Robert Bigelow

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Robert Bigelow
Robert Bigelow.jpg
Bigelow in 2011
Robert Thomas Bigelow

(1944-05-12) May 12, 1944 (age 79)
Alma materArizona State University

Robert Thomas Bigelow[1][2] (born May 12, 1944) is an American businessman. He owns the hotel chain Budget Suites of America and is the founder of Bigelow Aerospace.[3][4] In 2011, Forbes estimated his net worth to be $700 million.[5]

Bigelow has provided financial support for investigations of UFOs and parapsychological topics, including the continuation of consciousness after death.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[8]


Real estate[edit]

From the late 1960s[8] through the 1990s, Bigelow developed commercial real estate hotels, motels and apartments.[9]

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."[8]


In 1999, Bigelow founded Bigelow Aerospace.[10]

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.[11][12] 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.[13]

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.[9] In October 2017, Bigelow announced that he planned to put an inflatable "space hotel" into orbit by 2022.[14] 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.[15]

In April 2016, Bigelow's BEAM module was launched to the International Space Station[9] on the eighth SpaceX cargo resupply mission.[16]

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.[17]

In March 2021, he sued NASA for US$1.05 million, alleging he was not paid according to contract for product testing and development.[18]

Anomalies research[edit]

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.[19] The organization researched cattle mutilation and black triangle reports, ultimately attributing the latter to secretive advanced aircraft operated by the military.[20] 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.[21]

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.[22][23] According to the New York Times, Bigelow said he was “absolutely convinced” that extraterrestrial life exists and that extraterrestrials have visited Earth.[24]

Consciousness studies[edit]

In June 2020, Bigelow founded the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies to support investigations into life after death.[6] In January 2021, he put up an award of US$1 million for anyone who could demonstrate the existence of a life after death.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Bigelow was married to Diane Mona Bigelow for 55 years until her death in 2020.[6]

Political contributions[edit]

Bigelow has made political donations to conservative Republican candidates.[26][27] In July 2022, he donated $10 million to Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, which was the single biggest donation of his re-election bid.[28][29] Bigelow has contributed over $25 million[30] 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.


  1. ^ "Las Vegas High School Alumni Association: Robert Thomas Bigelow - Class of 1962" (PDF).
  2. ^ "Nevada Marriage Index". FamilySearch.
  3. ^ Pat (February 11, 2007). "Money Backing the Private Space Industry... Part 3--Robert Bigelow". The Space Monitor (blog).
  4. ^ Ewalt, David M. (June 8, 2011). "Cosmic Landlord". Forbes. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  5. ^ Ewalt, David M. "Cosmic Landlord". Forbes. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c Blumenthal, Ralph (January 24, 2021). "Buying a peek at the hereafter". New York Times. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Belfiore, Michael (2007). Rocketeers: how a visionary band of business leaders, engineers and pilots is boldly privatizing space. New York: Smithsonian Books. p. [1]. ISBN 978-0-06-114903-0.
  13. ^ Malik, Tariq; David, Leonard (June 28, 2007). "Bigelow's second orbital module launches into space". Purch. Retrieved December 26, 2009.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Mark Whittington, Will a space hotel actually be open for business in 2027?,, 14 March 2021
  16. ^ Northon, Karen, ed. (April 8, 2016). "NASA Cargo Headed to Space Station Includes Habitat Prototype, Medical Research". NASA. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  17. ^ "Bigelow Aerospace lays off entire workforce". SpaceNews. March 23, 2020. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  18. ^ Duncan Phenix, Robert Bigelow comments on $1.05 million lawsuit against NASA,, 30 March 2021
  19. ^ Dorio, Mark (2005). Ufology: A Very Short Introduction. Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford. ISBN 1-4120-6473-2.
  20. ^ David, Leonard (September 2, 2004). "Silent Running: 'Black Triangle' Sightings on the Rise". Retrieved June 30, 2007.
  21. ^ Ewalt, David M. "Cosmic Landlord". Forbes. Retrieved August 17, 2020.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Bender, Bryan (December 16, 2017). "The Pentagon's Secret Search for UFOs". Politico.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ George Knapp, Is there life after death? Businessman offers nearly $1 million to find out,, 23 January 2021
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ Harrison, Casey (October 28, 2022). "Las Vegas billionaire in big leagues bankrolling GOP campaigns - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper". Retrieved May 5, 2023.

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