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But this small crew of space scientists, synthetic biologists, investors, entrepreneurs and one partygoer with flamethrower had higher ambitions.
These kinds of moonshots don’t come cheap.“I’m interested in figuring out whether I can get my money back in my lifetime,” said Eric Anschutz, an angel investor.
“That probably distinctly means not investing in terraforming.”His interests lie in the terrestrial byproducts of space expansion, such as how NASA technology led to LASIK surgery and high-efficiency solar panels, or how pharmaceutical companies today regularly buy berths on rocket launches to grow purer crystals in microgravity.
The only in-flight beverages on the 11-seat private jet were bottled water and a genetically modified bacterial slurry designed to prevent the worst effects of hangovers.
A handful of passengers on the short evening flight from Hawthorne to the edge of the Mojave — venture capitalists, a man with a mushroom-based manufacturing company and this reporter — downed the mixture.
And a realization hit him: “I’m going to be 40 next year.
What the hell happened to my vision for settling the solar system? While he was in the area, he stopped by Mothership, the downtown Los Angeles biolab and prototyping warehouse run by Soylent founder Rob Rhinehart.“John came to me and said he wanted to build a futuristic city in the desert,” Rhinehart said.The other worked on developing small nuclear reactors to power spaceships, planetary colonies and Canada.“How do you keep that fur clean?” the nuclear engineer asked.“Four Burns in a row, never cleaned it,” the catastrophe investor replied.Betaspace aims to figure out how we live once we’re up there.The invitation promised Betaspace would be the place where “Burning Man and the Consumer Electronics Show collide.” There was a lamb roast and an open bar with space-themed cocktails.By the snack table, where legacy chips and salsa sat alongside bright blue cyanobacteria-dusted popcorn, a man in a knee-length fur coat sparked a conversation with a steampunk.One had sold a successful office catering company and was now looking to invest in business models based on catastrophic change.The pilot, along with two senior Space X engineers, politely declined.At the Apple Valley Airport, a helicopter waited to take us beyond a far ridge, farther from civilization.As the sun set and the stars began to show in the desert sky, John Cumbers, the event’s impresario, gathered everyone into the main tent.His research into inducing temporary comas for long-distance space travel had earned him an opportunity at NASA, but he had moved away from space to build a networking business for the synthetic biotech business.