Why are billionaires flinging themselves into the great beyond?
There are a variety of reasons for the growing interest in space travel.
For one, it would give tech and travel companies such as Virgin and SpaceX a significant advantage in a new market for commercial space exploration. Being the first to provide public seats inside rockets would be a big deal, and no self-respecting billionaire wants to be seen missing out.
Elon Musk has also said he wants to eventually colonise nearby planets such as Mars and believes humans shouldn’t be a ‘single planet species’. Whether you view that as an abandonment of Earth – given the looming threat of climate change – or a valiant attempt to broaden our galactic ambitions is up to you.
Billionaires also claim that their work in this industry will help solve current problems down on the surface.
Branson was eager to focus on new jobs within the engineering and tech fields being created as a result of Virgin Galactic, while Bezos said that his work with Blue Origin was part of a necessary step forward for ‘our species and civilisation’.
No word yet if we’re allowed in on that step forward as ordinary plebs, mind.
What has been the response online?
While there has been some fanfare online regarding these recent rocket launches – the views from Branson’s plane were extraordinary – equally there has been criticism.
Both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic’s billionaire slingshot stunts feel particularly tone deaf given their timing. The world is still on the tail end of a devastating pandemic, a significant portion of Oregon is currently on fire, and the UK is undergoing a sweltering heat wave as a direct consequence of climate change.
Many are understandably wondering what the benefits for ordinary people really are as the wealthy white winners of capitalism head to the stars.
It’s unlikely you or I will ever be able to afford a ticket to space, and some have suggested it’s preparation for the rich to abandon us once everything inevitably falls apart on Earth, like a modern day Titanic with less sinking ships and more jet-fuelled explosives. It’d be some way for us to go out though, I suppose.
There is a strong argument that those at the top of the food chain should be spending more of their time on urgent causes such as the climate crisis, poverty, wealth disparity, and a whole lot more. It’s worth noting that Bezos’ ex-wife is now a more generous donator and philanthropist than he ever has been.
At the very least, perhaps these demonstrations provide us with a glimpse into a future that utilises our space innovations to combat more pressing issues. The cheaper, more accessible, and common these types of launches are, the more likely they’ll be used for the greater good.
We’ve yet to see if that’ll be the case though. For now, I’ll say one thing. Congratulations, you did it Jeffrey!