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The Amazonization of the universe begins in earnest




Apollo’s lunar landing anniversary was a small step in space travel, but a big leap for space millionaires.

Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson vividly showed this month that it’s safe to soar near the sky and, above all, look like a lark. The planet has so many problems that it’s safe to escape them even in the 10 minutes of orbital vehicle length provided by entrepreneurs through their respective companies, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

But beyond the dazzle, there was a deeper message: the Amazonization of the universe has begun in earnest. What used to be a big government territory is now becoming an increasingly big tech territory. Those who sold you the internet will now sell you the moon and stars.

Amazon founder and still the largest shareholder, Bezos, revealed at a post-flight press conference on Tuesday that Blue Origin is open. Tickets weren’t generally available, but flight sales were already close to $ 100 million. Bezos didn’t say what each price was, but added. Demand is very high.

The request called for widespread and commendable coverage of what Bezos did in New Mexico last week, even before the world’s media flocked to Van Horn, Texas. They saw a carefully organized event. The world’s oldest and youngest astronauts conclude with a $ 200 million charitable donation.

Even Elon Musk, CEO of rival SpaceX and skeptical of Mr. Bezos’ space dream, felt forced to offer his congratulations. So did Branson, who first got the right to fly and brag. Mr. Musk went to see Mr. Branson off.

All this space activity is not only the beginning of something new, but also a replay of the 1990s. At the beginning of that decade, the Internet was a government property devoted to a small number of studies and communications. In the end, thanks to Mr. Bezos, it became a place where anyone could buy things. Over the next two decades, technology has grown to become Big Tech, causing bipartisan fear that Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple are now too powerful.

Outer space may now embark on a similar journey from the frontier to large corporations.

For decades, NASA hasn’t had enough money to do something as grand as the Apollo program. The Trump administration ordered a return to the Moon by 2024. The Biden administration has approved the goal, but not the date. Even if that happens, you’ll need the help of companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin. In contrast to the Apollo program of the 1960s, trips to the next month are outsourced.

Small space ventures are even more open to entrepreneurs.

Looking at where the universe is today, especially when it comes to low earth orbit activity, it’s really similar to the early days of the Internet, and is the chief financial officer of Axiom, a startup looking to build its first commercial. West Griffin said. Space station.

The commercialization of space began during the dot-com boom of the 1990s, but it took much longer to bear fruit. This month’s flight is reminiscent of 1996, when the nonprofit X Prize announced the contest. Donate $ 10 million to the first non-governmental organization to build a reusable spacecraft that can take someone to an altitude of 100 kilometers (62.5 miles) and do it. Within 2 weeks again.

The 2004-winning design turned out to be SpaceShipOne, led by aerospace engineer Burt Rutan, who previously designed a Voyager plane that flies around the world without stopping or refueling. It was funded by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, who died in 2018.

X Prize was also intrigued by Mr. Bransons. He acquired the trademark of Virgin Galactic Airways in 1999 and licensed SpaceShipOne technology. Branson wanted a larger version to be ready for commercial flight within three years. Instead it took 17 years.

Like Meagan Crawford, managing partner of venture capital firm SpaceFund, a growing ecosystem of start-ups can build everything from cheap launch technologies to small satellites, space pickaxes and the infrastructure that makes up shovels. I am trying to commercialize the space at. Put it down.

People are looking around: there is this solid space industry. Where did it come from? Crawford said. Well, it was systematically and deliberately built and has taken a lot of effort over the last 30 years to bring us here.

According to space analytics firm Bryce Tech, investors have invested $ 7 billion in 2020 to fund space startups. That’s twice as much as it was just two years ago.

What I was trying to do now was what Jeff, Richard, and Elon did 20 years ago. It just builds a great business, except that you built your business in space from the beginning and built your business on Earth. Astra’s CEO, the start-up, was focused on offering smaller, cheaper, and more frequent launches.

The first Space Race, which grew in the 1960s and lost momentum in the 1970s, defeated the reckless US government against the malicious and unattractive Soviet Union. The Americans won the competition, but critics argued that it was all wrong in an era when so many domestic issues required attention and money.

this time? It’s personal now, but it’s almost the same. A petition requesting that Mr. Bezos not be allowed to return to Earth withdrew 180,000 virtual signatures. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat in Massachusetts, tweeted:

Musk tweeted the defense of a space project written in a concise style reminiscent of the poet EE Cummings.

Those who attack the universe

Maybe I don’t understand it

Space represents hope

For so many people

The tweet received more than 250,000 likes, with the following answers: No one is attacking the universe. He was attacking a millionaire who had a huge fortune behind the exploited labor force.

Bezos said in an interview with CNN from the Texas launch site on Monday that his critics were largely correct.

We have to do both, he said. We now have many problems here on Earth and we need to tackle them. And we always have to look to the future.

But it’s clear which perspective gets his attention. As a high school graduate in 1982, Bezos talked about the importance of living in a huge floating space colony for millions of people. The overall idea was to protect the planet, and Miami Herald quoted his words at the time, adding that his ultimate goal was to see the planet transform into a huge national park.

Bezos said almost the same thing this week. It was a utopian dream with many complex moving parts, like the concept of a retailer who sells everything to everyone and delivers it in hours. And to the surprise of almost everyone, he did the job.

Branson launched another space sect, Virgin Orbit, which fires a small payload into orbit. He does not imply a grand vision for spreading civilization into the solar system, like Mr. Musk and Mr. Bezos.

Muskus Mars’ dream began with a small strange quest. He wanted to send a plant to Mars and see if it could grow there. However, the cost of starting a small experiment was exorbitant. Even the Russian options were out of reach. So Musk founded SpaceX in 2002.

Today he wants to send people to Mars, not plants. SpaceX is currently developing Starlink, a satellite internet constellation aimed at generating enough Starship to travel and the profits needed to fund the Mars program. ..

In pursuit of these goals, the company has become a giant in the space business. NASA relies on SpaceX rockets and capsules to send astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station, and civilian, government, and military satellite operators are putting reusable Falcon 9 booster rockets in orbit. ..

NASA recently awarded SpaceX a contract to use a Starship prototype for its lunar program. The deal was challenged by Blue Origin and another company, Dynetics. For all the friendships on display this week, millionaires play to win.

Kenneth Chan contributed to the report.




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