September 6, 2014 12:14 pm

Sunday: Peter Diamandis tells Neil Tyson what inspired the X-Prize

Photo of Peter Diamandis and Neil deGrasse Tyson by Leslie Mullen

A couple of kids from the Bronx: Peter Diamandis and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Photo Credit: Leslie Mullen

Where does the inspiration to change the world come from?

In the case of Peter Diamandis, the founder of the X-Prize, it started as a kid when he realized he would never be a NASA astronaut.

As Peter tells Neil deGrasse Tyson this Sunday on X-Prize (Part 1), the kid who grew up watching Star Trek and the Apollo 11 lunar landing made it his “mission in life to open up the Solar System.” He continues, “It’s a pretentious mission… it’s what drives me.”

He’s certainly dedicated his life to that mission. Diamandis is the co-founder of Planetary Resources, which was the subject of a previous StarTalk Radio episode, Eureka! Asteroid Mining. He is also the co-founder of Space Adventures, LTD, which has sent 7 private citizens (or “space tourists”) into space, and the co-founder of the International Space University, which offers 2 accredited Masters of Space Studies degrees.

In Sunday’s episode, Peter and Neil talk about how they first met, right after Neil had just become director of the Hayden Planetarium. Peter tells Neil how he came up with the idea for the X-Prize after reading The Spirit of St. Louis and learning that Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic was to win a $25,000 prize put up by an hotelier.

(Back in the studio, this leads co-host Chuck Nice and Neil into a very interesting discussion comparing the accomplishments of Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh.)

But let’s get back to the X-Prize.

The first one, which ended up being sponsored by the Ansari Family, was an award of $10 Million to the first team to send 3 adults to an altitude of 100 km, land safely, and do it again within 3 weeks.

You’ll find out more about how this “bold crazy idea” worked out, including the fact that Richard Branson declined to sponsor the prize twice, although he ended up licensing the winning spacecraft’s design for Virgin Galactic. Plus, you’ll hear about Paul Allen, Burt Rutan and SpaceShipOne, as well as Anousheh Ansari, the Iranian-American engineer who was the first Iranian in space and the first self-funded women to fly to the ISS, and who, along with her family, put up the money for the first X-Prize.

For me, I can’t wait for Part 2, when we get to hear more about some of the other X-Prizes – including the competition to build a working, real-life version of Star Trek’s Tricorder medical scanner.

Join us for X-Prize (Part 1) September 7 at 7:00 PM ET on our website, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and SoundCloud.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up.

–Jeffrey Simons