I Need My Space
In November, amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos launched an unmanned vessel near El Paso, where he has been buying thousands of acres for Blue Origin, his personal space program. Although the cone-shaped craft reportedly reached an altitude of only 285 feet, Bezos' Web site says it's designed to carry a "small number of astronauts on a suborbital journey into space."
There's something about entrepreneurs and space. Bezos is one of a small group—Microsoft's Paul Allen, PayPal's Elon Musk, Virgin Atlantic's Richard Branson, and John Carmack, creator of the game Doom, for starters—building spaceships or developing private space programs.
Some are convinced the well-heeled are itching for a moonride. Others see a market for satellite launches or a way to harness resources from other planets. Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration approved seven commercial launches. "Our overarching goal is to reduce the costs of human space transportation," says Musk, who's spent $100 million on rockets to launch satellites for his El Segundo (Calif.) company, Space Exploration Technologies. Branson has 200 reservations for suborbital flights on Virgin Galactic, launching in 2010 at $200,000 each.
Not everyone is starry-eyed. Says space analyst John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org.: "The best way to make a small fortune in space is to start out with a large fortune." It's hard for mere earthlings to disagree.
Edited by Jeremy Quittner