Exclusive: Las Vegas Businessman Prepares for Another Space Launch - 8 News NOW

George Knapp, Investigative Reporter

Exclusive: Las Vegas Businessman Prepares for Another Space Launch

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The command center inside Bigelow Aerospace. The command center inside Bigelow Aerospace.
Genesis 1 launched last summer and has been such an unqualified success that Bigelow has stepped up his timetable and thinks he could have his first habitable space craft in orbit by 2010. Genesis 1 launched last summer and has been such an unqualified success that Bigelow has stepped up his timetable and thinks he could have his first habitable space craft in orbit by 2010.
"Our business plan isn't dependent on tourism. There's no doubt tourism will be there and will grow. We expect to have multiple destinations. We expect complexes to be put together for multiple uses," said Robert Bigelow, Bigelow Aerospace founder. "Our business plan isn't dependent on tourism. There's no doubt tourism will be there and will grow. We expect to have multiple destinations. We expect complexes to be put together for multiple uses," said Robert Bigelow, Bigelow Aerospace founder.
A Las Vegas entrepreneur is preparing for the launch of a second home grown spacecraft, built at a plant in North Las Vegas. A Las Vegas entrepreneur is preparing for the launch of a second home grown spacecraft, built at a plant in North Las Vegas.
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A Las Vegas entrepreneur is preparing for the launch of a second home grown spacecraft, built at a plant in North Las Vegas.

Hotel chain owner Robert Bigelow has added some new technology to his Genesis II craft but he says the real challenge is to develop a market that will use his facilities once they are orbiting the earth.

When Genesis 1 was catapulted into space atop a converted Russian ICBM last July, many people figured it was the first step in the creation of outer space hotels.

After all, Budget Suites founder Bob Bigelow made his fortune in the hotel business and has touted the idea of space tourism ever since he created Bigelow Aerospace seven years ago. But there's a lot more to Bigelow's business plan than quick visits to the wild blue by well-heeled earthlings looking for thrills.

"Our business plan isn't dependent on tourism. There's no doubt tourism will be there and will grow. We expect to have multiple destinations. We expect complexes to be put together for multiple uses," said Robert Bigelow, Bigelow Aerospace founder.

By multiple destinations, Bigelow means privately owned space stations. The expandable craft he's developed will mean more habitable space in space, places where people can conduct research or just enjoy the view.

Genesis 1 launched last summer and has been such an unqualified success that Bigelow has stepped up his timetable and thinks he could have his first habitable space craft in orbit by 2010.

Just days ago, Genesis II was crated up and shipped off to Kazakhstan where it is expected to be launched within the next few weeks. This week, Bigelow will unveil to space enthusiasts his business plan. In a nutshell, to paraphrase the movie line, if you build it, they will come.

"The facilities in space have to become a necessity. If you think about satellites, we know they're a necessity now but in 1957, that wasn't obvious. When Sputnik rotated around the earth, it was a novelty. Half a century later, it's transformed from a novelty to something that is extremely, globally serious, and a huge industry," said Bigelow.

Bigelow notes, for example, that many nations have their own astronaut corps, even those without space programs. The waiting list to get aboard the International Space Station is so long and so tightly controlled that few if any of these pioneers ever get into space.

If those countries could get their astronauts into space without building their own space program from scratch, Bigelow thinks they would sign on for repeated trips up and back. The same is true for corporations, like drug companies.

Bigelow plans on leasing out space on his stations, sort of like time share, something he knows very well. If the business plan works on his space stations in low earth orbit, Bigelow sees no reason it can't be used for endeavors even more ambitious.

"And we'll say, we will set up bases for you. We will lease those bases on the Moon or on Mars, if you can get that far. Let's just say on the Moon. We'll provide the facilities and you won't have to write the check to build them," Bigelow said.

He is so confident; his biggest worry is that there might not be enough rockets to handle all the traffic he will generate. But that's a story for another time.

Genesis II, due to be launched sometime in the next few weeks, is carrying numerous items placed on craft by regular folks who signed up for a program called "Fly Your Stuff", including photos and memorabilia that will be viewable here on earth through onboard cameras.

Email your comments to Investigative Reporter George Knapp.

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