Opinion and Editorial

KT edit: Billionaires are leading the new space race

Filed on June 7, 2021

Musk is in the lead with his reusable SpaceX rockets and has plans for an ocean launchpad.

The billionaire space race is on and established agencies like Nasa are playing second fiddle to private firms run by the super-rich in Space Odyssey 2.0. The private boom in space travel was fuelled by Richard Branson, who launched Virgin Galactic. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and serial entrepreneur Elon Musk of Tesla are only taking it higher. Ambition knows no bounds with the two men in different corners slugging it out with huge investments and their innate ability to innovate on the go. Even the famed US space agency is now relying on private rocket and satellite firms run by these corporate czars to get its astronauts out there. Bezos and Musk are eager and willing to pioneers of the new space age.

Cyberspace, it seems, is passe for these billionaires and Bezos, who will soon step down as CEO of the e-commerce giant Amazon, could reach the edge of space with his brother Mark next month. A rocket built by his company Blue Origin, named New Sheperd, will take them there. Bezos, who is worth a staggering $189 billion, made the announcement on Instagram and the world is delighted. One wonders what these corporate titans cannot do. A boom in corporate space travel cannot be ruled out with the Amazon chief’s mission into space. Blue Origin is selling the third seat in the capsule to the highest bidder and there appears to be many takers, with reports saying the bidding price has already reached $2.8 million. One wonders what the final price will be when bids close on June 12.

But this is clearly a space race between Musk and Bezos. Musk is in the lead with his reusable SpaceX rockets and has plans for an ocean launchpad. But Bezos has time on his hands after he steps down as CEO later next month to focus on his space ventures. Both are willing to take risks and push the limits of space travel. While Musk has a head start, Bezos is putting his name out there, personally making a trip to show he means business. They are a study in contrasts: Bezos is slow and steady while Musk is in a hurry to conquer other worlds. The Tesla founder wants to build a city on the Red Planet while the Amazon chief is imagining floating cities in space. With the pandemic limiting travel here on the earth, the ultra-rich could be inspired by Bezos’ personal journey into space. It could give a major fillip to the industry that is now being increasingly driven by the private sector. This race promises to be a clash of the titans — of ideas, expertise and innovation. May the best billionaire win.

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