According to Jeff Bezos, Tuesday was the happiest day of his life. With millions watching, he and a crew of three others, including his brother, Marc Bezos, and the youngest and oldest people to ever fly in space, Olivier Daemen, an 18-year-old student from the Netherlands and 82 years old Mary Wallace Wally Funk, entered the capsule of a phallic-looking rocket, created by Blue Origin, the billionaire rocket company, and took off from a launch site in Van Horn, Texas, eventually traveling to Mach 3 as they were heading about 66 miles above the planet. For Bezos, every aspect of the flight was a success. Once in space, the crew unbuckled their safety harnesses and experienced weightlessness before freefalling approximately four minutes to Earth. You have a very happy crew here, Bezos said from inside the capsule as she descended, settling gently in a dust plume made for television on the Texas desert floor. Better. Day. Never, Bezos proclaimed from the pod.
On Twitter, the stronghold of earthly opinion, people were largely unimpressed with Tuesday’s successful launch. Watching NASA takeoffs as a child was such a moment of pride and national unity, wrote Matthew Miller, an MSNBC analyst. Replacing them with billionaire vanity thefts is one of the most depressing touchstones of this era. Nina Turner, the former Ohio State Senator currently running for Congress, well notedBreaking news: Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world, has enough disposable income to fund a multibillion-dollar vacation to space, but still won’t pay his taxes. And the left magazine Jacobin offered this hard point of view in the days leading up to the theft: billionaires love Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and Elon musk are parasites, worse than socially unnecessary. But they have to justify their existence somehow, so like five-year-olds they now claim to be astronauts.
While I agree that Bezos is largely a out of reach billionaire, I think the immediate and outright criticism of him being only in contrast to the NASA takeoffs watched with national pride not only misses the point, but is also a bit of revisionist history. A Harris poll in 1967 found that 54% of Americans didn’t think it was worth the cost of sending a man into space; only a third thought it was important. Most people thought that the money used for the space program would be better spent helping people here on Earth. This poll was not just a fluke at the time. About a decade later, in 1979, only 41% of Americans have supported the space program, according to an NBCAP poll. Only now are people watching these launches with more pride than almost any other time in American history. According to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 72% of Americans have said the United States must remain a world leader in space exploration; 80% said they thought the space station was a good investment for the country. The difference now, of course, is that a billionaire is leading the way. The US Space Shuttle program was suspended for more than two years in 2003 after the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster killed seven astronauts as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, and it was finally closed in 2011.
After Tuesday’s successful robbery, Bezos can now use the realization of this made-for-TV moment to secure government contracts, hire engineers who might otherwise have gone into another industry, and grow Blue Origin from a a way that will pave the way for the United States to continue to dominate space travel. What we were really trying to do was build reusable space vehicles. This is the only way to build a road to space, and we have to build a road to space so that our children can build the future, Bezos Told CNBC Morgan Brennan. The same is true for Musk. (Branson, the third man in the billionaire space race, comes across as just a dweeb.) While the cost of a private flight to space might seem quite ridiculous now, that cost, like all technology during its inception, will continue to come down, allowing breakthroughs in generations to come that we cannot even imagine today, and hopefully with the ideals of the United States, not of another country leading them.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve all viewed the privatized space race as a vanity competition between a handful of billionaires who seem to have mastered the art of attracting negative attention, all the while bickering over which rocket is the biggest. And while this is true, there is also a bigger space race that looks more like the United States than the USSR, with massive consequences for the future of this planet. This race, which the United States is on the verge of losing, belongs to the Chinese government.
While the United States and Russia fought in the 1950s to be the first in space (Russia won this one), then the first on the moon (the United States obviously won this one). there), the Chinese government, under Mao Zedong, rushed to join the race as well. He repeatedly missed planned launch dates, and, years later, had an end of mission in disaster. Now under Xi Jinping, China is investing resources in its space programs, declaring that he plans to set up a base on the Moon (which would be a first) and possibly send a mission to Mars. The country sees significant opportunities for industrial development in space, with enormous economic benefits.
A 2019 report released by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency stressed that China is rapidly developing anti-satellite technologies in space and improving its electronic warfare capabilities that could jeopardize the peaceful use of international space. Imagine a scenario where the Chinese government destroys US satellites, or those of other perceived adversaries. There is also the more peaceful and potentially more ambitious scenario, in which China defeats all other nations on the Moon and Mars and sets up permanent space stations, becoming the de facto leader there. It might sound crazy, but it’s totally plausible.
Entrepreneurs I’ve spoken to say that viewing space as just a hobby for billionaires misses its potential. It would be like thinking that shipping was a dumb idea hundreds of years ago, without the foresight to realize that it would be ultimately be the most important aspect of the global economy. There’s also the aspect of Bezoss who hopes that if we keep moving further into space, we can save Earth from climate change disasters. We live on this beautiful planet. You can’t imagine how thin the atmosphere is when you see it from space. We live in it, and it looks so big. It feels like this atmosphere is huge and that we can neglect and abuse it. When you go up there and see it, you see how small and how fragile it is, Bezos said Tuesday. We have to take all the heavy industry, all the polluting industry, and move it into space. And keep the Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is.
Are people wrong to criticize Bezos, Musk and Branson? Absolutely not. As ProPublica discovered last month, Bezos and Musk have paid virtually no taxes in years, and yet they have both recently occupied the mantle of the richest person on Earth. Their philanthropic efforts are paltry at best. And when it comes to Bezos, one of the reasons the inequality is so extreme today is a direct result of the way he chose to run his business. Every ounce of denunciation thrown against these men is deserved. As Bezos made a 10-minute flight to space, about 38 million Americans lived below the poverty line, with over half a million people in the country homeless.
When CNN Rachel Crane asked Bezos what he thought of a chorus of critics saying that these space flights are just rides for the rich and that the richest man on Earth should solve the problems that are here, Bezos basically said agreed. I say they are largely right. We have to do both. We have a lot of problems here and now on Earth and we have to work on it, and we always have to look to the future. One can only hope that this week’s space launch, where Bezos had the rare opportunity to see Earth more than 60 miles above, gave him a different perspective on what to do, and a sense of responsibility to do it with the same training. he devoted himself to his rocket company. Although it may be a while before this awareness settles down.
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