This still image from the Blue Origin video shows Jeff Bezos, founder of the space company, during the July 20th space flight.
Blue Origin / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images
The richest man on earth briefly lost this title on Tuesday morning, but only because he was no longer on earth for a few floating minutes.
has spent two decades making his
Fortune to draw a rocket company, Blue Origin. The company started on Tuesday his first manned flight Into space with Mr. Bezos aboard the capsule.
After Mr. Bezos. had driven the New Shepard rocket to Mach 3, experienced weightlessness and parachuted back to the Texas desert, thanked the engineers and crew, together with “every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, because you paid for it all”.
It is easy to dismiss this as a joy ride, which was partly the case, or a treat from a wealthy man with attention deficit disorder. But in terms of billionaire hobbies, this is more productive than owning the Washington Post. “The architecture and technology we have chosen,” said Mr Bezos, “is completely over the top for a suborbital tourism mission.” This is because the mission is not limited to expensive thrills.
Tourism is only the first rung on the space ladder. Blue Origin has two more manned flights on its schedule this year, and Mr Bezos said the company is nearing $ 100 million in private sales. Virgin Galactic has pre-sold hundreds of tickets for its space plane, which its founder Richard Branson flew into zero gravity last week.
It’s not clear how big this tourism market will be, but competition is clearly well underway as Blue Origin brags that their capsule has larger windows than the other’s. As these companies outperform each other, costs will come down. Technological advances like reusable rockets that land vertically have already lowered the price of shipping cargo into space.
The money paid by wealthy passengers will also help these companies go higher. Blue Origin has other projects in the works including a New Glenn rocket that will be large enough to put satellites into orbit. Mr. Musk is known to strive for Mars. The benefits of all of this are difficult to pinpoint, but that is in the nature of exploration and entrepreneurial risk taking.
Several companies are working on constellations of small satellites that could broadcast high-speed internet to remote areas where it is lacking. Novel uses of technology are harder to predict, but surprises happen when bright minds try to be the first to reach a milestone. No one who worked on America’s first satellite missions in the 1950s and 1960s could have imagined that the Global Positioning System, or GPS, would one day save millions of people and Uber drivers from getting lost.
Mr Bezos has reportedly invested around $ 1 billion annually in Blue Origin, which is not a small sum, but it will pay off if another competitor reaches for the stars. It may look like a little getaway to Mr. Bezos, but it’s another big leap for America’s commercial space business.
Journal Editorial Report: The Week’s Best and Worst by Kim Strassel, Kyle Peterson, Mary O’Grady, and Dan Henninger. Image: Virgin Galactic / EPA / Shutterstock / Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly
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Published in the print edition on July 21, 2021.