Future of Exploration: Keynote Address - Peter Diamandis

Search transcript...


NEWMAN: Hello, everyone. Welcome back from lunch. Welcome back to the culminating keynote for our exploration symposium. It's just an incredible pleasure to introduce Dr. Peter Diamandis. Peter is the Chairman and CEO of the XPRIZE Foundation, the CEO of Zero Gravity Corporation, Chairman and Co-founder of Rocket Racing League, Co-founder and Director of Space Ventures, co-founder of the International Space University and the list goes on.

But more importantly to me, Peter's a dear friend, colleague, helped me get through graduate school at this place. And we had some great, great times in graduate school. And the thing that I'd like to tell about Peter is, the person most kind of embodies endless energy, ideas, dreams, and then makes them come true. So I'm very excited-- and welcome, you all-- in welcoming Peter Diamandis to give our keynote, the culmination of our symposium. Thank you.


DIAMANDIS: Thank you, Dava. Can you guys hear me? Mic's up? Great. And I remember the day that Dava finished her doctorate. And we had the conversation about what was she going to do next? And I said, you should really stay at MIT and teach. She goes, no way, no way in the world. That's the last place I want to go. And how many years later is it? Amazing.

I want to start with the sense that I love this place. I haven't been here for a decade or two, but I love what MIT represents in terms of anything being possible. And I remember when I came here as an undergrad, I was just impassioned with opportunity.

I want to take a moment, first of all, to recognize my thesis advisor, Dr. Larry Young, and the whole team at MVL. When I was a third-year medical student at Harvard Med School, I was panicking, because I had no interest in practicing. And I was having to pick where I was going do my internship and residency.

And I called him up in a panic one day and saying, Dr. Young, I really, I have to come back and do my core 16 coursework. And Larry said, sure. And that gave me the time to get my head around it and escaped from internship and residency. So I want--

AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] zero gravity?

DIAMANDIS: I'm sorry? And we ended up doing my thesis work on a short-arm centrifuge artificial gravity sleeper, the idea you can sleep while you're in zero G. And you can use the time, eight hours while you're sleeping, for G loading to help reduce the negative effects of weightlessness. But that's not the subject of my conversation.

Today I want to talk to you about really inspiring breakthroughs, innovation, and exploration. And I'm going to give you the punch line first. And then I want to share with you the stories of the last 20 years of my travels, my endeavors to try and make this come true.

The fact of the matter is, today more than ever, a small group or a group of individuals can literally do what governments could do before, that each of you is empowered to be explorers in the oceans, and the air and space, that it doesn't take a national budget behind you. The technologies that are coming online in AI, and robotics, and quantum computing, embedded networks, and new materials are going to transform the cost and the capabilities. So the question is, what are you most passionate about going to do? Because we're about to enter a golden age of exploration that's going to enable, not a few governments, but hopefully thousands of individuals and thousands of small corporations to go out there and explore beyond the bonds of Earth.

Let's see. There we go. So my passions have been embodied in this phrase, that "the best way to predict the future is create it yourself." And I believe that we're now entering a period in time where you can in fact predict the future and go off and create it, because if you don't do it, who is?

And if you're sitting here in the audience as an undergrad or graduate student, please know that the future that you create is completely and totally up to you. It's not up to government. It's not up to a corporation. It's what you've made a personal commitment to go and do. And you can go and explore Mars, the asteroids, the oceans. Whatever it is, the power is within you to get the capital, the technology, and the people together to go and make that happen.

So when I think about my dreams, my dreams were embodied when Buzz was an astronaut. His missions and his work really got me excited when I was born in the '60s to want to go and open up space. That's been my mission in life, my passions. And I've thought about, how do I do that? And how do I do that outside of the government? How do I do that privately?

And I started to think about, what drives exploration? What drives people to go and do this? This is a colleague of Buzz's. This is December, 1972. It's Gene Cernan. He's literally jumping up a meter off the moon.

And he said, if we could have gone from having never put a human into space to landing on the moon eight and a half years later, you tell me what's impossible. Nothing is impossible. And I remember those words. And I believe them, that the fact of the matter is, especially today, there is no barrier that cannot be overcome.

The question is, what drives us to explore? And I would posit that there are a number of key drivers. First and foremost is fear. Fear has been one of the major drivers of exploration beyond our borders. And this is JFK responding to Sputnik and Gagarin and saying, we're going to the moon and coming back before the end of the decade, driven in part by the US need to demonstrate its capabilities. It's a fear response to competition.

