In its Promethean quest to conquer the skies and transcend the limits of earthly existence, the human race may be on the verge of reaching a historic milestone: in this case, the successful launch of a giant barrel filled with pork. in the space.
Thanks in no small part to the giant corporate PR machines now in play, the burgeoning competition for 21st century space travel market dominance tends to be seen in the noblest terms: saturated with futuristic mythology and defined by grandiose statements about the asteroid. mining, multi-year journeys to Mars and interstellar colonization. But, as this week’s wrangling in Congress suggests, the accelerated rivalry Between Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is meant to be played out in a decidedly less than utopian way.
The tell, as documented in a recent report of Intercept, is an absurd $ 10 billion amendment to the sinister Endless Frontier Act introduced by Washington Senator Maria Cantwell. Under the highly dubious auspices of scientific and technological research funding, the money would almost certainly go directly to Blue Origin – which last month narrowly missed a lucrative deal to put astronauts on the moon, and just happens to be based in Cantwell’s house. state (the contract instead went to SpaceX, a NASA move justified with the absolute howler that he was trying to “preserve a competitive environment”).
The question that arises may officially be about lunar exploration, but the whole episode feels like a textbook case of pork barrel politics going wild. In introduce a rival amendment intends to strip the bill of his absurd $ 10 billion donation to Blue Origin, the famous direct junior senator from Vermont quite simply had this to say: “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that we are providing billions of dollars to a company owned by America’s richest man.”
As is generally the case, Bernie Sanders was right: At this point, Jeff Bezos’ wealth is less of a real number than a matter of philosophical debate, and there is no valid justification for giving it any public money. He was also right in take the opportunity to question the whole idea of private space exploration:
When we were younger and Neil Armstrong first came to the Moon, there was incredible joy and pride in this country that the United States of America did something people had always thought was impossible: we sent a man on the moon … an amazing accomplishment for all mankind, not just the United States…. I’m very concerned that what we’re seeing right now are two of the richest people in this country – Elon Musk and Mr. Bezos – deciding that they’re going to take over our [efforts] to get to the Moon and maybe even the extraordinary accomplishment of getting to Mars…. I have a real problem that, to a large extent, we are privatizing this effort…. It’s something that… we should all be a part of, not just a private company.
As the free market innovates towards monopoly control of the solar system by the two richest men on Earth, it is not yet clear how far technology and capitalism will actually allow the billionaire-dominated business to go. . As you might expect, Bezos and Musk paint a utopian portrait of interplanetary colonies and the abundant life that flourishes outside the world.
Investors in speculative companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, meanwhile, are hoping that mining precious metals from asteroids will unlock untold wealth and lead to a new industrial revolution. The most likely scenario for such efforts, of course, is also much more mundane: a primary focus on the control of vital infrastructure like satellites by big corporations and their billionaire owners.
In the unlikely event that the technology one day makes interstellar colonization both possible and profitable, however, it is safe to assume that the result will look more like Blade runner than Star Trek if people like Musk and Bezos are involved. There is no reason to believe, after all, that expanding the profit motive into outer space would yield a different set of social relationships than the ones it already produces here on Earth (think orbital Tesla Workhouses and overworked Amazon employees trying to find relief in zero-g).
Either way, this week’s absurd congressional bickering over glorified gifts to the world’s two richest men is as good a reminder that a privatized space race has much more to do with earthly vice than it does. utopia out of the world. Billionaires have already been allowed to devour much of the global economy. Should we also let them own the solar system?