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Biography: Robert Richards

  • Story Highlights
  • As a boy, Richards was inspired by the moon landings and science fiction
  • But his childhood expectations failed to be realized as the space race cooled
  • Now Richards and the NewSpace movement have renewed interest in space
  • Richards is aiming for the moon -- and confesses Mars is tempting ...
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(CNN) -- Robert Richards' love affair with the stars began when he was just a child. "I'm an orphan of Apollo; I grew up with the Star Trek generation," he says.

profile shot of Bob Richards against blue abstract background

Bob Richards: Aiming for the Moon

Richards was just one of many children left wide-eyed and inspired by the moon landings.

But for him, they were a false start. "I had this enormous expectation that I would have an experience in space. It just didn't happen," Richards says. Man stepped on the moon, but only to prove a point. "We faltered," he explains. "We didn't continue our operations on the moon; we didn't go to Mars."

Now, Richards and his colleagues are bringing their childhood dreams to life, as part of the burgeoning NewSpace movement, which has sparked a renaissance in space exploration. The children of the moon landings have grown up: they now hold the positions of power to make their dreams come alive.

"They want to make the world of 'Star Trek,' of '2001,' and now ... they're in charge of NASA, they're in charge of the private companies, and they're making it happen," he explains.

Richards says his path to the stars was "inevitable." Inspired by science fiction authors like his friend, Arthur C. Clarke, visionaries like Carl Sagan and movies like "2001: A Space Odyssey," he studied aerospace and industrial engineering at Ryerson University, then physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto, before moving to Cornell to study space science, where he became special assistant to Sagan.

Now, Richards is the ringleader behind Odyssey Moon, a company formed on the Isle of Man to pursue commercial ventures on the moon. The team were the first to enter the Lunar X prize, a Google-sponsored competition with a $20million jackpot for the first privately funded team to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon and send images and data back to Earth.

But the X Prize is not Richards' only goal. He thinks that there are fortunes to be made in space -- and he plans to be the first lunar entrepreneur. "We believe that beyond the prize, there's actually ongoing commerce on the surface of the moon," he reveals.

Innovation and collaboration, both important drivers in the Odyssey Moon team, are the key to humanity's future, believes Richards. "Space, by its nature, is an international endeavour," he says. "Every space program will be successful based on the amount of international cooperation it's able to achieve."

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With that in mind, in 1987 he founded the International Space University, which educates students from all over the world in space technology. "We're creating a universal planetary culture looking on space as an achievement and a goal for all humanity."

For now, Richards' sights are set on the moon. "The Google X Prize has certainly captivated my enthusiasm and interest, and I would certainly like to win that," he says. But he also sees Earth's satellite as a stepping stone to the stars. He confesses, "If somebody was going to offer an X Prize for Mars, I'd be going for that ..."

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