Curiosity-- is there life out there in the universe? You know, an important response, but far weaker than fear-- in fact, you can actually measure the ratio of fear to curiosity as a driver. It's the ratio the defense budget to the science budget-- funny, but sad.

Wealth creation, one of, for me, one of the most important elements of exploration. Can we in fact go out there and create wealth, wealth of information, wealth of capital? And if you think about the fact that before 1984, we had never drilled in more than 100 feet of water in offshore drilling, and that when Shell discovered this large deposit literally tens of thousands of feet below the ocean surface and then tens of thousands of feet below the ocean floor, that they bet $1 billion to go and look at deep-sea oil platform drilling. And today, the average project is between $5 billion to $50 billion, huge capital investments to create wealth.

The final driver for me is significance, the inner heartfelt drive of a human to need to do something significant in their lifetime. And nobody embodies this better than the story for Charles Lindbergh, which was the story that got me going on the XPRIZE, which I'll tell a little bit of now. It turns out that Lindbergh responded to a prize offered up by a Frenchman, Raymond Orteig, who, in 1919, offered up the audacious prize of $25,000 to the first person to fly between New York and Paris.

And most people laughed at the time. They said it was impossible, cannot be done. And there was a promise that it might happen. But eight years later, in 1927, nine different teams, including Lindbergh, had spent $400,000 to try and win this $25,000 prize.

And Lindbergh was the most unlikely guy to do it. He'd been called the Flying Fool. He'd only been flying for two years-- so much so that no one would sell him an airplane or an engine because they were so afraid that he would crash on takeoff and destroy their reputation. But just the opposite happened. Lindbergh made the flight. And 33 and 1/2 hours later, he made it to Paris.

But something else really happened, which really got my attention as I was reading this book. It turns out that between 1927, just before he took off, to 1929, 18 months later, the number of passengers in the United States went from 6,000 to 180,000. It was a 30-fold increase in passenger traffic. And people who were flying airplanes went from daredevils and aeronautics to pilots and passengers.

His dramatic demonstration of crossing the Atlantic literally changed the face of aviation and made it possible for everybody. And so I learned that a dramatic demonstration that enters the human psyche, whether it's the four-minute mile, or Apollo 11, or Charles Lindbergh can be transformative to create markets and belief of what is possible. So if you're looking for changing the world in a big and bold fashion, look at a way that's going to penetrate the human psyche and do something that people remember for the rest of their lives.

So I started studying prizes, because I said, well, here is an idea to get myself and my friends up in space without having to go the route of the government. You see, while I was in Larry's lab, I also got a chance to meet someone you met yesterday, Byron Lichtenberg, who was sort of an older brother to me. And I asked Byron about the realities of becoming an astronaut.

And he said, well, you know, your chances are 1 in 1,000 of getting accepted. And even if you're accepted, half the astronauts have never flown. They call them penguins, because they have wings, but they can't fly.

And I said, well, what makes the decision on who gets to fly? And they said, well, if you do what you're told and you're a good boy-- I said, forget it. I'm never going to get a chance to fly.

So I said, prizes, that's how many get a chance to go. So I read about the Longitude Prize. We heard about it a little bit earlier. Thousands of humans were losing their lives in the rocks.

The British admiralty put up a large prize in the early 1700s for the person who could tell the longitude as well as the latitude. And they all expected that an astronomer would win. Astronomers were the coolest dudes, the smartest guys. In fact, they were on the judging panel of the Longitude judging panel.

But here comes this watchmaker, this tinkerer, this guy who comes up with these two watches, the H1 and the H2, and says, I've done it. I've solved the riddle of telling longitude. And everybody said, no, no, you haven't. No, it's going to be solved by an astronomer. They're the experts.

It took 40 years for him to actually get the Longitude Prize. And what I learned from that is, a lot of times, a true breakthrough comes from an orthogonal angle, from someplace you least expect it, from someone who is outside the norm. And the experts are there telling you exactly how it can't be done. So think about that when you're looking for breakthroughs.

So the question was, how was I going to get myself into space? By the time I'd finished reading Lindbergh's autobiography, Spirit of St. Louis, the idea of creating a prize for private spaceflight came to mind. It was going to be a $10-million competition for a vehicle to carry three adults up into space, come down safely, land, and do it again within two weeks. I figured at the end of this kind of a competition, there would be a vehicle that could go into private business.

So at that point, I went onstage in St. Louis. And you can see in the audience there to my left is Byron Lichtenberg. And to my right is Doctor Aldrin. I didn't have any prize money. And I didn't have any teams.

