Billionaire Jeffery Bezos comes second in the Billionaire Space Race, losing to Richard Branson.
By Donovan Martin Jr.
At 8:00 a.m. CDT, on July 20, 2021, Amazon founder and billionaire Jeffery Bezos launched a spacecraft with three other passengers. This comes nine days after Richard Branson, another billionaire, launched a vessel into space. Bezos was joined by three crew members: his brother, Mark Bezos; pioneering aviator Wally Funk, 82; and recent high school graduate, Oliver Daemen 18. The four participated in an 11-minute flight, spending a few minutes weightless over 100 kilometres above their home planet. They came back down safely, parachuting down in Blue Origin’s New Shepard.
The New Shepard spacecraft started as an 18-metre tall ship. It was tested 15 times before Bezos and his crew boarded it. On its 16th trip, it successfully passed the Kármán line—where the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) defines space—at over 3,500 kilometres per hour. As the 11-minute flight transpired, portions of the rocket ship intentionally detached and were discarded. Smaller debris burned up in the atmosphere as it fell back to Earth while larger pieces were able to be recovered and either reused or recycled. The cabin however returned fully intact, landing near Van Horn, Texas via parachute.
Bezos stated he had the “best day ever,” after returning back to the ground. Though coming second place in the space race, Bezos trip was too marvelled by scientists and his competition alike.
Richard Branson tweeted: “Well done @blueorigin, @jeffbezos, Mark, Wally and Oliver. Impressive! Very best to all the crew from me and all the team at @virgingalactic”
Former NASA Astronaut Leland Melvin was hopeful that more missions like Bezos’ could come in the future saying, “I think if more people can see the type of technology that’s been applied to this, autonomous rockets that are taking off and landing, we have a whole spectrum of people that are going to be thinking ‘hey, one day I may start my own company and build my own rocket.’ And maybe that’s a kid from a ZIP code that doesn’t usually get a chance to do some of these things. And so seeing this access and opportunity and belief that anything is possible for all kids.” Unfortunately, such ventures of space travel are far beyond the capability of regular people and will be for decades.
Jeff Bezos has a net worth of 205 billion USD, so he was easily able to spend over 100 million USD trip to space. In fact, Bezos’ net worth stacked as one-dollar bills on top of each other could reach the Kármán line and only represent .46% of his wealth. This statistic was measured by physicist Ashley Capiche.
With such exuberant wealth, tens of billions of dollars could be invested into research that’d provide ways for Earth’s, poorest people to eat a healthy meal, have access to clean water, and be able to live in affordable housing. Instead, such money is kept for the elite to make flashy, less-than-twenty-minute trips to space. Though it is incredibly fascinating to have more people explore the cosmos, exploring ways to end mass poverty should be prioritized.
Update, July 21, 2021:
It should be mentioned that Bezos says he will donate 200 million dollars to political commentator Van Jones and globe trotting chef José Andrés for charities of their choice. This may seem admirable, but the .001% of his wealth has already been made back in the one day’s sleep and is far less than he is capable of donating.