Robert Thomas Bigelow
May 12, 1944
|Alma mater||Arizona State University|
Robert Thomas Bigelow (born May 12, 1944) is an American businessman. He owns the hotel chain Budget Suites of America and is the founder of Bigelow Aerospace. In 2011, Forbes estimated his net worth to be $700 million.
Bigelow has provided financial support for investigations of UFOs and parapsychological topics, including the continuation of consciousness after death.
Early life and education
Bigelow grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, attended Highland Elementary School, and was first exposed to science through a number of the nuclear weapons tests conducted about 70 miles northwest of the city.
At age 12, Bigelow decided that his future lay in space travel. Despite his limitations in mathematics, 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.
He enrolled in the University of Nevada, Reno, in 1962 to study banking and real estate, and he graduated from Arizona State University in 1967.
From the late 1960s through the 1990s, Bigelow developed commercial real estate hotels, motels and apartments.
In his real estate career, Bigelow built approximately 15,000 units and purchased another 8,000. For most of his career, "he held on to almost everything he bought, but ... eventually unload[ed] much of his housing stock in the boom years immediately before the 2008 crash". In 2013, Bigelow reflected on this: "People just really wanted to throw money away, so that was lucky."
In 1999, Bigelow founded Bigelow Aerospace.
Bigelow had indicated he planned to spend up to US$500 million to develop the first commercial space station with a goal of the station costing 33% of the US$1.5 billion that NASA expended on a single Space Shuttle mission. Bigelow Aerospace has launched two experimental space modules, Genesis I in 2006 and Genesis II in 2007, and had planned for full-scale space habitats to be used as orbital hotels, research labs and factories.
In 2013, Bigelow indicated that the reason he went into the commercial real estate business was to obtain the requisite resources to be able to fund a team developing space destinations. In October 2017, Bigelow announced that he planned to put an inflatable "space hotel" into orbit by 2022. The plan is part of partnership with United Launch Alliance, and the project is estimated to cost US$2.3 billion in total. The cost of a 3-day stay in this spatial hotel is estimated at 5 million dollars.
In April 2016, Bigelow's BEAM module was launched to the International Space Station on the eighth SpaceX cargo resupply mission.
In March 2020, Bigelow Aerospace laid off all 88 members of staff and halted operations after over 20 years of business, in a move that was partly caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
In March 2021, he sued NASA for US$1.05 million, alleging he was not paid according to contract for product testing and development.
In 1995, Bigelow founded the National Institute for Discovery Science to fund the research and study of various fringe sciences and paranormal topics, most notably ufology. The organization researched cattle mutilation and black triangle reports, ultimately attributing the latter to secretive advanced aircraft operated by the military. The institute was disbanded in 2004.
In 1996, Bigelow purchased Skinwalker Ranch, a 512-acre cattle ranch located in Utah that is the site of purported paranormal phenomena, such as inter-dimensional shape-shifters.
In December 2017, Bigelow was reported by the New York Times to have urged Senator Harry Reid to initiate what became the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, a government study which operated from 2007 to 2012 tasked with the study of UFOs. According to the New York Times, Bigelow said he was “absolutely convinced” that extraterrestrial life exists and that extraterrestrials have visited Earth.
In June 2020, Bigelow founded the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies to support investigations into life after death. In January 2021, he put up an award of US$1 million for anyone who could demonstrate the existence of a life after death.
Bigelow was married to Diane Mona Bigelow for 55 years until her death in 2020.
Bigelow has made political donations to conservative Republican candidates. In July 2022, he donated $10 million to Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, which was the single biggest donation of his re-election bid. Bigelow has contributed over $25 million to groups and causes supporting Joe Lombardo's candidacy for governor of Nevada. Campaign finance experts believe this may be the most a single donor has spent on a statewide race in modern history.
- ^ "Las Vegas High School Alumni Association: Robert Thomas Bigelow - Class of 1962" (PDF).
- ^ "Nevada Marriage Index". FamilySearch.
- ^ Pat (February 11, 2007). "Money Backing the Private Space Industry... Part 3--Robert Bigelow". The Space Monitor (blog).
- ^ Ewalt, David M. (June 8, 2011). "Cosmic Landlord". Forbes. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
- ^ Ewalt, David M. "Cosmic Landlord". Forbes. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
- ^ a b c Blumenthal, Ralph (January 24, 2021). "Buying a peek at the hereafter". New York Times. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
- ^ Mezrich, Ben (September 6, 2016). The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America's UFO Highway. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-5011-3552-1.
