Mr. B’s Big Plan

Robert Bigelow has put two mini-space stations in orbit. Now comes the hard part.

One photo returned from Genesis II last summer was a birthday surprise for Bigelow's 15-year-old granddaughter Blair: her name stitched on the spacecraft's fabric exterior. (Bigelow Aerospace, Inc.)
Air & Space Magazine

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Back in March, before we’d even talked on the phone, I had my own personal encounter with a spacecraft—one of Bigelow’s, as it turned out. Planning to watch the live Webcast of SpaceX’s Falcon 1 launch from the South Pacific, I took my dog out for her walk early. It was an exceptionally clear, dark night in Connecticut. I stood and stared up at the stars for several minutes. Then I spotted a satellite with a bright orange cast, magnitude 2.5 or brighter, transiting the sky in a north-northeasterly direction, between the constellation Leo and Saturn. I tracked it easily for more than a minute and a half until it disappeared over the Atlantic, heading toward Newfoundland. That can’t be Genesis, I thought.

When I checked a satellite tracking Web site back at home, I learned that, sure enough, it was Genesis I, NORAD ID No. 29252. I felt an undeniable thrill at seeing it and watching the Falcon launch on the same night. Privately funded, entrepreneurial spaceflight was happening before my eyes.

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