A maverick Las Vegas multimillionaire fascinated by extraterrestrials and space is offering $1 million in prizes for answers as to whether there is life after death.
Robert Bigelow, 75, the owner of Budget Suites of America, founded the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies in June.
On Monday it announced an essay competition, for scientists with a track record in the field of neurology and psychology.
Entrants must submit by August 1 a 25,000 word thesis on whether existence continues once your body dies.
A panel of academics and medical scientists will judge the entries, with the winner announced on November 1.
Robert Bigelow, 75, is searching for answers to whether there is life after death
'It may matter what you do while you're here,' Bigelow told The New York Times, explaining why he felt there was a moral imperative for the competition.
'It could make a difference on the other side.'
Bigelow has had a fascination in the paranormal and out-of-body experiences since he was a child.
He told the paper how, when he was two, his grandparents had a mysterious experience while driving at night near Las Vegas which left them deeply shaken.
The year was 1947, when something shiny crashed into the New Mexico desert, sparking UFO theories.
Bigelow said that a glowing object flew toward his grandparents and filled their windshield, terrifying them before darting off.
They were late getting back home and so shaken, that 'my grandfather couldn't drive a car for a while.'
Bigelow, asked what he thought delayed them in returning home, said: 'they wouldn't talk about it.'
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver (L) and Bigelow talk in 2013, while standing next to the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) during a media briefing where is was announced that the BEAM expandable space habitat technology will be tested on the ISS in 2015. In fact the BEAM module was launched in April 2016, and remains attached to the ISS today
His childhood obsession with unusual encounters led, as an adult, having made his fortune in real estate and then the long-term apartment company, to serious investments in science.
'When I was 12 or 13, I made a commitment to myself to really get involved in something to do with space, and something to do with U.F.O.s if I ever had the money to do it,' he said.
'So I made a premeditated contract to myself to get into some kind of field where I could make a lot of money.'
In 1992 he begun the Bigelow Foundation, collaborating with Bob Lazar, who claimed to have worked on reverse-engineering recovered extraterrestrial craft at Area 51 in Nevada.
Three years later, in 1995, he founded the National Institute of Discovery Science to study paranormal phenomena and bought the 480-acre Skinwalker Ranch - site of supposed strange goings on.
'The main mysteries at Skinwalker were never solved,' said Bigelow, who sold the ranch in 2016.
'Lots of things have never been made public that we have, things that I personally initiated that we have photographs of.'
In 1999 he founded Bigelow Aerospace and the following year bought the license from NASA to build expandable space habitats.
His company launched the unmanned Genesis I and II inflatable modules into orbit in 2006 and 2007, and in 2016 worked with Space X to send a soft-sided expandable activity module called BEAM into space, attached to the International Space Station.
Bigelow is convinced that aliens exist and is fascinated by paranormal activity
His latest venture is inspired in part by the death in February 2020 of his wife of 55 years, Diane Mona Bigelow, at the age of 72 from bone marrow disease and leukemia.
'The Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies, was formed to try to conduct research and facilitate research into the possibility of the survival of human consciousness beyond bodily death,' Bigelow told Mystery Wire.
'If that is true, then to explore what is the other side all about.'