Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos inspects a booster on the airstrip after a test flight. The billionaire managed to fly one of his New Shepard rockets into space on Tuesday.

Blue Origin

Tuesday, Blue Origin and the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos becomes the second billionaire to visit the edge of space and do somersaults in microgravity, a week and a half later Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic space plane take to the skies in high altitude of New Mexico. The journeys lasted a historic month in space flight, inspiring much awe and awe.

But perhaps an even more common reaction is a harsh eye roll accompanied by a few comments about wealth or obscene ego, or worse.

After years of watching SpaceX’s Bezos, Branson, and Elon Musk expand their empires beyond the firm grip of gravity, I think such cynicism might be right, but it leaves the rest of us s ‘draw. The billionaire space race spectacle also illuminates a sad truth about our future in space as a species: We have lost control of our own destiny in the cosmos.

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See the Blue Origin astronauts in zero gravity


Benefit: billionaires

Over five years ago a Las Vegas bettor gave Musk and SpaceX 5 to 1 odds to be the first entity to put humans on Mars. The odds of NASA going first were 80 to 1. At the time, I thought it was a bit silly considering that NASA had already sent people to the moon and SpaceX had just started sending air. freight in orbit.

Half a decade later, those odds seem more reasonable: SpaceX is already launch and landing of prototypes of its Mars rocket while we await the long-delayed debut of NASA’s space launch system for missions to the moon and beyond.

On top of that, the average person is much more likely to know what Elon Musk and SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin are doing, in space than they are to be aware of NASA’s oft-postponed plans for. the moon, Mars or the James Webb Space Telescope.

The blame for this disparity in attention lies more directly with media people like me than with NASA. It doesn’t help that the agency is at the mercy of a political system providing not only its funding but also its leadership, both of which can change drastically every few years.

So it’s no surprise that entrepreneurs like Musk and Bezos were able to identify the void left by an aging and inefficient institution like NASA, seize the opportunity to build a better rocket, and paint a bolder vision for the future. .

And this is where the real problem lies. Musk’s great ambition to populate Mars, and Bezos’ plan shifting the industry, and perhaps a few sweet new luxury condos into orbit, are civilization-level efforts without precedent that were designed primarily on the whims of just two men.

Think about it. The odds now seem good that when the first member of our species sets foot on another planet, it will be because Musk, aka the “Father-dog“- the world’s biggest fan of the 420 and 69 jokes – decided to do it.

It’s not to take anything away from Musk (well, maybe just a little).

Neither SpaceX nor Blue Origin immediately responded to a request for comment.

A return to the public space

For me, complaining about billionaires wasting money in space when we have so many problems on Earth is irrelevant. What should be concerning, I think, is how the agenda and public discourse on space is now largely driven by some of the richest individuals in the world.

Perhaps the efforts of these men and their companies will bring profound benefits to humanity, but we could also decide as a society venturing into space to pursue for itself, for our own good.

Space could be the key to solving some of our biggest problems, whether through space solar energy, asteroid mining or yes, turning Mars into a rescue planet. These are all pretty distant ideas, of course, but there are very few resources dedicated to researching their potential, which is how things start to seem less distant.

And besides, the the history of space innovation suggests it might not be that crazy to expect that learning how to survive on the moon or mars can also teach us new ways to reduce our own impact on the earth’s environment.

NASA has opened up the space frontier for Musk, Bezos, and others to support the production of rockets that appear to be more capable, efficient, and less expensive than the state-funded pioneer spacecraft of previous eras. That’s great. Now it’s time for us folks to decide which frontiers we want to explore next, rather than waiting for another rich guy to take the lead.


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