Billionaire Philanthropist Yuri Milner Rewriting the Rules of Space Exploration

As they reach adulthood, these aspiring space explorers find that their chances of being accepted into NASA or any other national space program as astronauts.


Lots of kids dream of becoming astronauts and exploring outer space. As they reach adulthood, these aspiring space explorers find that their chances of being accepted into NASA or any other national space program as astronauts are exceedingly slim.

But thanks to the generosity of billionaire entrepreneur and global philanthropist Yuri Milner and other billionaires who never gave up their fascination with space travel, for all of us, young and old, from every country and of every level of ability, humanity’s adventure in space is accelerating.

Meet Some of the Billionaires Using Their Wealth to Fund Space Exploration

Several high-profile industrialists have made significant contributions to space programs. Let’s consider some of the big names.

Elon Musk is probably the most visible proponent of private space flight. He founded his space exploration company SpaceX in 2001, two years before he founded Tesla. SpaceX currently employs 5,000 people and has a valuation of $125 billion.

Founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin, which had four successful launches of crewed missions in just its first year. Asked if he wanted Blue Origin to go to Mars, Bezos said, “Yes. But we want to go everywhere. And if you want to launch missions to everywhere in space, then you need to find a way to dramatically lower the cost of space travel.”

Musk and Bezos aren’t alone. Richard Branson has created Virgin Galactic to serve an excited market of space tourists. Robert Bigelow, the owner of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, has invested in manufacturing habitats for housing astronauts on other planets. Paul Allen has invested in technology that launches rockets from near-earth orbit rather than from the ground. This allows launches in any kind of weather and with much less fuel. Titanic producer James Cameron seeks to mine asteroids for rare minerals, and Naveen Jain is seeking to find new resources on the moon. But Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and venture capitalist Yuri Milner have aligned themselves to create the Starshot Project, the first human mission for interstellar discovery.

Yuri Milner and Mark Zuckerberg seek to compress the time to take a round trip from Earth to Alpha Centauri from 30,000 years to about 20. They envision ships the size of postage stamps traveling on a beam of light at nearly 50,000 miles a second, equipped with a processor, a power supply, a camera, and communication.

Yuri Milner Wants to Rewrite the Rules of Space Exploration

Yuri Milner has also created a partnership with NASA to explore Enceladus, an ice-encrusted moon of Saturn theoretically capable of supporting life. For this mission, he is also funding the research needed to build faster engines so the first mission can be completed by 2040.

What drives Milner to spend his billions on space exploration?

For Yuri Milner, the raison d’être for space exploration is nothing less than giving human beings a common cause. As he wrote in his Eureka Manifesto:

“Any organization that is serious about doing something significant has a mission. But human civilization, as a whole, has nothing resembling a shared mission. In the long term, that means we cannot thrive — or probably even survive. But what could such a mission be? People, nations, and cultures vary wildly. Where on Earth do we look for a common goal?”

Yuri Milner argues that humankind has a purpose that extends beyond life on Earth – the same purpose that drove our evolution, the urge to explore and understand the universe. As we look beyond the Universal Story of which we are all a part, we can choose our next chapters in the mission for our civilization.

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