But what I did was try to give birth to this idea above the line of super credibility, so I had not only Buzz and Byron, but with 20 astronauts on stage, the Lindbergh family, the head of the FAA, and was even able to get Dan Goldin, the head of NASA, there. And so when we announced this competition for private spaceflight, it was front page around the world. And no one asked, do you have any money, which we didn't, and do any teams, which we did not.

But they took it seriously, which was wonderful, because I expected, without any question, it would be a piece of cake. Who would not want to pay the $10 million after someone pulled it off? Well, I was wrong.

I spent about five or six years at that point going from CEO, to CEO, to CMO, and saying, you know, we'll call it the FedEx XPRIZE. We'll call it the Virgin XPRIZE, the GM XPRIZE, and so forth. And Branson, and Fred Smith, and the rest said, well, why isn't NASA doing it? And can anyone really do it? And you know, is someone going to die trying? And does it really have to be that much money?

And ultimately, in 2001, after I'd had every team calling me and saying, Diamandis, do you have the money yet, I met this woman. I was reading about Anousheh Ansari in the pages of Forbes Magazine. And it said in her bio, she just sold a company, Sonus Networks, for $1 billion.

And it said in her bio, and her dream was to fly on a suborbital flight into space. And I can't tell you how many times I read that line, a suborbital flight into space. I tracked her down vacationing in Hawaii. I was her first meeting when she got back to Dallas. And they literally agreed on the spot. And we made it the Ansari XPRIZE in honor to them.

Well, it worked. We had 26 teams from seven countries around the world who spent 26-- I'm sorry, $100 million to try and win the prize. And this was the vehicle, SpaceShipOne, underneath White Knight. Are there any people in the audience who were at that flight? We've got about a half dozen or so.

October 4, 2004, in the Mojave Desert, we had about 30,000 people show up from around the world to be here at that historic event. And here is the vehicle under power burning polybutadiene, tire rubber, and nitrous oxide, laughing gas. And one of the things that I've learned is, when you put on a competition, teams are willing to try new things and take risks that the traditional players might not otherwise take. And the vehicle at altitude-- for the pilots there in the audience, the end number here, 328 kilo foxtrot is 328,000 feet, which is pretty cool, which is 100 kilometers, by the way.

And after landing on the second flight, they had won the Ansari XPRIZE. It was the start of a new era. To my right are the Ansaris, to my left, Paul Allen, who had funded, to his left, Burt Rutan, and to his left, Brian Binnie, who had made the second flight, and then Richard Branson, who literally licensed the rights to that vehicle that week to go and create Virgin Galactic.

So we hit 10 billion media impressions, which was really cool. We made the front page of Google, which almost took down our servers. So that was really cool too. The vehicle made it into the Air and Space Museum right above Apollo 11 and next the Spirit of St. Louis, the most visited spot, literally, in the world, more than The Louvre. What I'd like to do is take you back, via a short video, to those moments.


- We're announcing today something called the XPRIZE, a $10-million contest to privately build a spaceship that's able to carry three individuals, fly to 100 kilometers' altitude, and do that twice inside of two weeks.

- I have never been myself as creative as I have eye balling this god damn prize.


- Hello and welcome to Mojave, here in the high desert of California, on this incredible day. Now you are going to witness history in the making.

- Release, mark, fire.



- The Ansari XPRIZE inspired international competition, drove regulatory reform, and made history.

- The XPRIZE a $10-million prize.

- It ignited a personal space flight revolution.


DIAMANDIS: So after the XPRIZE was won, we saw the birth of a few companies, Virgin Galactic, for example, now selling seats at $200,000, in the midst of its drop tests. I think it's on its 16th or so flight. In addition, one my companies, Space Adventures, partnered with Armadillo, and is doing vertical takeoff, vertical landing, suborbital. And you can see the price competition already. It's coming at $105,000. We'll see where the prices end up finally.

The hallmarks of a great prize, historically, if you can design it properly, is the following. It's highly leveraged. You get 10 to 40 times the prize purse spent cumulatively by all the teams to try and win it. You only pay the winner, you know, fixed-cost engineering and fixed-cost science, if you would. You spark, not one player, but an entire industry. And for me, the most important part is you get nontraditional solutions. You get high risk being taken by all of these teams trying to do it. And so rather than backing a single approach, you back very nontraditional approaches.

So we're doing prizes now in a range of groups, life sciences, exploration, energy, education, and global development. And I'm going to just focus a little bit on where we're doing it in the exploration realm. So the next prize we have up for grabs is the $30-million Google Lunar XPRIZE. And I'm very proud that there is a team here from MIT, Giant Leap.

