Although the space programs of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos garner much of the news regarding the privatization of space, Las Vegas real estate mogul Robert Bigelow is another important eccentric billionaire who has entered the scene. He has gotten a moderate amount of publicity throughout the years, in comparison to his colleagues, but an interesting fact about Bigelow the others do not have is that he is also a UFO enthusiast. Bigelow has never shied away of questions regarding his paranormal interests, and he was not shy about answering 60 Minutes’ Lara Logan’s questions on UFOs in an interview last Sunday.
Logan: “Do you believe in aliens?”
Bigelow: “I’m absolutely convinced. That’s all there is to it.”
Logan: “Do you also believe that UFOs have come to Earth?”
Bigelow: “There has been and is an existing presence, an ET presence. And I spent millions and millions and millions ― I probably spent more as an individual than anybody else in the United States has ever spent on this subject.”
Logan: “Is it risky for you to say in public that you believe in UFOs and aliens?”
Bigelow: “I don’t give a damn. I don’t care.”
Logan: “You don’t worry that some people will say, ‘Did you hear that guy, he sounds like he’s crazy’?”
Bigelow: “I don’t care. It’s not gonna make a difference. It’s not gonna change reality of what I know.”
Bigelow’s interests in space travel and UFOs seem to go hand in hand. This is something I can relate to, because I feel my dreams of traveling in space have spurred my interest in UFOs as well. In an interview in Bloomberg in 2013, Bigelow says it was in 1999 that he decided it was time to act on his interests in space.
“I had some money to work with, and I felt that the clock had already ticked along quite a ways, and if I were gonna do something, I’d better fish or cut bait,” Bigelow told Bloomberg.
During his research for the best approach to get involved, Bigelow discovered a NASA program called TransHab that was on the verge of losing funding. TransHab was an inflatable base for Mars that would serve as a habitat for astronauts.
A NASA administrator tried to save the TransHab project by shopping it around to private corporations. Bigelow attended these meetings. “I had no employees at that time. I was just there as me,” he told Bloomberg.
None of the corporations showed interest, but Bigelow loved the concept. That is when he formed Bigelow Aerospace, bought 50 acres of land in an industrial park in Las Vegas and hired some engineers. Now, 18 years later, Bigelow Aerospace has an inflatable habitat attached to the International Space Station.
It is an exciting story, made even more exciting, at least for me, given Bigelow’s history in the study of anomalous phenomenon, including UFOs. By the time he had started Bigelow Aerospace, Bigelow had already had years of UFO and paranormal studies under his belt.
Bigelow says the impetus for his fascination with UFOs was a sighting his grandparents had. Bloomberg wrote…
One night in May 1947, his maternal grandparents were driving down the remote Kyle Canyon highway, returning to Las Vegas after a trip to the mountains, when they saw in the sky ahead something they thought was an airplane on fire. But as it drew closer, they realized it was a huge and unidentifiable oval object, glowing bright red; when the terrified couple pulled over to the side of the road, it bore down on them, finally filling their field of vision, before at the last second executing an abrupt 90-degree turn and disappearing. Bigelow heard about the incident years later, from his grandmother; his grandfather never liked to talk about what he’d seen. “He was still bothered by it,” he says, “because they both thought they were going to die that night.
Although Bigelow had an interest in space and the paranormal, the paranormal is where Bigelow applied his vast resources first. In 1995, he founded the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS). Similar to how he started Bigelow Aerospace, Bigelow first enlisted a group of scientists, including former astronaut Edgar Mitchell, to help him take a serious look into anomalous phenomenon. His board consisted mostly of PhDs.
NIDS wrote articles and reports on more than just UFOs. Crop circles and mysterious animal mutilations were a couple of examples of other phenomenon they looked into. All of their reports were posted on their website.
One of the most famous investigations conducted by NIDS was of a mysterious ranch in Utah dubbed the “Skinwalker Ranch.” NIDS lead scientist Colm Kelleher and Las Vegas investigative reporter George Knapp wrote the book Hunt for the Skinwalker: Science Confronts the Unexplained at a Remote Ranch in Utah covering the many extraordinary experiences residents and scientists had on the ranch.
Retired Army Intelligence Colonel and defense consultant Dr. John Alexander, a NIDS team member, can be seen in the video below discussing their findings on the ranch.
NIDS closed in 2004. However, that was not the end of Bigelow’s dabbling in UFO research. He quietly moved this work over to Bigelow Aerospace. He established Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS). BAASS made connections with the FAA, who claims to not be interested in taking UFO reports, so pilots could send their reports to BAASS.
