, with is designed around bringing communications to cars, planes, and boats.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is helping fund SETI, a University of California, Berkeley, project. One of its efforts has been Breakthrough Listen, which is looking into the existence of extraterrestrial lifeforms. Related: U.S. Shale Cautious As Oil Majors Invade Texas
While these entrepreneurs see value in software, electric cars, social media, e-commerce, and airlines, each of them expects space travel to account for a growing part of the global economy. Thousands of residents of planet Earth have expressed interest in living on Mars, and there’s a growing market for rare metals that must be extracted from asteroids, comets, and other planets.
There’s also the appeal of offering hyper-fast trips to wealthy passengers willing to put down thousands on a trip around the Earth’s orbit. Since 2001, a Virginia-based company called Space Adventures has offered multimillionaires the opportunity to ride on a Russian flight to the International Space Station.
Earlier this year, Musk announced a bold new mission for SpaceX during 2018. Two unnamed passengers will be flying a roundtrip around the Moon. It will be the first private enterprise to offer that trip beyond government-funded astronaut space flights.
By John LeSage for Oilprice.com
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