MYSTERY WIRE — After two weeks, Las Vegas space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow’s new venture, the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies (BICS), has seen an overwhelming response of applications to enter a global essay contest.

BICS is seeking input from scientists, religious scholars, consciousness researchers, and anyone else who can provide evidence of an afterlife. As an incentive, BICS will award $500,000 for the top essay, $300,000 for the second best, and $150,000 for third place.

“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 in an exclusive interview, “and, if that is true, then to explore what is the other side all about?”

Bigelow and his associate Dr. Colm Kelleher told George Knapp during a recent interview they have had hundreds of applicants from around the globe.

They are already sorting out the applications into groups that will receive invitations to the contest, some who are on the bubble, and some that do not qualify.

In order to enter the essay competition, interested parties must apply through the BICS website.  A panel of handpicked judges will evaluate the expertise, qualifications, and experience of applicants.

Applications must be submitted by Feb. 28.  The essays, 25,000 words or less, are due by August 1.  The winners will be chosen by the end of the year and the prizes awarded thereafter. 

Bigelow, the founder and owner of Bigelow Aerospace as well as the hotel chain Budget Suites of America, has spent millions of dollars to pursue two enduring mysteries, namely, is there other intelligent life in the universe and whether human consciousness continues after physical death.

Bigelow’s consciousness contest headlined in the New York Times 

In the mid 1990’s, he created the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), a think tank and research program which investigated UFO issues, as well as survival of consciousness.

NIDS was guided by a Science Advisory Board made up of eminent scientists, astronauts, academics, and intelligence officers.

In 2008, a subsidiary of Bigelow Aerospace called the Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) , signed a contract with the Defense Intelligence Agency to investigate UFOs, as well as a wide range of related mysteries. The existence of the secret Pentagon study was made public in 2017.

Bigelow told Mystery Wire his interest in human consciousness and a possible afterlife was largely the result of personal losses, including the deaths of his father, son, grandson and wife.  He was motivated to find out if his loved ones might still exist in some other reality. 

RELATED: Surviving Death: Examining what happens when you cross over and return

Robert Bigelow rarely grants interviews and has never answered questions on the record about the BAASS/DIA study. However, he opened up to Mystery Wire about his UFO investigations, his ownership of Skinwalker Ranch, his interactions with UFO whistleblower Bob Lazar, and many other subjects.