Some men are born with an innate desire to explore. When those men get their hands on money and resources, they often do extraordinary things. Take, for instance, Hollywood director James Cameron’s recent trip to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Cameron pours enormous amounts of time and money into pushing the envelope of exploration, making discoveries that could potentially benefit the planet. He’s not the only one, either. Here are five guys (Cameron included) who use their wealth and influence to broaden humanity’s horizons. —Reza Farazmand
Richard Branson As the founder of the Virgin Group, Branson commands an extraordinary amount of wealth. Rather than chilling in style on his private island, though, Branson is now investing huge amounts of time and money into launching the world’s first privately owned space travel program, Virgin Galactic. Sure, you could say the whole thing is financially driven, because you know people will throw down fortunes to cruise through space. We prefer to think Branson is doing all this at least partially out of a desire to help man (and himself) someday travel space with ease.
Jeff Bezos The founder and CEO of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos heads up one of the largest web properties in the world. He’s also fascinated with space travel and exploring the ocean. Just this week, one of Bezos’ ocean-monitoring teams discovered the deep-sea resting place of the Apollo 11 rockets. He’s currently financing their recovery. On the space front, in 2000 Bezos founded spaceflight startup Blue Origin, a company that aims to put man in space for the sake of travel and adventurism.
Steve Fossett Before his untimely death in a plane crash over the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 2007, businessman Steve Fossett was known for his high-flying exploits. He was the first person to circumnavigate the world nonstop by himself in a balloon. He set nearly two-dozen world records for speed sailing. He flew planes, gliders and zeppelins. Yes, zeppelins. The dude was Sky Captain with an MBA and a degree from Stanford. In addition to his earth-bound adventures, Fossett also worked closely with Richard Branson to develop certain aspects of Virgin Galactic. Fossett had the explorer bug, no doubt about it.
James Cameron As one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood, James Cameron could be sitting pretty in his mansion without a care in the world. Instead, he crammed himself into a one-man submarine and floored it to the bottom of the ocean. Why? Because the guy has the explorer spirit. (Not to mention he’ll probably make an awesome movie out of the footage).
Bruce Jones As the CEO of Triton Submarines, Bruce Jones is dedicated to the exploration of what Triton refers to as “inner space.” That means the ultra deep parts of the ocean. Having witnessed James Cameron’s solo dive to the ocean floor, Jones and Triton are now working to develop a sub capable of transporting multiple passengers to those depths. He’s also aiming to create underwater resorts and residences, and just happens to be a skilled pilot, sailor and skydiver, who grew up on marine construction platforms throughout the Middle East and the South China Sea. Eat your heart out, Dos Equis guy.
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