The Six Billionaire Space Leaders Behind the “New Gilded Age”

3 | By Michael A. Robinson

Commercial space travel was long confined to the realm of science fiction.

But no more.

With SpaceX‘s successful rocket launch on May 22, commercial space travel is now a concrete, viable reality… and one that will yield lots of investment opportunities in the very near future.

After a three-day delay, the well-funded startup’s private space ship – a gumdrop-shaped capsule called Dragon – rocketed into outer space. It then docked with the International Space Station on the very first try. SpaceX made history. It was the first time a private firm has flown such a mission.

In my letter to you two weeks ago – “Why I’m Watching Tomorrow’s Rocket Launch (and You Should Too)” – I predicted the venture would succeed.

Now that it has, I believe this event will serve as the tipping point for the whole commercial space sector.

And to think, we have a small group of billionaire investors to thank for it all…

A handful of visionary leaders, drawn mostly from the high-tech sector, make up what I have come to call the “New Gilded Age.”

For those of you who may not recall from your school days and history classes, the first Gilded Age happened in late 1800s America. Back then, a select few wealthy men made enormous fortunes for themselves in oil, steel, and the like, and used part of that money to help build the nation.

They built the railroads and the telegraph system. They also donated huge sums to U.S. colleges to vault those institutions of learning well ahead of those in Europe. All of which set the stage for the huge economic boom that helped launch America as a global power.

I contend that the same thing is happening again.

Before I explain, I want to point out something about the first “Gilded Age.”

It was Mark Twain who coined the term in 1873 as his critique of the times. He wanted the reader to infer that the age was sparkling and new only on theoutside. Twain believed thatbeneath that veneer of “gold” lay ugly behavior, corruption, and a lack of business ethics. Later, in fact, these same capitalists who helped build the nation were accused of being “Robber Barons,” who used questionable methods to amass their wealth.

I don’t mean to imply any such thing about these six men I’m highlighting today.

In this New Gilded Age, this group of billionaires by and large made their money from computers and the Web. Now they are leading us further into space with new rockets, satellites, and advanced robots.

No doubt this will set the stage for a new round of growth over the next few decades and further into the Era of Radical Change.

These are the leaders who will help change the world as we know it… and make their investors a lot of money.

That’s because, where others see pitfalls, they see profits. At a time when NASA faces big budget constraints, they are taking up the slack. And they have a bigger goal: to ensure that America remains the leading space nation.

More to the point, we want to keep an eye on the members of the New Gilded Age, because wherever they go, profits will follow.

Here they are.

New Gilded Age Leaders No. 1 and 2: Page and Brin

I consider Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), to be the leaders of the movement.

Both men are gadget freaks who like to shoot for the stars. Right now, they’re backing an effort to create an elevator that will literally lift passengers into outer space.

They’re also the main force behind the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize. Brin and Page have promised to hand $20 million to the team that can land a robot on the moon and have it travel at least 1,650 feet across the surface and send high-def images and video back to Earth. Brin and Page have set aside another $10 million for 2nd place and for such other breakthroughs as proving that the moon has water.

New Gilded Age Leader No. 3: Bezos

The Web gave rise to this next member of the New Gilded Age, too. He is Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), the world’s largest online store.

In 2000, Bezos also founded Blue Origin LLC to develop a vertical takeoff and landing rocket ship. The idea is to fly passengers and astronauts to suborbital space. It has received NASA funding to compete to become a “taxi service” now that the Space Shuttle has retired.

New Gilded Age Leader No. 4: Diamandis

Though he is far from the wealthiest member of the New Gilded Age, Peter Diamandis clearly belongs on the list. He’s done as much as anyone to jumpstart the sector.

Consider that he is a founder and serves as co-chair of Planetary Resources Inc. (the sky-mining startup I told you about). In late April, the firm announced plans to land on asteroids and mine them for resources like water, precious metals and rare earths.

He’s involved in many other space ventures. My favorite is the Rocket Racing League. Think of it as a cross between NASCAR and pod racing in the Star Wars movies.

But Diamandis is best known as the backer of the $10 million Ansari X Prize. This remains a key event in commercial space travel. According to the foundation, it went to “the first private team to build and launch a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometers above the earth’s surface, twice within two weeks.” Awarded in 2004, the prize showed the private sector could succeed where only NASA had gone before.