And if this technology-- well, I believe this technology can be developed. I believe this prize will be won. But when it does, it is going to usher in the capability for private individuals, universities, and corporations, literally, to go and land a rover on the moon. And that's transformative, so much so that this past year, NASA put up an additional $30 million in contracts for teams that are able to go and compete for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. What I'd like to do is show a short video of Sergey Brin.


- A lot of companies have-- sponsor a variety of things, just as kind of marketing to support their brand and what not, sometimes sports teams, sometimes sailboats. I knew that we never wanted to do something so conventional at Google. I thought, if we were ever to sponsor something, it should be something ambitious.


DIAMANDIS: Ambitious, it is. So we now have 29 teams around the world, each vying to go and build these vehicles. If we do the job right, this is the YouTube's generation Apollo moon race. And one of the things that's very cool is, we're going to have competitions for the teenager who decides what YouTube video should be sent back from the moon, or what's the first text message being sent back from these vehicles.

In addition to $10-million prizes, we have these XCHALLENGEs, which are typically $1- to $2-million prizes. I could tell you about one of them. This was an XCHALLENGE called The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander XCHALLENGE for developing new vertical takeoff, vertical landing capabilities. So what was offered was $2 million of money put up by NASA. Northrop put up the operations dollars.

And teams had to go up 50 meters, translate 50 meters, do a powered landing, refuel, and go back again. So we had 9-- actually, 11 different teams that registered for the competition. And at the end of the day, two of the teams hit all the requirements.

What was really cool about this was that John Carmack and Dave Masten, who were the two winners, literally did not come out of the aerospace industry. They were both software programmers. So I'm always looking at where the breakthroughs come from-- traditionally not from the traditional players.

And this is very cool, Dave Masten makes this sort of Entrepreneur of the Year on Aviation Week. I'm going to take you back to one of the early flights now, where John Carmack is demonstrating one of his vehicles, Pixel. And I want you to pay close attention to what he says at the end.


- All right, we're going to start the clock, I believe. Correct? The clock is rolling. There it is, two and a half hours, folks. So two and a half hours, this team has got to get the vehicle on the truck.

They've got to get out to the land-- the launch zone, a 10-meter concrete pad out there in the desert, take off, fly at 50 meters altitude, fly down a path 100 meters long to another landing pad, if they need to refuel, refuel, come back, repeat the same thing, and come back to the same pad, and then get back here in two and a half hours. If they do it, they'll be the first team to have done it.

- 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ignition.

- Much higher than yesterday's test flight. [INAUDIBLE] solid as a rock.

- Imagine John on the ground, the controls operating. And there is the target.

- All right.

- Yeah.

- Spectacular.

- I think the best benefit that NASA can possibly get out of this is an operation like this going from concept to successful-- almost successful flight here in under six months by a team of eight people part time for about $200,000. That should shame some of their current contractors that are going to be spending tens of billions of dollars doing different things.


DIAMANDIS: I love that. We'll come back to that in a little bit. So where is XPRIZE going in exploration. We're looking at deep-ocean exploration, looking at a new generation of subs for taking humans down there. We're looking at robotic competitions for ocean-- mapping the ocean floor, point-to-point beamed power-- I'll speak about that in a few minutes-- electric aircraft competitions, asteroid detection, deflection, orbital debris, even a competition for sort of an iGEM competition. Can you create a life form that can grow under Martian conditions and taste good?

So the question for me is, how do we get ourselves into space? And how do we do it independent of government budgets and government cycles? And the challenge, if you guys don't know this, the problem is that, in the early 1960s when we went to the moon, it was a very different Congress and a very different way of budgeting.

We could make, literally, a decade-long commitment that we can't do anymore. And in the beginning, we had the ability to do literally cherry pick things where, there would be an event every six months or an event every year, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, that kept, literally, the eye candy in the sight of the voters. It's no longer like that.

So the ability to go into space, for me, is about two options. Number one is, how do we reduce the activation energy, which means bringing the cost of going into space down? Or the flip side of the equation, how do we heat it up? How do we get more participation and more demand?

So that's it. Those are the two options that we have. So in terms of how do we bring it down, the cost down, the situation today is, it's expensive. Obviously, the shuttle is going away, but if you could have bought a ticket, $120 million a seat. My other company, Space Adventures, the seat price now is $45 million. So you can go to the capitalist Russians if you want a lower-cost seat.

And if you've done one of Dr. Hoffman's classes, you probably have calculated what the total cost of going into space. You can calculate mgh and 1/2mv squared for you and your space suit. And if you buy it at $0.07 a kilowatt hour off the grid, the cost of getting you and your spacesuit into orbit is about $100. So somewhere between $100 million and $100 is the efficiencies that we're going to have, hopefully not creating new physics, but new engineering.

