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The space race

Bezos’s trip will benefit us all

When Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos announced that they would be “rocketing into space”, it was inevitable that “resentment and carping” would follow, say Greg Autry and Laura Huang in Foreign Policy. Bernie Sanders tweeted that in “the richest country on the planet”, people live “paycheck to paycheck”, struggling to feed their families, “but hey, the richest guys in the world are off in outer space”. These billionaire games are “dangerous stunts”, moan critics, a “contest of egos” wasting hundreds of millions of dollars that could be better spent here on Earth.

Of course this is the ultimate contest of egos, but “egos exist for a reason”. Without egotism you don’t get innovation and human progress. New industrial trends have always required “self-promoting entrepreneurs” such as Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs. While hard work should speak for itself, “it doesn’t”: bombast and self-promotion are “prerequisites for success”. Branson, Bezos and their fellow space pioneer Elon Musk are masters of these “essential tools”. And the public benefits of this showing off could be “limitless”. Would we rather see billionaires using their cash to build a new industry, creating high-paying jobs, and finding resources for humanity in asteroids and so on, or watch them buying another superyacht? We should “enjoy the show, and savour the possibilities”. 

Why it matters Blasting billionaires into space is good for life back home in all sorts of ways, says aerospace analyst Miles O’Brien in The Washington Post. Solar power can be generated in orbit with much greater efficiency and beamed back to Earth, for example, and “asteroids can be mined for minerals”. Billionaires have the resources to put Americans back in space – unlike Nasa, they don’t have to wrestle with government bureaucracy. 

Read the full article here (paywall).