The Truth About Why Bezos & Musk Are Aiming High
How a billionaires’ conspiracy that’s literally out of this world is shaping the future of space technology
It’s impossible not to be bombarded with stories and pictures about Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, each spending billions of dollars to design and build machines to blast people out of Earth’s gravity well. Musk pretends he’s doing it for the benefit of humanity. But as Musk claims everything he does is for the benefit of humanity (see his eight-hour-long TED talk on how his daily visit to his blockchain-enabled all-electric toilet makes an amazing contribution to the Earth’s biosphere) we can be excused a little skepticism. Bezos is less disingenuous, merely saying that he hopes to make space tourism affordable for the masses. Presumably he means the masses who’ve made millions from tech stock options and can thus afford a trifling $200,000 for a brief ride to the edge of space before falling rapidly back to Earth.
Although manufacturing rockets and then blasting them up into space is incredibly polluting, no one seems to mind because it evokes visions of Captain Kirk boldly going somewhere or other while enjoying all the benefits of magical artificial gravity with none of Einstein’s troublesome relativity to get in the way of the fun. (Reality is such a downer, which is why so many people prefer to avoid it altogether.)
Unlike Bezos, whose ambitions seem rather pedestrian compared to Musk’s typical grandiose hyperbole (“all of humanity will be living on Mars by 2024!!”), Musk doesn’t see any impediments to swaddling the Earth with tiny orbiting testimonials to his ego. His Starlink satellite constellations have already caused huge harm to terrestrial astronomy and will soon make it nearly impossible for any ground-based observatories to function. But who cares about boring science when there are TED talks to be performed, gullible investors to be fleeced (sorry, not fleeced; “offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to invest in a truly visionary enterprise!”), and all harmful consequences to be ignored?
So there are our two famous billionaires each pouring their efforts into scientifically pointless space toys and talking up a storm.