How will we get there? Reusable Falcons are one way. Elon's got a commitment to making his vehicles reusable. And if you stop and you look at what the cost of the kerosene and the locks for a Falcon 9 would be, it's about $150,000.

If you look at a mature transportation industry, a car, a boat, and a plane, the cost of operating that is about three times the cost of fuel. So if you really can make it reusable and it's three times the cost of fuel, that's for $450,000. Seven people on board, you've got a price per seat below $100,000. And that's pretty cool.

Ways I'm looking at that I'm excited about is, can you reinvent how we get into space? Because ultimately, all the rockets we use today are 1,000-year-old derivatives of Chinese firework. You burn something in the middle. Hot gases come out the other end.

So this concept of using power on the ground, microwave or laser, and beaming it to the vehicle, and heating up working fluid hydrogen, for me, is one of the promising ideas, because it puts this system on Moore's Law. You can get mass fractions of 25% to 30%. You can get these vehicles reusable. And you can really get ISPs upwards of 1,000 and transform how we get into space, so one other idea.

Which of these or others might work? I don't know, but none of these things are going to happen unless the market is there. So ultimately, the question is, how do you drive participation and demand? So let me speak about that and some of the things I played with.

So Eric Anderson, Mike McDowell, and I started a company called Space Adventures. We have an opportunity with the Russians to take people up to this five-star multi-hundred-billion-dollar hotel called ISS. We have had eight clients go up so far. Our fifth and seventh client were, in fact, the same, Charles Simonyi. So from Dennis Tito, who is celebrating next-- this Friday, in fact, his 10th anniversary of his flight, to Guy Laliberté, the founder of Cirque Du Soleil. There is Anousheh Ansari up in the right, who is the patron saint of my XPRIZE, and Richard Garriott, whose father was also an Apollo astronauts, Skylab astronaut.

And as Byron mentioned yesterday, one of the new products that we've signed a deal with the Russians is for a cis-lunar flight, basically an Apollo 8 mission at a price probably in $120-million league. But you know, there is 1,400 billionaires that we know of on this planet. And you know, what's $120 million for a trip to the moon and back?

So when I was a grad student here with Byron, one of the things I had gotten very excited about was the chance to go and do zero-G flights and I became passionate about this idea. And in 1993, Byron and I walked into the FAA and announced our decision that we were going to go and commercialize zero G. And the conversation went something like this.

Peter, Byron, can you show me where in the Federal Aviation regulations it allows you to fly parabolic flights? And I said, no. Can you show me where it doesn't? And they proceeded to show me where it doesn't.

No, they didn't really say that. But it turns out that, if you think about it, somewhere over the last 100 years, we went in our regulatory framework from the point of, if it's not-- it used to be, if it was not explicitly prohibited, you could do it, to the point now, if it's not explicitly allowed, you can't do it. And that's a very dangerous change that's occurred, for the policy students here.

And it literally took us 11 years. We went and had our first meet with the FAA May of '93. We got operational authority in September of 2004.

So I was talking to some students earlier down in the restroom about-- and don't, no one start with why we started the conversation there-- but about, what do you do in your life? It's you pick something you're passion about. I guarantee you, I would have given up 1,000 times, and so would Byron, if we had not been passionate about making this happen. But now we have our zero-G airplane. We have flown 350 flights. We have flown over 12,000 people into zero G. And you know, it's the world's largest roller coaster with 30 seconds of weight loss followed by 30 seconds of weight gain.



So you get the picture and a special cameo by Doctor Aldrin here, who has been kind enough to fly with us on numerous occasions. One of the coolest things that we had a chance to do was to actually fly Stephen Hawking into zero G. And I'll tell that story very briefly.

I had met Dr. Hawking through the Archon Genomics XPRIZE, where he's one of the genomes that we're sequencing. And he said, during our first conversation, his dream was to fly into space. And I said, I can't fly you into space, but I could take you up into zero G, and which he said, absolutely.

We announced it the next day. And I got two phone calls, one from our aircraft operations partner who said, what are you, crazy? Another one from a government agency-- I won't say who they are, but their initials are the FAA, and saying, can't do it, literally cannot do that. Your rules and regulations allow you only to fly able-bodied individuals.

And I was really taken aback by this. And everybody I spoke to said, you're risking your company if you do this. This man is feeble, and you know, osteoporosis, and cardiac this, and pulmonary that. And I said, you know, if we can't fly him, that's the reason we worked 11 years to go and try and build this company.

