This week I had the great privilege to have Mr. Robert Bigelow, escort a colleague and me on a tour of Bigelow Aerospace facilities north of Las Vegas, Nevada. Mr. Bigelow founded Bigelow Aerospace in 1999. He is a native of Las Vegas, Nevada, and made his fortune from his construction and real estate development companies, as well Budget Suites of America.
Mr. Bigelow met us in his office and luckily he wanted to talk. As I prepared for this meeting, I read, created questions, anticipated his answers and when I did not know the answers, I continued to research until I did know the answers. In situations like this, I never ask the questions, but the process is a way to prepare for the unexpected. This process also helps the meeting become a conversation. I wanted to know what he’d been thinking about because he thinks years into the future.
Mr. Bigelow is examining the implications of China planning now to occupy and then essentially own the moon. Ownership of the moon has been dealt with in treaties; the most relevant for our discussion was the treaty of 1967. Which Mr. Bigelow printed out for me. As I began writing this article for you, I realized I had to connect the dots because a lot went on. Any errors, are of course, mine. Here goes.
Mr. Bigelow has two uninhabited orbiting space modules called Genesis 1 and 2 whose day-to-day activities you can view on www.bigelowaerospace.com. He launched those space modules in 2006 and 2007 on a Dnepr rocket from Russia.
He is now planning to build much larger habitable space craft in his new facility, north of Las Vegas. We walked through his 24,000 square meter assembly facility for his planned Sundancer and BA-330 habitable space stations. I walked into the capsule, “Orion Lite”, a seven person crew capsule he plans to use for his customers to get to his space station. I touched the outer shell of his module and looked at the high speed impact tests on outer shell materials. Mr. Bigelow plans to launch these habitable space craft in 2014, with operations to start in 2015.
Bob Bigelow is about execution. He thinks, reads, researches, talks to the best experts in the world, and then moves. He has been planning to make it possible for nations to live and work off earth for years, now he’s building. I wanted to know what’s next. He is thinking about the moon, and beyond.
He came to my Symposium (ISPCS) in October and brought his staff out to Spaceport America during that trip. It was there we discussed touring his facility. I know he has spent about $180 million of his own money on his program. In fact, he has spent more money than we have spent to date on our spaceport. It takes years to create a change as large as we are in New Mexico and Mr. Bigelow is creating in commercial space. We are creating a promising future, well beyond the scope of our lifetime.
We cannot blink here in New Mexico. We have dominated the world in commercial Spaceflight facilities development. We are working to create a new space economy. Connect the dots.
Spaceport America is a pull to the future for New Mexico, a way for us to retain our best and brightest to work in a new industry. Bigelow Aerospace employs about 120 full time people, engineers, scientists and yes, astronauts. They are talented young people that obviously love it as they work on a project that is innovative and ground breaking, creating a new future for our country. On his recent visit to New Mexico he saw our young people working on a new space economy as well, just like his people are doing in Nevada.
And just in case anyone is concerned, let’s show confidence in the new leadership for our state. Governor Martinez has made it clear Spaceport America is on her agenda. That’s what happens when you lead. People, including the Governor take notice. That’s what we want. This project has so much potential in its future. Our new Administration is compelled to assure this project is ready for global scrutiny. We will succeed; let’s not forget our heritage in the space industry goes back to Robert Goddard. Connect the dots. I know we can, it’s a promising future we are creating.