Billionaires in space: pointless joyrides?
One very small step for mankind, one giant ego trip for Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. In a very real sense, we paid for this. And quite a few of us reckon our cash could have been better spent on Earth. For example, Bezos’s 10 minute environmentally costly vanity project cost $5.5bn. This is enough to stop 37.5 million people starving in 2021.
But space tourism is only the start for Bezos and Branson. Sending the super-rich on thrill rides will help fund his grander plans. These include moving heavy industries into space, to help preserve this planet. As for Testa-founder Elon Musk, his ultimate plan is to colonise Mars. In the meantime his firm SpaceX, with its cost-slashing re-usable rockets, is at present Indispensable for delivering cargo and crew to the International Space Station.
The competition between these titans will only spur further innovation. People grumble that if Bezos cared about the planet, he’d focus his efforts closer to its surface. But he and Musk are right to gaze at the stars. Resources are limited on Earth; in space, they are not. The idea that we could mine asteroids for minerals, or tap into solar energy, may seem fantastical. But so did cat scans and camera phones once. Both of those are by-products of space exploration.
Who knows what benefits this new era will bring?