60 Seconds on Doing the Impossible

Fast Company: What did the X Prize accomplish?

Peter Diamandis: We lit the fuse. The personal spaceflight revolution is not reversible. The fun will start in 2015 or 2020, when we’ll see thousands of private people going to orbit. When that happens, a successful group will go to the moon and make a land grab.

FC: What is there to grab on the moon?

Diamandis: The same things we fight wars over on Earth: real estate, energy, metals, and minerals. You can make the analogy of Alaska being purchased from the Russians in the 1850s for $4 million. Alaska was difficult to get to, it was desolate, and you’d die if you didn’t have life-support systems. The same thing describes space today.

FC: What’s the link to nanotechnology?

Diamandis: People who are interested in space exploration tend to have an interest in nanotech. It’s the optimist personality. With space tourism, once it’s been won, you get a chance to go. With nanotech, you have a chance — who knows? — to live forever.

FC: Why prizes?

Diamandis: Humans get trapped in modes of thinking and doing things. It’s very difficult to be a Renaissance thinker like da Vinci, who could set aside old ways of thinking and look at things from first principles. Prizes attract people from alternate approaches. A prize is typically not intended for incumbent players. They know it can’t be done.FCS