Tech Billionaires in Space: Is Paul Allen Joining the Club?
We've got Tesla chief Elon Musk chomping at the bit to build a human colony on Mars. Jeff Bezos of Amazon wants to put "millions" of Earthlings into space where they would live and work. And now Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen appears to be getting into the space game with a massive airplane called the Stratolaunch.
What is with these guys and their launching projects into outer space?
Here's a look:
Claim to fame: Microsoft co-founder, owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers. Allen is 44th on the Forbes list of billionaires, with a net worth of $21.7 billion
Pet project: Stratolaunch, an airplane with a greater wingspan than Howard Hughes' famed Spruce Goose
What's it do? Designed to carry up to three rockets hanging from its belly and then, at about 35,000 feet, drop them and send them off to deliver satellites into space.
Where's it at now? The Stratolaunch moved closer to flight last week, the Washington Post reported, as it rolled out of its hangar in the Mojave Desert and did rolling drills down the runway, hitting a top speed of 46 mph.
The quote: "I would love to see us have a full reusable system and have weekly, if not more often, airport-style, repeatable operations going," Allen told the Post last week.
The timing: The maiden flight could come as early as late 2018.
The quirk: Vice President Mike Pence has visited the plane in its hangar and even walked across its wingspan.
Claim to fame: Now perched atop the Forbes billionaires list, Bezos has accumulated a net worth of $124.3 billion, largely as founder and CEO of Amazon
Pet project: Blue Origin
What's it do? This private space company's main focus so far is creating rockets that can be reused for space tourism.
Where's it at now? Recent reports by Blue Origin and other space enthusiasts suggest that the company's on track to meet its stated goal of unveiling their New Glenn heavy lift launch vehicle sometime in 2020 as they put the finishing touches on launch pads and test facilities in Florida.
Meanwhile, a Blue Origin vessel called New Shepard flew for the seventh time on Dec. 12, 2017, from Blue Origin's West Texas Launch Site. Carrying a test dummy named Mannequin Skywalker, the New Shepard carried a dozen commercial, research and education payloads, reaching a height of 322,405 feet, or nearly 100 kilometers, before returning safely to Earth.
The quote: Space tourism is the first step toward "millions of people living and working in space," Bezos said at the Satellite 2017 conference in Washington, D.C. "We need a space-faring civilization."
The timing: The big Florida launch could come as soon as 2020, says Blue Origin.
The quirk: Bezos was first inspired to build a space company when he was just a kid, watching the moon landing, and he has a framed letter in his office from Sen. John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth.
Claim to fame: Co-founder and CEO of Tesla and founder of SpaceX, Musk has a net worth of more than $20 billion and is listed by Forbes as the 53rd richest person in the world.
Pet project: SpaceX, whose motto boasts of "Making Life Interplanetary" and has an ultimate goal of "enabling people to live on other planets," starting with Mars.
What's it do: Using so-called "rapid rocket reusability," SpaceX intends to build upon its successes in recent years as the only private company to ever return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit.
Where's it at now? SpaceX continues to send up its Dragon spacecraft, carrying cargo to the International Space Station and bringing this and other rockets back down to Earth. The idea: so they can be used over and over again, eventually to land on Mars and set up a self-sufficient human colony.
The quote: "You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great -- and that's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars."
The timing: Musk has set a rather ambitious timeline: assuming his earlier rockets launch and perform as planned, he says the company would next aim to launch four vehicles to Mars in 2024: two containing cargo, and two with human crew and the missions would do two things once they've landed on the Red Planet: find the best sources of water and construct a propellant plant hich SpaceX would need to run round-trip journeys between Earth and Mars.
The quirk: It's not clear whether this was the root of his space ambitions, but at the age of 12 Musk created and sold a video game called Blastar with an objective of destroying an alien ship filled with weapons of mass destruction.
© 2018 San Jose Mercury News under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.
Image credit: Stratolaunch Systems Corp.
Read more on: Space
, Space Travel
, Paul Allen
, Elon Musk
, Jeff Bezos
, Blue Origin
, Commercial Space
Posted: 2018-03-10 @ 5:13pm PT
Bezos is the only contender here with I think a better plan than Musk's.
Posted: 2018-03-09 @ 8:53am PT
Paul Allen joined the club back in 2002-4, when he financed SpaceShipOne, which won the Ansari X-prize (for first private craft to space twice within 2 weeks). Richard Branson licensed that technology which has become SpaceShipTwo, the craft being used by Virgin Galactic.