In fact, that award is what helped put our next leader on the list…

New Gilded Age Leader No. 5: Allen

Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) co-founder Paul Allen won the Ansari X Prize by teaming up with aerospace designer Burt Rutan. But Allen didn’t stop there.

Last December, he and Rutan launched a new space firm. Stratolaunch Systems will use a huge aircraft to launch rockets into space that will deliver cargo satellites. Later, the firm intends to take people on space flights.

And let’s not forget the man who just brought commercial space travel to life.

New Gilded Age Leader No. 6: Musk

A native of South Africa, Elon Musk serves as SpaceX’s CEO. He founded the firm back in 2002 with $100 million of his own money.

Not that he was hurting for cash…

Musk had earlier co-founded PayPal and sold the firm to Ebay Inc. (NASDAQ:EBAY) for $1.5 billion. Before that, he and his brother had launched a software firm they sold for $300 million.

He hasn’t yet announced plans to take SpaceX public, but I believe that’s what he’ll do. I base that on what happened with his Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA), the high-end electric car firm he took public two years ago.

Musk seems to think there’s almost no problem we can’t overcome. I agree with him.

Musk and these other leaders are the type of bright young leader that makes me so optimistic about our nation’s future.

And I believe that in the near future we will find lots of ways to profit, both from whatever Musk and the other members of the New Gilded Age do in the last frontier, and whatever they manage to think up next, too.


3 Responses to The Six Billionaire Space Leaders Behind the “New Gilded Age”

  1. rolf says:


    why are you such a false patriot.

    how can you not mention other geniuses such as Richard Branson & his VirginGalactic – that is not just hot talk but reality already?!

    or is your Era of Radical Change only meant to push our American Agenda on the planet, and once again with the sole point it seems, to prove how smart or powerful or innovative we are, as if the rest of the world is a lesser breed apart and can’t think without thanking us 1st?!

    can we not recall that our economy is where it is, in the sewer, because of such arrogance – which leads to blindness? you can have all the brains in the world, but if the government, which is currently at its biggest with hunt in history, totally tyrannical against freedom & pursuit of any happiness with its control-freak nazi-like domination, 24/7/365 watch on every human hole, whilst they binge on the corruption they so oppose…if such a gov. exists, none of your geniuses will circumvent that.

    anyway, let’s stop that stupid patriotism. if we kill foreign lands economically or compete to death, no one will have means to buy our goods. everyone needs each other. we’re one human race. one beat. this must for american competitive edge is overrated & abdominal + self-destructive. there’s room for all countries to succeed. we can’t just want more all the time, at some point we must be happy with success without exaggeration & perversion.

    we can’t blame foreigners. the only reason we were so powerful is because of the colonizing abuse we had through the Dollar World Currency + Oil. the whole world invents, we don’t have a Chosen-by-God right to that. other parts of the world know about freedom, it’s not for us to teach.

    as for UK’s Richard’s VirginGalactic – well, if you insist on patriotism, his airport is in our country – so it will benefit us directly economically.

    • Paulina says:

      Moving life out into our solar system is a neassecry step enroute to moving life out to other star systems. There may be nearly Earth-like planets out there, but the best Kepler candidate I know of is over 1000 light-years away.SpaceX is heading in the right direction. We will be able to settle non-Earth-like planets before we can reach an Earth-like planet just because there are more non-Earth-like planets. Kudos to Elon Musk and SpaceX.

      • AamBaar says:

        Right now I’m not so convinced that SpaceX needs a Falxon X. The Falcon 9 Heavy is large guoenh to deliver most satellites to space that the market wants.Also, two Falcon 9 Heavies can deliver 64,000 kg to LEO. That’s guoenh to deliver any single component of a Sustainable Space Development (SSD) architecture which ultimately involves bringing lunar water ice to LEO. At that point, who even needs a super heavy lift rocket for any purpose?It seems to me as though the purpose for a Falcon XX is for a single shot for manned missions beyond LEO. Again, if you can fuel an Earth Departure Stage (EDS) using an LEO fuel depot, then the rest of the stack can be lifted using Falcon 9 Heavies. However, if NASA insists on building a heavy lift vehicle, then I’d rather SpaceX & other commercial companies build it due to the proven cost-effectiveness of the COTS/CRS/(CRS)-approach. But my perspective is, Develop SSD first then we’ll realize what we do and don’t need next .

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