Race to Space: 5 Billionaires Who Might Find Life Outside Earth Before NASA

Billionaires hope to use their fortunes to help humans get into space and perhaps make contact with alien life. NASA/ESA via Getty Images

Earlier this week, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced at the New Space Age conference in Seattle his plans to sponsor a project to send spaceships to Saturn's moon Enceladus to search for alien life. Milner appears to be the latest in a recent trend of billionaires setting their sights on the stars and using their money to help man explore the cosmos.

Between the cost of paying scientists, gathering materials and building state-of-the-art equipment, space travel is expensive. But what about those for which money is not an issue? As technology continues to advance and the idea of space travel becomes more realistic, an increasing number of the world's richest citizens have become involved in the international rush to explore our universe and perhaps even find alien life along the way. Here are five of the most recognizable (and most wealthy) individuals giving NASA a run for its money in the international space race.

Yuri Milner

Milner announced his plans to fund a mission to Enceladus at the New Space Age conference in Seattle this week. The Russian billionaire is cited in Forbes as Russia's most influential tech investor. Milner was an earlier investor in Facebook and Twitter, and more recently invested in Spotify and Airbnb.

Related: NASA Orion spacecraft that would bring humans to Mars will undergo moon test in 2019

Today, Milner is more interested with alien life than tech, and at the conference explained his hopes to send a privately funded mission to Enceladus "relatively soon" to investigate whether recently observed plumes are an indication of alien life, New Scientist reported.

Elon Musk

Perhaps the most recognizable name on the list, Musk is the CEO of SpaceX, a company that designs, creates and even launches spaceships, satellites and rockets out into the solar system. However, Musk isn't so much concerned with intergalactic travel as he is with setting up a colony on our closest solar system neighbor.

Musk outlined his intergalactic goals in a paper published in June and suggests that if everything goes to plan, ships could begin flying to Mars in as little as 10 years from now.

Jeff Bezos

Bezos is the founder of Amazon and worth an astonishing $99 billion. He also wants in on the space race and announced earlier this year his plans to use some of his billions to fund research into getting man to Mars and beyond.

Related: Living in space leaves astronauts with serious neurological issues because the brain floats out of place

At the moment, Bezos is starting small and working to make space travel affordable and realistic. This involves the creation of commercial flights to space that are far cheaper than the quarter of a million dollars offered by Virgin Atlantic. However, Bezos has expressed that eventually he would like to work toward the goal of having millions of people living and working in space, The New York Times reported.

Robert Bigelow

This Billionaire real estate developer is very open with his belief in extraterrestrial life and boasts that he has spent "millions and millions and millions" and more than anyone else in the U.S., in the search to prove aliens are real. Bigelow is also the founder and president of Bigelow Aerospace, a Las Vegas based company that works to design and create space crafts that humans would be able to live in for both the government and private enterprises.

So far, the company has successfully launched two spacecrafts, the Genesis I & II. It is also responsible for the the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which is now attached to the Tranquility module of the International Space Station.

Mark Zuckerberg

Not even the Facebook mogul can resist the allure of knowing what's beyond the stars. Last year Zuckerberg partnered up with Star Shot Project, a project aimed at sending robots deep into space, to check things out. The project has been hailed as the "most-ambitious alien finding project ever" and has backing from Stephen Hawking.

Although the project would not send humans into space, the robots would be take photographs that would be sent back to Earth, allowing us to see what (or who) lays hidden in the furthest reaches of the universe.