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Forget Bezos and Branson! 'UFO' docu-series explores space-minded billionaire you may have never heard of

By Josh Weiss
Lori Garver Robert Bigelow

As Richard Branson and Jeff Branson have feverishly raced each other into the atmosphere, one billionaire has stayed grounded on Earth, attempting to conjure alien technology and investigating other supernatural phenomena. That billionaire's name is Robert T. Bigelow and while he's not as well-known as some of his contemporaries, you'll certainly know his name and what he stands for after watching the second episode of Showtime and J.J. Abrams' UFO docu-series.

Described as a "Cosmic Landlord" by Forbes in 2011, the Las Vegas native made his vast fortune in the world of real estate before founding Bigelow Aerospace in 1999. Per its official website, the company is devoted "to achieving economic breakthroughs in the costs associated with the design, development, and construction of habitable space structures for private enterprise and government use." One such project to come out of "BA" was the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (or BEAM for short). NASA utilized the technology aboard the International Space Station and awarded a "sole-source contract" to Bigelow's company in 2017.

However, the billionaire has come to be defined by his eccentric beliefs and endeavors, which involve the founding of the National Institute of Discovery in the mid-1990s (it was shuttered in 2004); the purchasing of the alleged "paranormal hotspot" known as Skinwalker Ranch in 1996; and a mission to prove the existence of life after death.

"There's a couple of different ways to go at this," he said, referring to aliens living in plain sight, during an interview with Peabody-winning investigative journalist George Knapp earlier this year. "One is from a hardware standpoint. The other one is from the presence standpoint. E.T. presence ... Whether they can be among the population. Whether they're hybrids or some other kind of really look-alike kind of thing. So, you can look at in different kinds of ways. I know of a really high-quality researcher who has a fantastic academic credentials and background and he would be more predisposed to the latter. Saying that, 'Yeah, they could be among us.'"

In 2008, Bigelow created Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS), an offshoot of BA whose purpose was to work with the government — mainly the Pentagon — on studying unexplained phenomena (such as the effects of UFOs on the human body) while also developing experimental and top-secret technologies related to propulsion and stealth. 

"The investigations by BAASS provided new lines of evidence showing that the UFO phenomenon was a lot more than nuts and bolts machines that interacted with military aircraft," an alleged senior manager for the program wrote in a statement to KLAS 8 (Vegas' CBS affiliate) in 2018. "The phenomenon also involved a whole panoply of diverse activity that included bizarre creatures, poltergeist activity, invisible entities, orbs of light, animal and human injuries, and much more. The exclusive focus on nuts and bolts machines could be considered myopic and unproductive in solving the larger mystery of UFOs."

Bigelow Aerospace

Appearing on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast this past winter, Bigelow stated that he subscribes to "the philosophy of reserving judgement until you have a preponderance of evidence that really moves you one way or another. You don't have to have 100 percent — I go by reasonable doubt ... I'm more concerned by other kinds of things ... than where the human species comes from. I'm more driven by other kinds of things that could make a difference today, going forward."

Showtime subscribers with access to the network's official app can stream all four episodes of UFO right now. If you'd prefer to pace yourself, the remaining two episodes will air on a weekly basis for the next two Sundays at 9 p.m. EST. The premiere is currently free to watch on, and