So ultimately, as you're out there building your companies and your exploration missions, you're going to be faced with choices about, do you stand for what you started the company or the organization for? Or are you going to back down every time there is a risk? Because we're killing ourselves in this nation, how risk-adverse we've gotten.

So ultimately I said, absolutely not. We're going to make this happen. And I went and got a panel of four physicians to literally write the FAA and tell them that he was an able-bodied individual. And we got them on the flight.

And five months later, here we are at the Kennedy Space Center at the tarmac at a pre-flight press conference, where we announced the intention do a single 30-second parabola. And if things went really well, we might do two or three. We took off here out of the SLF.

We had set up an emergency room on board the airplane. We were following his PO2, his cardiac, pulmonary, everything. And we actually did a full-up dress rehearsal the day before with a 15-year-old physics high school student who had the same height and weight. And we did every possible emergency routine on this poor kid in zero G.

We're taking off here out of the SLF. Here is Byron, who you met yesterday, my co-founder and sort of older brother and I lifting Dr. Hawking during the first parabola. Here he is with a sort of a cautious smile on his face. And at the end of the first parabola, he was rock solid. I turn to the physicians, they gave a thumbs up.

Here is our second parabola and our third parabola. We flew an apple in homage to Sir Isaac Newton, because Dr. Hawking holds the same seat at Cambridge that's Sir Isaac Newton did. And so at the end of three parabolas, I said, we should stop. And he said, no, and through his translators.

And we went to four, five, and six. And finally, by the eighth parabola, I said, that's it. And this is him on his eighth parabola. And he had an extraordinary experience.

But our goal here was, again, to give the public the chance to personally participate in space and exploration. Just like Jeff [? Grayson ?] and [? XCorp, ?] and Virgin, and Armadillo, and all of these companies are doing, it's, how do you make it possible for everybody to have a chance to play so that there's a real vibrancy and it's not just for one of those 500 astronauts?

So one of the other things I've been working on is building a real business. And I went to my first auto race in 2001. And after the cars went--


--I got bored. And when I got bored, I think about putting rockets on things. And so the Rocket Racing League was born at that point. And we made the cover of Popular Science when we first announced it.

I'll call out to [? XCorp ?] and Jeff [? Grayson ?] who did a lot of the early engine development and helped us get the company off the ground. And I'm greatly appreciative for that. And here is the vehicle at a recent air and space show that we did. And we're trying to reinvent racing for the 22nd century. And if you stop and you realize that NASCAR and Formula One racing are each $5-billion properties, I think there is plenty of opportunity to create technology and new businesses.

So this is the vehicle. It's a single-pilot vehicle that is flying through a three-dimensional arrays course. And I'll be showing you video here in a second. Here we are in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where we are loading up liquid oxygen and kerosene on these vehicles, both at the same time. I think it's one of the only operations that two vehicles are being loaded with rocket fuel simultaneously.

Here is Dezso Molnar doing the loading of the kerosene and this-- and the alcohol, in this case. And here is two vehicles on the runway. And you can see, literally, from zero to take off in under four seconds, which is quite a kick in the pants.

And one of the things that we've done as part of this company is really to merge in all of the cutting-edge technology. So we have brought it augmented reality and augmented television, where literally, on the Jumbotron, at the TV at home, or on your iPad, you see the race course superimposed, the same race course the pilot sees in their heads-up display. And at the same time, we've developed a whole video game, multiplayer series that allows you to actually play the video game in real time as these vehicles are transmitting their differential GPS signal so you can fly against them and find out who is better. So I'm going to go to video here so you can just get a feeling for where this company is going.


- Here is a sight and a sound that will get your heart pumping--


--a pair of rocket racers in the sky, thousands of spectators cheering them on, and coming along for the ride, virtually.

- It's great. The technology is awesome. You know, how in the world they can pull this off? And I mean, it's just amazing.

- It was the first time two rocket racers flew together in front of more than 30,000 people. It happened at the Quick Trip Tulsa Air and Rocket Racing Show. And it was the realization of a decade-old dream of Rocket Racing League founder Peter Diamandis.

- But when I saw those two vehicles coming off the runway one after-- that was the payoff for all the hard work.

- Rocket Racing is a mash up between Star Wars pod racers and NASCAR. Delta Wing Velocity aircraft are rigged up with rocket motors built by Armadillo Aerospace, which can generate 2,000 pounds of thrust in an instant. Now that's a kick.

