The Space Race of the 1960s saw the American and Soviet space programs repeatedly revolutionize technology in an attempt to prove their nation superior.
Space travel was once about the public benefits of advancing technology. Without the Space Race we wouldn’t have cordless tools, satellite navigation, smoke detectors or water filters: simple inventions that would only be possible by pushing beyond the vail of what was once possible.
Sixty years later, the modern space race isn’t a noble game of patriotism dedicated to bettering mankind; it’s a petty competition between the world’s billionaires to see who can reach space faster and capitalize on that fact.
Companies like Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are run not with the best interests of humanity in mind, but the interests of men whose world views consist solely of profit incentives and ego. The innovations that these companies make are not to make space travel and life on Earth easier but to make money.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon and Blue Origin founder and one of the world’s richest men, is preparing for his voyage on the inaugural flight of the New Shepard rocket.
After a previous passenger who won a seat on the historic flight for $28 million had to back out due to scheduling conflicts, Bezos will be joined on his historic flight by his brother, 82-year-old member of the Mercury 13 Wally Funk and an 18-year-old Dutch teenager—set to be the youngest person in the history of space travel.
At the same time, Virgin Galactic founder and fellow billionaire Richard Branson fast tracked his own launch to one-up the Lex Luther-esque CEO.
Branson’s flight occurred on July 11. Bezos is set to embark on his journey on July 20. Branson’s flight nothing more than an ego trip to make him the first billionaire in space before his rival.
At least when two of the world’s super powers raced to space, it was seen as strategic to beat their opponent. These billionaires have nothing at stake but their intergalactic egos.
No matter how many times billionaires like Branson say how much they “believe that space belongs to all of us,” their priorities aren’t preparing mankind for the future and learning to make our species better don’t matter to Bezos and Branson, profiting off space tourism does.
The men behind modern space travel care more about how much money they take to the grave than whether they leave the world a better place.
A ride on Branson’s Virgin Galactic runs intrepid travelers a ludicrous $250,000 for a flight that lasts up to 15 minutes. And that’s on the cheaper side. Sure, these prices are going to decrease as space tourism becomes more affordable. But that won’t change the purpose of people like Bezos sending rockets into space: cold hard profit.
No matter how many times these billionaires say their “experience of a lifetime,” as Branson said in a midflight livestream, will benefit all of humanity, it’s very clear that their goals remain separate from that of the rest of humanity.
“If you see Earth from space, it changes you. It changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity. It’s one Earth. It’s an adventure,” Bezos said.
Bezos’ company Amazon and others like it have ironically exacerbated wealth inequality by exploiting the working class’s labor. These billionaires don’t care about the rest of humanity except that they are mere tools for their accumulation of wealth and to stroke their egos.
Don’t let news of Bezos, Branson and Musk race to shoot multibillion dollar rockets into orbit fool you. They aren’t going to help fix Earth’s problems like the last space race: they’re just trying to distract from the real issues.
There's a reason people aren't opposed to seeing Bezos not return when his ship reenters Earth's atmosphere.
Domenic Purdy is 20-year-old journalism junior from Prairieville.