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11 Far-Out Projects Funded by Famous Billionaires

Elon Musk

South African entrepreneur Elon Musk, the Tesla founder who made his name by co-founding PayPal, unveiled plans Monday for a high-speed tubular transportation system called the “Hyperloop,” which could shuttle passengers between San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes. The futuristic project has already received its fair share of criticism, and even if a prototype were ever built, it would likely face stiff resistance from state officials. But a mulit-billionaire mogul can dream, can’t he? Here are a few more far-out dreams from men with too much money:


Getty/Roberto Gonzalez

Musk launched SpaceX, a private company that “designs, manufactures, and launches spacecraft” with “the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets,” in 2002. In 2012, it became the first private company to dock a spacecraft at the International Space Station.

Deepsea Challenger

AFP/Saul Loeb

James Cameron, the director of Titanic and Avatar, built the Deepsea Challenger and used it to visit the the lowest part of the ocean, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, in 2012. This year, he donated the vessel to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.


Image via Shutterstock

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen funded SpaceShipOne, which, in 2004, became the first privately-backed effort to bring a human into space.

Virgin Oceanic Submarine

Courtesy of Virgin Oceanic/Flickr

Richard Branson, the founder and chairman of Virgin, is working on a deep-sea submarine of his own.

Human Avatar

Getty/Scott Olson

In June, The New York Times wrote about Russian multimillionaire Dmitri Itskov’s $3 million-and-counting quest to create the mass production of futuristic avatars, complete with a working brain and all the perks of being human, like consciousness and personality. These human robots could, in theory, replace the need for a human body—immortality, in other words.

Vacation on Mars

Image via Shutterstock

Dennis Tito—former NASA scientist, CEO of investment management firm Wilshire Associates, and the first space tourist—announced in February that he plans to send two lucky people on a round trip to Mars in 2018.

The World’s Largest Telescope

Courtesy TMT Observatory Corporation

Gordon Moore, the 84-year-old co-founder of Intel who has a law named after him, is a major funder of a plan to build the world’s largest telescope: the $1.3 billion Thirty Meter Telescope, which is scheduled to begin construction next year atop Hawaii’s dormant Mauna Kea volcano. The telescope will be three times sharper than the largest existing optical telescopes, and nine times the collecting area.

Research Ship

Courtesy Schmidt Ocean Institute

Google’s Eric Schmidt, who founded an the Schmidt Ocean Institute, recently unveiled the Falkor, a $94 million ship that’s being called “a dream ship for ocean researchers.”

Asteroid Mining

Hulton Archive/Getty

In April 2012, the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources—backed by Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and advised by James Cameron—announced that it plans to “launch the first of a series of laundry-basket-size private telescopes that would search the asteroid belt for high-value targets” by 2014.

10,000-Year Clock

Courtesy Long Now Foundation Facebook founder Jeff Bezos dropped $42 million on plans to bury, in a West Texas mountain, a clock that is designed to keep time for 10,000 years. But perhaps that’s not as far-fetched, even, as his latest pet project...

The Washington Post Company

Getty/AFP/Karen Bleier

Bezos is excited about “the opportunity for invention” at The Washington Post, which he bought earlier this month for the price of six 10,000-year clocks.

Stock images via Shutterstock.