- In a propeller-driven aircraft or when you're in a jet, you wind up on the power. And you can feel it coming in as you move the throttle forward. Here you flip a switch. And you go from no thrust to full thrust in less than a second. And you feel that kick in your back.

- Rocket Racing uses high technology to bring fans along for the ride, using augmented reality. The primary augmented reality technology that the pilot sees comes from a company called Elbit Systems, which makes sophisticated helmet-mount displays for the military. The capability is extended with some technologies from the Maryland Advanced Development Laboratory. And what's presented to the audiences, in addition to the pilot point of view, is created by Orad, a leader in broadcast-quality augmented reality systems.

- The rocket racers essentially fly inside this tunnel. That's the track they compete in. The shape of it can be infinitely varied, from something that's very simple and reminiscent of an automobile racing track, like an oval, or something far more complex that has many, many curves in it, and verticals, and overlaps, and loops, and portions of the sky for aerobatic flight.

- Fans can enjoy Rocket Racing on Jumbotrons, or iPhones, and iPads. And when the race is over, you can still enjoy the action. Yes, there is now an app for that. The long-range goal, fans will be able to join in and race virtual [INAUDIBLE] racers beside the real thing. Rocket Racing may be the first participatory spectator sport. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, I'm Myles O'Brien.


DIAMANDIS: So I'm excited about bringing that forward in the next year or two. So that's about getting the public involved. But ultimately, to really drive this, we need to do what the United States did 100 and 200 years ago, which is create a resource draw, create something that is so powerful that it can literally drive the development of new technologies. And if you stop and you think about the fact that everything we fight wars over, metals, minerals, real estate, energy, are infinite quantities in space, and the Earth, it's a crumb in a supermarket filled with resources, you can stop to realize that we're now on the verge of being able to gain access to all of the resources of our solar system and the universe.

This is an average-sized asteroid, about a half kilometer in size, its makeup, the things that we care about, the things of life, hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, the things that we build buildings with, you know, iron, and nickel, and cobalt, the things which we call rare earth metals, platinum, gold, and so forth that are escalating in price rapidly-- 7,000 of them that we know of. Astronomers believe that's about 10% of the known population.

The value of these-- imagine if you could go out and capture these, mine them in space, bring back the rare earth elements and create an economy no different than the gold rush, no different than the California land rush. A single half-kilometer-size asteroid of this platinum-group market has more platinum-group metals than we've ever mined in the history. It's about $1 trillion worth of metals. And I think that could set off a nice space rush.

So I'm going to end with a few comments, which is to remind you that I believe that we're living in a day and age where single individuals and small groups can do what only large corporations and governments could do before. The tools and the technologies are at your fingertips. And they're becoming more and more so. AI robotics, nanomaterials, biotechnology, quantum computing, embedded network systems-- all of these things that are in exponential growth are empowering you to make your dreams come true.

The question is, what are you passionate about? What do you want to go and do? Because the age of personal exploration under the seas, in the air, and in space is just about to begin. Thank you.


DAVA NEWMAN: Thank you, Peter. That was just fantastic, what a great culmination. Peter is willing to field a few questions. Go ahead.

AUDIENCE: Yeah, what do you-- have you prepared for the possibility or perhaps the probability that there might be an accident in development of commercial space? And how do you plan to react to that?


AUDIENCE: I hope that doesn't turn [INAUDIBLE].

DIAMANDIS: Great question. Everybody hear it? What happens if there is an accident in commercial space? I know that during the Ansari XPRIZE, I was very clear in saying, this is dangerous. There is a possibility someone will die. And we have to be flat out about that. If you try and hide it and say it's safe, and so forth, and the chance of winning $100,000, you're going to defeat yourself.

The fact is, a lot of people who are going first are doing it because it's dangerous, because it's significant. If it was easy like flying an airplane, it wouldn't mean as much. So my point of view is, I think we have to be honest about the fact that we're going to do everything we possibly can to make it safe. And let me just take a second and say, Buzz, thank you for all that you've done for this industry. I'm very grateful.


But at the same time, we cannot set expectations that when a ship blows up, the industry shuts down. And I think that was the problem on shuttle. I think that's the problem on any place where there is a false belief. So that's my belief. Whether or not my colleagues in the personal space industry feel the way-- the same, that's up to them. Other questions, please? This is the fun part. Sir?

AUDIENCE: I've heard that one of the problems with getting rid of burning fossil fuels is that hydrogen fuel cells require rare earth metals-- palladium, I believe-- to start. Do you have any feeling for the scale of the solution that you're [INAUDIBLE]?