- ^ a b c d Higginbotham, Adam (May 2, 2013). "Robert Bigelow plans a real estate empire in space". BusinessWeek. Archived from the original on May 3, 2013. Retrieved May 10, 2013.
- ^ a b c Robison, Jennifer (March 10, 2013). "Nevadan at work: To the moon and beyond for Las Vegas developer". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
- ^ De Keyser, Sigurd (June 4, 2006). "Bigelow Aerospace; Russian Dnepr rocket to launch a 1/3-scale Genesis model". Space Fellowship News. International Space Fellowship. Retrieved March 4, 2010.
- ^ space.com
- ^ Belfiore, Michael (2007). Rocketeers: how a visionary band of business leaders, engineers and pilots is boldly privatizing space. New York: Smithsonian Books. p. . ISBN 978-0-06-114903-0.
- ^ Malik, Tariq; David, Leonard (June 28, 2007). "Bigelow's second orbital module launches into space". Space.com. Purch. Retrieved December 26, 2009.
- ^ Haslet, Emma (October 19, 2017). "Beware Vermicious Knids: A US billionaire wants to launch an inflatable space hotel into lunar orbit by 2022". City AM.
- ^ Mark Whittington, Will a space hotel actually be open for business in 2027?, Thehill.com, 14 March 2021
- ^ Northon, Karen, ed. (April 8, 2016). "NASA Cargo Headed to Space Station Includes Habitat Prototype, Medical Research". NASA. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
- ^ "Bigelow Aerospace lays off entire workforce". SpaceNews. March 23, 2020. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
- ^ Duncan Phenix, Robert Bigelow comments on $1.05 million lawsuit against NASA, 8newsroom.com, 30 March 2021
- ^ Dorio, Mark (2005). Ufology: A Very Short Introduction. Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford. ISBN 1-4120-6473-2.
- ^ David, Leonard (September 2, 2004). "Silent Running: 'Black Triangle' Sightings on the Rise". Space.com. Retrieved June 30, 2007.
- ^ Ewalt, David M. "Cosmic Landlord". Forbes. Retrieved August 17, 2020.
- ^ Cooper, Helene; Blumenthal, Ralph; Kean, Leslie (December 16, 2017). "Glowing Auras and 'Black Money': The Pentagon's Mysterious U.F.O. Program". New York Times.
- ^ Bender, Bryan (December 16, 2017). "The Pentagon's Secret Search for UFOs". Politico.
- ^ Cooper, Helene; Blumenthal, Ralph; Kean, Leslie (December 16, 2017). "Glowing Auras and 'Black Money': The Pentagon's Mysterious U.F.O. Program". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
- ^ George Knapp, Is there life after death? Businessman offers nearly $1 million to find out, Wreg.com, 23 January 2021
- ^ Harrison, Casey (October 24, 2022). "Nevada billionaire Bigelow opens wallet to back GOP causes here, across U.S." Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
- ^ Golonka, Sean; Snyder, Riley (October 25, 2022). "Las Vegas hotel mogul Robert Bigelow spends nearly $50 million to support Lombardo, other Republicans". The Nevada Independent. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
- ^ Wieder, Ben (October 3, 2022). "Birth of a mega-donor: Big DeSantis check part of surge in giving by Robert Bigelow". Miami Herald. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
- ^ Smith, Michael; Allison, Bill (October 25, 2022). "Ron DeSantis's Biggest Donor Is a Budget Hotel Tycoon With a Passion for UFOs". Bloomberg News. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
- ^ Harrison, Casey (October 28, 2022). "Las Vegas billionaire in big leagues bankrolling GOP campaigns - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper". lasvegassun.com. Retrieved May 5, 2023.
- Sheaffer, Robert (July–August 2009). "Bigelow's aerospace and saucer emporium". Skeptical Inquirer. Vol. 33, no. 4.
- Kushner, David (January–February 2011). "Robert Bigelow aims high—a private fleet of space taxis". Discover. Art. no. 73. Archived from the original on March 21, 2019.
- 1944 births
- 20th-century American businesspeople
- 21st-century American businesspeople
- American aerospace businesspeople
- American chief executives of travel and tourism industry companies
- American company founders
- American hoteliers
- American real estate businesspeople
- Arizona State University alumni
- Bigelow Aerospace
- Living people
- Businesspeople from Las Vegas
- University of Nevada, Reno alumni