In this story, a corporation or group becomes extremely rich by investing in long-shot research projects that, against all odds, keep succeeding. Almost like a science fiction version of Brewster's Millions. :-) The group keeps investing in increasingly far-out research and eventually develops interstellar space ships.

I think it might have been a Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov story. I haven't read it, so I may have some details (very) wrong.


3 Answers 3


The story Time for the Stars has the Long Range Foundation which does what you say: it invests in projects very unlikely to yield any short-term profit but somehow keeps hitting paydirt.

In the story, they're involved in a project to develop telepathic skills in twins so that ships can be sent out into space and still be in touch with each other and earth.

(As a story, I recommend it. It's more normal SF than some of Heinlein's more ... political ... tales.)

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    They didn't "develop" the telepathic skills in twins, they just used it. And then they discovered that telepathy was instantaneous, which led to the development of an FTL drive. One of the Heinlein juveniles, which are pretty much all SF adventures. Mar 30, 2016 at 12:16
  • @Donald.McLean I would argue that what they did qualifies as develop since they took people with rudimentary skills and helped them to make it useful. The FTL drive is right at the end if the story, most of which is a coming-of-age story. Mar 30, 2016 at 13:40
  • Coming of age is a categorization that does not exclude adventure, but juvenile stories are pretty much universally coming of age stories. I guess my point with telepathy was that to my way of thinking "developing" means taking someone who doesn't have it to start with, which is arguably a semantic distinction and we really mean the same thing even though we prefer using different terms to say it. Mar 30, 2016 at 14:21
  • @Donald.McLean Yes, to me then "develop" doesn't have to include the initial part of instilling it in someone with absolutely no ability. And certainly it's clear - at least in the mind of the narrator - that without the work of the LRF then the twins (and others) wouldn't have developed such skills on their own. My point about the coming-of-age bit was that the discoveries of the LRF bookend the story (telepathy at the start and FTL at the end) rather than being the focus. I hadn't come across the "Heinlein juvenile" classification before - but it turns out to be a useful one as (ctd) Mar 30, 2016 at 16:23
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    (ctd) it turns out that pretty much I like the "Heinlein juvenlie" ones and dislike the rest, despite no longer being anything near a "juvenlie" myself! Mar 30, 2016 at 16:24

The closest Heinlein story I can think of off the top of my head is "We Also Walk Dogs." It doesn't quiiiite fit though.

In the story, General Services has an international reputation that they handle any and every job no matter how big or how small. The title of the story is the company motto, acknowledging that they started as a dog-walking business and still offer those services.

As memory serves, Earth finds itself hosting an intergalactic UN but doesn't have the technology to keep all the delegates in their specific habitats, let alone the incredible organization required. Desperate, they turn to the Corporation and dump the problem in their laps with an unlimited budget.

The corporation handles it like a whirling dervish, finding scientists who had been researching gravity manipulation (for delegates who had high/low gravity needs) but whose funding was cut, and stick them in cutting edge labs with all the resources they could want, and various other things.

They manage to pull everything off in time, but in doing so they pull humanity technologically up by the bootstraps, opening a new way for the future, with them positioned having the patents for every single technological advance and ready and willing and able to be the faithful (and well compensated) companion and guide that humanity needs to usher it into its future.

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    That's the first one I thought of. Reread it and decided it didn't fit. The company did not get rich "investing in long-shot research projects". They are already rich; the gravity manipulation project is way outside their usual line of business. And there is nothing about interstellar travel in the story.
    – user14111
    Mar 30, 2016 at 19:22

Could it have been Vonnegut? In "The Sirens of Titan", the father of one of the main characters amassed a fortune investing in companies selected by matching the initials of their names to Bible verses. Some of these happened to be involved in cutting-edge research, even though that was not the investor's intent.

One of the subsidiaries, Galactic Spacecraft, makes interplanetary spacecraft. There is interstellar travel in the book, but I don't recall any of the Magnum Opus companies building such craft.

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