Background on the Men Who Sold the Moon

By | August 15, 2013

Related to this week’s The World Transformed — here is some background on the billionaires we’ll be discussing as well as their achievements.

Technology: Vanity or visionary?

As the son of an angel investor who had made his fortune during the industrial revolution, the younger Darwin was the beneficiary of a similar fount of personal patronage, says Bill Janeway, a veteran start-up investor and economic historian.

Yet even if it has a long history, some argue that dependence on personal generosity may not be the best way to organise important scientific research. Such work is often better left to governments or established corporate research labs rather than individual benefactors, Mr Janeway says, since there is a risk that ambitious individuals will brush aside established scientific disciplines, such as peer review, in the race for high-profile achievements.

Others, however, argue that a breakout from the old forms of scientific research may be in order.

In periods of very rapid technological change, the biggest opportunities often lie on the fringes of science research where little work has been done before, making traditional approaches to peer review less useful, says Mr Seely Brown, a former head of Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center.

Elon Musk

1. Hyperloop

High-speed alternative to rail line to be developed between LA and San Francisco

800 mph — LA to San Francisco in 30 minutes

Now Musk argues that the Hyperloop represents a type of middle ground that other people have yet to consider. Instead of being a complete vacuum or running at normal conditions, the Hyperloop tubes would be under low pressure. “I think a lot of people tended to gravitate to one idea or the other as opposed to thinking about lower pressure,” Musk says. “I have never seen that idea anywhere.”

Inside the tubes, the pods would be mounted on thin skis made out of inconel, a trusted alloy of SpaceX that can withstand high pressure and heat. Air gets pumped through little holes in the skis to make an air cushion, Musk says. The front of the pod would have a pair of air jet inlets—sort of like the Concorde. An electric turbo compressor would compress the air from the nose and route it to the skis and to the cabin. Magnets on the skis, plus an electromagnetic pulse, would give the pod its initial thrust; reboosting motors along the route would keep the pod moving. And: no sonic boom. With warm air inside the tubes and high tailwinds, the pods could travel at high speeds without crossing the sound barrier. “The pod can go just below the speed of sound relative to the air,” Musk says.

Originally, Musk didn’t want to even develop or finance the Hyperloop, since Tesla and SpaceX are his top priorities. On a conference call to explain his design Monday, he signaled a change of heart.

“It would be cool to see a new form of transport happen,” Musk says. “I think it might help if I made a prototype and sort of helped get things going in that way.”

2. SpaceX and Mars

SpaceX has flown, or is in development on, several orbital launch vehicles: the Falcon 1, Falcon 9, and Falcon Heavy. As of 2012, the Falcon 9 is currently in active usage and the Falcon Heavy is under development with a large manifest of flights after 2013.

Daragon — It is a conventional blunt-cone ballistic capsule, which is capable of carrying 7 people or a mixture of personnel and cargo to and from low Earth orbit.[90] It is launched atop a Falcon 9 launch vehicle, the spacecraft’s nosecone is jettisoned shortly after launch.

“The key thing for me,” he begins, “is to develop the technology to transport large numbers of people and cargo to Mars. That’s the ultimate awesome thing.” Musk envisages a colony with 80,000 people on the red planet. “But of course we must pay the bills along the way. So that means serving important customers like Nasa, launching commercial broadcasting communication satellites, GPS satellites, mapping, science experiments. “There’s no rush in the sense that humanity’s doom is imminent; I don’t think the end is nigh. But I do think we face some small risk of calamitous events. It’s sort of like why you buy car or life insurance. It’s not because you think you’ll die tomorrow, but because you might.”


Musk: Humans on Mars Before SpaceX Goes Public

Investors eager to own a piece of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) could face a very long wait. According to a recent tweet from the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company’s founder and chief executive, Elon Musk, there will be no initial public offering (IPO) of SpaceX stock before humans have begun to settle Mars.

“No near term plans to IPO SpaceX,” Musk wrote in a short message posted to Twitter June 6. “Only possible in very long term when Mars Colonial Transporter is flying regularly.”


Sergey Brin

1. Vat Meat

In the video, Brin says that his investment came partly out of concern for animal rights, because he considers modern industrial farming to be cruel, but there are plenty of other reasons to want an alternative to livestock. Meat production takes up about 70 percent of the Earth’s arable land, which is a terribly inefficient way to feed the planet’s rapidly growing population. Livestock also produce 18 percent of all greenhouse gases, and trading them in for vat-grown meat would be a huge stride towards reducing human emissions.

Lab-grown beef taste test: ‘Almost’ like a burger

It looked like a burger. It smelled like a burger. It tasted, well, almost like a burger.

The first lab-grown beef hamburger was cooked and eaten in London on Monday. “We proved it’s possible,” said scientist Mark Post, who created the cultured minced meat in his lab at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. He said his hope is to come up with a new and environmentally friendly way to feed the world.


2. Self-Driving Cars

Autonomous cars may seem like a gimmick, he begins, but when you consider all the time that people won’t be devoting to their rear view mirrors, and all the efficiencies that come from cars that could be zipping between errands rather than idling in parking lots, the world looks like a very different place. Car ownership would be unnecessary, because your car (maybe shared with your neighbors) will act like a taxi that’s summoned when needed. The elderly and the blind could be thoroughly integrated into society. Traffic deaths could be eradicated. Every person could gain lost hours back for working, reading, talking, or searching the Internet.

Peter Diamandis

1. Asteroid Mining

What if the greatest discovery of natural resources didn’t take place on Earth?

 There are near-limitless numbers of asteroids and more being discovered every year. More than 1,500 are as easy to reach as the Moon and are in similar orbits as Earth. Asteroids are filled with precious resources, everything from water to platinum. Harnessing valuable minerals from a practically infinite source will provide stability on Earth, increase humanity’s prosperity, and help establish and maintain human presence in space.

Asteroids are the low-hanging fruit of the Solar System. There are close to 9,000 near-Earth asteroids, and nearly 1,000 more are discovered every year.

Low cost commercial robotic spacecraft will explore asteroids and determine their position, composition, and accessibility of resources.

Asteroid mining will allow the delivery of resources to the point of need, be it a fuel depot orbiting the Earth, or elsewhere in the Solar System.

Bellevue, Washington – July 1, 2013 – Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, successfully completed its crowdfunding campaign yesterday to launch ARKYD – the world’s first public space telescope. Over the course of the 33-day campaign, the company generated support from more than 17,600 backers who pledged US$1,505,366 for the cause. This marks the most successful crowdfunding effort for a space project and ranks the ARKYD campaign among the top 25 projects in Kickstarter history.

“Some of these asteroids are worth trillions of dollars in assets. Will it happen? Absolutely.”


Jeff Bezos Amazon

1. Private Space Development

Blue Origin, LLC is developing technologies to enable private human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability. We’ve adopted an incremental approach, with each development step building on the prior development. We are currently focused on developing rocket-powered Vertical Takeoff and Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicles for access to suborbital and orbital space.