BAASS also attempted to partner with the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), the largest civilian UFO investigation group and other organizations. I say attempted, because the relationship was short lived.
You would think that UFO researchers would be excited for someone with Bigelow’s resources to invest in UFO research. However, UFOs can be a funny business, full of paranoia and jealousy. As much as serious researchers did appreciate his efforts, others accused Bigelow of stealing and hiding information.
Jesse Ventura’s TV show Conspiracy Theory did an episode trying to expose Bigelow’s alleged UFO cover-ups. I got a call from one of their producers who wanted me on the show. She said she wanted to talk about how Bigelow had secret satellites that were watching people and other silly stories. I told her none of it was true, but that I would be more than happy to talk about his real history in UFO research. Needless to say, I was not included in the show.
One of the conspiracy theories with the most legs is the one about Bigelow trying to steal MUFON data. I have a unique insight into the attempted partnership between MUFON and BAASS, because I was a functional director with MUFON at the time and their official spokesperson.
Put simply, the deal was that BAASS would fund a special investigation group that could be deployed quickly and BAASS would also fund any analysis that would need to be conducted. MUFON was also tasked with supplying sighting information to BAASS. However, and this was clear between all parties, MUFON was in control of the information and investigations.
Although BAASS got information early, they were not given any information that was not also shared with the public. In fact, I had access to that information, and some of those cases and their results are featured on OpenMinds.tv and in Open Minds Magazine. One example is a case in New York in which a vehicle exhibited electromagnetic effects after an incident allegedly involving a UFO.
There were a few areas where things went awry. One issue, which I had expressed concern early on, was due to all of the MUFON directors needing to sign non-disclosure agreements. I advised that we make it public we were signing the disclosure before we did so, but the board did not agree. So I decided not to sign the disclosure. I did not want to be held responsible if some information leaked, and, since I was the spokesperson, I also did not want to have to walk on eggshells when speaking publicly. However, the only information I was not privy to were names.
Scientists and other professionals often do not want to use their names in relation to UFO investigations so as not to risk damaging their reputations. I have to use anonymous sources in stories on OpenMind.tv for that reason at times.
Another issue was MUFON’s slow response times. BAASS often wanted MUFON to deploy investigators more quickly. However, being volunteers, MUFON investigators had to get time off work and deal with other logistics that delayed investigations. In one case, because MUFON investigators were delayed, BAASS was given permission to send people first. This incident started rumors that, like the men in black, BAASS personnel were secretly shaking down UFO witnesses before MUFON could get there. I investigated this thoroughly, and can confidently say this was not the case.
These problems, along with internal disputes, tanked the project.
Either way, having been on the inside, I can say all parties involved attempted to work together in a spirit of furthering UFO research. Personally, I greatly appreciate the work Bigelow has sponsored.
I also appreciate Bigelow’s courage when addressing the UFO issue in his interviews with major media outlets. He does not do UFO interviews often. He has a great relationship with Knapp, whom occasionally hosts the late night radio program Coast to Coast AM. With Knapp as the host, Bigelow has appeared on the program to talk UFOs.
In an interview on Coast to Coast AM in 2013, Knapp asked Bigelow how he felt the topic of UFOs could be taken more seriously. Bigelow replied that he had little faith in the government being the first to speak to the topic. Instead, he identified two other areas where the phenomenon will likely be further exposed. First, the phenomenon exposes itself, and second is that the media could cover the topic more.
“My hats off to the phenomenon for having had so much interaction with pilots and planes, but we still cannot have definability, or get this into the media as an establish fact,” Bigelow explained. “That is amazing. The phenomena itself can do this.”
Obviously, we do not have control to motivate any possible anomalous phenomenon to present itself more publicly. However, we do have access to the media. Bigelow is optimistic about media coverage of UFOs.
Bigelow told Knapp, “Ever since we announced about our craft that will be attached to the space station, every media person who has interviewed me has also asked about UFOs. They are not just trying to character assassinate me, but they are genuinely interested and want to know. That is a good thing and that is why we are seeing a change here.”
Case in point, in the 60 Minutes interview, Bigelow was not ridiculed for his beliefs. Many UFO researchers have been expressing in social media that they feel Bigelow’s comments on 60 Minutes will go a long way in helping the public take the topic seriously.
Only time will tell if his 60 Minutes appearance will make a difference, but one thing the interview does reinforce is the fact that Bigelow’s interest in UFOs has not diminished over the years. It seems the media’s interest in Bigelow is also not going anywhere, which means we are sure to hear a lot more about Bigelow and his space and UFO research efforts.