Amazon founder, and in some ways the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos will audition his version of space tourism for a wider audience on Tuesday (9 a.m. ET), when he boards a Blue Origin rocket. with three others.
It comes just after Virgin Galactic showman Richard Branson arguably stole Bezos’ thunder while taking a ride in a Virgin Unity space plane on July 11 that approached the edge of space.
But there’s reason to believe Bezos is making his space dreams come true more seriously.
Branson didn’t announce his intentions until after Blue Origin revealed Bezos’ date, which comes exactly 52 years after Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
Although Branson’s Virgin Orbit sent ships into orbital space to launch satellites, its sensational event was meant to promote the possibility of regular, albeit expensive, suborbital space tourism.
For Bezos Americans, space tourism has often seemed like a way to achieve much more ambitious goals, including sending people to the moon.
Both Bezos and Branson have claimed watching the Apollo 11 milestone sparked their space ambitions, but the British entrepreneur only said so in retrospect, including in his memoir. Branson certainly wasn’t asked about his space designs when his one big company, Virgin Records, was guiding the Sex Pistols.
Meanwhile, the career of Bezos’ grandfather, Lawrence Gise, included stints at the United States Atomic Energy Commission and in the fields of space technology and ballistic missile defense for the Department of Defense. Bezos often became nostalgic for summers spent at the Gise ranch, where the couple repaired and rebuilt all kinds of machinery.
WATCH A previous launch of Blue Origin, without passengers:
There are also records of Bezos’ ambitions as early as 1982, when he was among those featured in a Miami Herald profile of local high school promotion majors. The Palmetto High grad aimed to “build space hotels, amusement parks, yachts and settlements for two or three million people orbiting the earth,” according to the Herald. “Its end goal is to take everyone out of the earth and see it turn into a huge national park.”
“The idea is to preserve the earth,” Bezos told the newspaper.
Long-term spatial vision
What’s remarkable, given the penchant of current and former Amazon executives to rejoice in interviews about Bezos’ ability to strategically adapt to his most famous company, is how little his spatial visions have exchange.
During an event in 2019 to showcase Blue Origin’s lunar module, Bezos insisted that population growth and the accompanying energy consumption that humans need will make Earth an increasingly miserable place to stay. live for future generations, a situation marked by the scarcity and rationing of natural resources.
“We must save this planet, and we must not give up a future of dynamism and growth for the grandchildren of our grandchildren,” he said.
Unlike SpaceX’s Musk, who is animated by the prospect of colonizing Mars, Bezos envisions temperature-controlled structures miles away in free space powered by rotational gravity. Much of the heavy industry and resource exploitation will one day take place in space, he says, helping to preserve the Earth, a vision inspired in part by the late Princeton futurist Gerard O’Neill. .
On social media, Bezos, Branson and Musk have been criticized, if not despised, for their efforts in the space given their immense personal wealth. They seem to have taken advantage of the loopholes to limit their tax exposure, with ProPublica Reports recently, after obtaining a wealth of documents from the IRS, Bezos paid no federal income taxes in 2007 and 2011.
In addition, even semi-scheduled tourist space flights would have a deleterious impact on the environment. But the three men have each made important climate change commitments, which will undoubtedly be closely scrutinized in the years to come, and it is important to note that NASA carried out 135 space shuttle flights from 1981 to 2011, not to mention the ongoing pre-shuttle activities. almost two decades ago.
In Bezos’ case, he touts the reuse of Blue Origin rockets. Otherwise, he said, it would be like “driving your car to the mall and throwing it out after a trip.”
Billionaires in space authorized by the US government
Some of the reviews have been separated from how we got to this point.
Acting after a comprehensive review of NASA’s operations, US President Barack Obama has decided that it is no longer possible for the revered space agency to tackle all US ambitions without a heavy dose of private sector involvement. . While Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic were all established at that time, this helped boost their business.
Blue Origin and SpaceX in particular have gone out to tender for a multitude of contracts with NASA and the Department of Defense, and on a smaller scale, there are Canadian companies that have a vested interest in the expansion. of the private space industry.
The Bezos launch will not have the flash of the Branson show and will be significantly different in its form. Blue Origin’s 18-meter-tall New Shepard takes off from a standing position on a launch pad, like traditional rocket launches. Along with Virgin Galactic, a rocket-propelled space plane was dropped from a carrier plane into the air, placing a heavy load on the carrier’s two pilots.
New Shepard will take passengers a hundred kilometers, where it is scheduled for capsule separation, with parachutes deploying as the capsule re-enters Earth’s atmosphere. Virgin Galactic’s flight reached 86 kilometers above Earth.
While both imply a similar time for passengers when it comes to weightlessness, Blue Origin’s capsule has larger windows for the view, and its rocket boost makes its flight duration, around 12 minutes, a fraction of the galactic period.
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Bezos is part of an all-civilian crew that includes her younger brother Mark, Wally Funk, 82, an aeronautic pioneer in a time of unequal opportunities, and Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen.
Ultimately, Bezos is aiming for some sort of trio. After Amazon built the most popular e-commerce platform for customers and third-party sellers, its Amazon Web Services established the infrastructure that powers a range of network, cloud computing and service needs. data from organizations as diverse as Netflix, Shell and Airbnb.
Bezos has stepped back from a daily Amazon role and said that during his lifetime, Blue Origin would pave the way towards the goal of building space colonies. While Bezos has pledged to devote a large chunk of his wealth earned by Amazon – Forbes estimates his net worth at US $ 208 billion – on Blue Origin activities, the company will need a good revenue stream from customers. paid.
As for the rest?
“I don’t know,” Bezos said. “It’s up to future generations to figure out the details.”