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Robert Bigelow

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Robert Bigelow
Bigelow in 2011
Robert Thomas Bigelow

(1944-05-12) May 12, 1944 (age 80)
EducationUniversity of Nevada, Reno
Arizona State University, Tempe (BA)
Diane Mona Grammy
(m. 1965; died 2020)

Robert Thomas Bigelow[1][2] (born May 12, 1944) is an American businessman. He owns Budget Suites of America and is the founder of Bigelow Aerospace.[3][4]

Bigelow has provided financial support for investigations of UFOs and parapsychological topics, including the continuation of consciousness after death.[5]

Early life


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 Nevada National Security Site, about 70 miles (100 km) northwest of the city.[6]

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.[7]

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.[7]



Real estate


From the late 1960s[7] through the 1990s, Bigelow developed commercial real estate hotels, motels and apartments.[8]

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."[7]

Budget Suites of America


Bigelow owns Budget Suites of America, an extended-stay apartment chain founded in 1987.[9] It caters to budget travelers needing to stay for an extended period. Its rooms are primarily suites featuring a full kitchen. Budget Suites owns three hotels in Phoenix, Arizona; five in Las Vegas, Nevada; ten in Dallas, Texas; and one in San Antonio, Texas.[10]



In 1999, Bigelow founded Bigelow Aerospace.[11]

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.[12][13] 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.[14]

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.[8] In October 2017, Bigelow announced that he planned to put an inflatable "space hotel" into orbit by 2022.[15] The plan was part of a partnership with United Launch Alliance, and the project was estimated to cost US$2.3 billion in total. The cost of a 3-day stay in this spatial hotel was estimated at 5 million dollars.[16]

In April 2016, Bigelow's BEAM module was launched to the International Space Station[8] on the eighth SpaceX cargo resupply mission.[17]

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 partially caused by the coronavirus pandemic.[18]

In March 2021, he sued NASA for US$1.05 million, alleging he was not paid according to contract for product testing and development.[19]

Anomalies research


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.[20] The organization researched cattle mutilation and black triangle reports, ultimately attributing the latter to secretive advanced aircraft operated by the military.[21] The institute was disbanded in 2004.

In 1996, Bigelow purchased Skinwalker Ranch, a 512-acre (205 ha) cattle ranch located in Utah that is the site of purported paranormal phenomena, such as inter-dimensional shape-shifters,[22] for $200,000. In 2016, Bigelow sold the ranch to Brandon Fugal for $4 million.[23]

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.[24][25] According to the New York Times, Bigelow said he was “absolutely convinced” that extraterrestrial life exists and that extraterrestrials have visited Earth.[26]

Consciousness studies


In June 2020, Bigelow founded the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies (BICS) to support investigations into life after death.[5] In January 2021, the institute put up an award of US$1 million asking for essays arguing for existence of a life after death.[27] The institute awarded the first-place $500,000 prize to Jeffrey Mishlove, the second-place prize to Pim van Lommel, and the third-place prize to Leo Ruickbie.[28]

Personal life


On February 4, 1965, he married Diane Mona Grammy (April 9, 1947 – February 19, 2020) of Camden, New Jersey.[29][5]

They had two children together, Robert Michael "Bobby" Bigelow, and Rod Lee Bigelow.[29] In 1992, Rod Lee Bigelow died by suicide, aged 24.[30] In 2011, Robert Bigelow's grandson, Rod Lee Bigelow II, died by suicide, having suffered from drug addiction.[30]

Diane Bigelow died on February 19, 2020, of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).[29][5]

Political contributions


Bigelow has made political donations to conservative Republican candidates.[31][32] In July 2022, he donated $10 million to Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, which was the single biggest donation of his re-election bid.[33][34] Bigelow has contributed over $25 million[35] 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.[36] In January 2024 he stated in an interview that he had donated to Donald Trump, "I gave him $1 million towards his legal fees a few weeks ago. I made a promise to give him $20 million more, that will be to the super PAC….” [37]


  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. ^ a b c d Blumenthal, Ralph (January 24, 2021). "Buying a peek at the hereafter". New York Times. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  6. ^ Mezrich, Ben (2016). The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America's UFO Highway. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-5011-3552-1 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Hennigan, W. J. (November 26, 2010). "NASA pushes for a green jetliner". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  10. ^ "Budget Suites of America". www.budgetsuites.com. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ space.com
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Malik, Tariq; David, Leonard (June 28, 2007). "Bigelow's second orbital module launches into space". Space.com. Purch. Retrieved December 26, 2009.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Mark Whittington, Will a space hotel actually be open for business in 2027?, Thehill.com, 14 March 2021
  17. ^ Northon, Karen, ed. (April 8, 2016). "NASA Cargo Headed to Space Station Includes Habitat Prototype, Medical Research". NASA. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  18. ^ "Bigelow Aerospace lays off entire workforce". SpaceNews. March 23, 2020. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  19. ^ Duncan Phenix, Robert Bigelow comments on $1.05 million lawsuit against NASA, 8newsroom.com, 30 March 2021
  20. ^ Dorio, Mark (2005). Ufology: A Very Short Introduction. Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford. ISBN 1-4120-6473-2.
  21. ^ David, Leonard (September 2, 2004). "Silent Running: 'Black Triangle' Sightings on the Rise". Space.com. Retrieved June 30, 2007.
  22. ^ Ewalt, David M. "Cosmic Landlord". Forbes. Retrieved August 17, 2020.
  23. ^ Blumenthal, Ralph (January 21, 2021). "Robert Bigelow: Is There Life After Death?". The New York Times. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ Bender, Bryan (December 16, 2017). "The Pentagon's Secret Search for UFOs". Politico.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ George Knapp, Is there life after death? Businessman offers nearly $1 million to find out, Wreg.com, 23 January 2021
  28. ^ Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies. "Essay Contest - Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies". Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies. Archived from the original on June 1, 2023. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  29. ^ a b c "OBITUARY Diane Mona Bigelow". dignitymemorial.com. Retrieved August 5, 2023.
  30. ^ a b "Proving there is life after death, or not, could win you $500K". Toronto Sun. January 22, 2021. Retrieved August 5, 2023.
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ Harrison, Casey (October 28, 2022). "Las Vegas billionaire in big leagues bankrolling GOP campaigns - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper". lasvegassun.com. Retrieved May 5, 2023.
  36. ^ "Top DeSantis Donor Says He'll Put Fortune Behind 2024 Bid". Time. April 21, 2023. Retrieved October 8, 2023.
  37. ^ Ulmer, Alexandra (January 30, 2024). "Exclusive: Hotelier Robert Bigelow gives Trump $1 million for legal fees". Reuters. Retrieved January 30, 2024.

Further reading