DIAMANDIS: So I actually had to slide over here that talked about the rare earth elements required for even the Prius and for various battery technologies. And a lot of the future renewable resource economies we look at are very rare-earth-element-dependent. And I do believe that asteroid mining-- it's something that I've made a personal commitment to and something that I believe is very doable.

If you look at the degree of difficulty that the large deep-sea oil platforms undertake in terms of setting up robotic operations 25,000 feet underwater and then drilling down 10,000 feet, I mean, the pressures, the corrosive natures, and so forth, I personally think that going to an asteroid for a robotic operation is a cakewalk compared to that. But the economics haven't been proven yet. So my goal is actually to buy puts on the platinum market, announce an asteroid mission, cash in on the puts, and then fund the mission and go and do it. Those of you in the finance world might understand it better. But so besides that, I don't have much else. Can we squeeze in one more question? From a student, okay.

AUDIENCE: From a young person.

DIAMANDIS: You're all young people. So one there and one back there, please, sir? You're a young person. Life expectancy is about 200 at this point.

AUDIENCE: Well, I guess we're all still students. That's for sure. I just wanted to ask you, I believe you were asked a question yesterday about how we foster investing for long-term return. And it strikes me that listening to your talk, you've found a way of doing that. What do you think are the time horizons of investment that you can cover with something like the XPRIZE?

DIAMANDIS: Well, I mean, the challenge is that space is a risky hardware-centric operation. And it is hard to get investments. God knows, that's all I've done for the last 20 years, is raised capital for my different organizations.

And I think there are-- what's different today is that there is a generation of folks, ranging from Elon, to Paul Allen, and Richard Branson, you know, in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s, who grew up on Apollo or early shuttle, and have now made billions of dollars transforming a field, and are now prepared to take huge risks to make their childhood dreams come true. So a lot of times, it's an irrational investment. They're doing it because, God dammit, I'm so sick and tired of waiting for NASA to do this, I'm going to go off and do it myself, is sort of an attitude that comes out of this. Or there is a better way to do it.

And excuse me, I don't want to be too overly negative about my friends at the Air and Space Administration. But the fact of the matter is, people, when they have the capital like Elon did out of PayPal, and said, I'm going to go and make it happen. And that is, for me, one of the most important opportunities right now.

The second is hooking it up into real business models, so like we did with Rocket Racing or with Zero G. But Zero G still is taken, from the time we started it, you know 11 years to get operational, we just turned profitable last year. I mean, it's incredible timelines on some of these things. So it's a passion-driven investment for a lot of folks. In the back, please?

AUDIENCE: In terms of exploration, what types of problems are prizes good for versus other types of money?

DIAMANDIS: So what types of problems are prizes good for in terms of exploration? They're great for things that have a telegenic finish, things that include humans, things that could be done, but people aren't taking the risks, or capital is not flowing into the market. So you know, could we have a New-York-to-Paris electric aircraft race, for example, creating a Lindbergh-like modern-day version of that?

Obviously, the Ansari XPRIZE, we lucked out and worked hard to create an event that had a great finishing. So again, people care about people, period. They may be interested in the technology, but they become passionate about and the news media follows people.

So whenever we're creating a prize, we need to tell the human interest story of the teams. And even the Google Lunar XPRIZE, it's going to be about the teams, and what they're risking, and what they're doing, and the anthropomorphization-- anthropomorphization, what there's that word again, whatever, you guys get it-- of the vehicle on the moon. That's what's going to be getting people excited. Last question?

AUDIENCE: When you're working with times that are 10 or 20 years' building processes before you see a profit or a result, I mean, you must have been told no hundreds of thousands of times in that process. And obviously, you're passionate about what you do, but on a day to day, how do you re-invent that passion when you have a day that you're told, no, 100 times?

DIAMANDIS: So great question, and thank you for asking it. It's a great place to close on. And it's the conversation I was having earlier with a couple of students, which is, the notion is, you need to find something that you're going to do, whether you're paid or not.

You need to find something that is so significant, it gives meaning to your life, that you wake up in the morning, and you're excited to be awake, and you go to sleep at night, and you can't wait to start the next day. And you will be told no over, and over, and over again. And believe me, on the Ansari XPRIZE, there were countless nos. And when Columbia failed, and I hadn't raised the money, and people called me and said, how are you going to raise $10 million when the shuttle just fell apart, or when 9/11 happened, when are you going to raise $10 million when you know that Trade Centers are coming down?

But for me, I knew in my heart, it was something I had to make happen. So ultimately, what will you do, not for the money, not because your parents told you, not you professor told you, but because it gives meaning to your heart and your soul? And when you find that, no one can stop you. Thank you.