Wednesday, January 19

For our sake, let’s hope Jeff Bezos’ space travel is just a midlife crisis | Gaby hinsliff

ORA very small step for humanity, a giant ego trip for Jeff Bezos. The richest man in the world ejaculated into space this week, in what was not the first suborbital tourist flight (Richard Branson hit him there), but definitely the fastest. “Everyone who has been in space says that it changes them”, Bezos said seriously, from a journey that lasted about the time it takes to boil an egg.

If you say so, Jeff. But it was very much like the intergalactic equivalent of one of those cruise ships where a large herd is thrown ashore for a brief, bewildered stomp on the nearest landmark before circling it and taking it to the next port. Sure you have condition to Venice, technically. But what was Venice, again?

Regardless, Bezos, 57, said that seeing our blue and green orb from space made him appreciate its fragility, so there is no sarcastic comment on whether the cowboy hat he insisted on wearing only screams “crisis of the middle age “or how much your rocket ship looks like. a penis (a lot, as you ask). “I want to thank all the Amazon employees and all the Amazon customers,” Bezos said hazy afterward. “Because you paid for all this.” Well yes, in a very real sense we did. And now we would like to get our money back. Someone calculated that the roughly $ 5.5 billion the trip had cost might have bought enough food to stop. 37.5 million people starving.

Compare and contrast your ex-wife, Mackenzie Scott, who intends to give away a $ 38 billion divorce settlement that she says was “enabled by systems that need to change,” and already dispensed $ 8.5bn to causes including food banks, African American universities, and women’s-led charities. All of Amazon’s employees and customers paid for it too, but perhaps with a little less reluctance. If only there were some kind of mechanism, ideally run by governments on behalf of their nations, whereby people with more money than they can possibly spend would have to redistribute something to people without whom they couldn’t. Crazy idea, obviously, although less crazy than Bezos’s suggestion to move all the polluting industries on earth into space, to protect our fragile planet by ruining another in its place.

Your plans to bring paying tourists into orbit may still fail because this is the nicest niche market. It won’t say how much a ticket would cost, but suffice it to say, if you need to ask, then you can’t afford it. (An unidentified person paid $ 28 million at auction for a seat on this inaugural flight, before crying at the last minute alleging “scheduling conflicts,” leaving one wondering what kind of person is too busy to go boldly. to where no hedge funder has been before; the seat was eventually filled by the 18-year-old son of a Dutch financier).

But like Branson and Elon Musk, his fellow dystopian adventurers in space, Bezos sees opportunities for commercial exploitation of some kind beyond this earthly realm, and he wants to enter the ground floor. Branson believes there could be a market for using rockets to move people super fast between cities on Earth, more like Concorde, only more. Musk appears determined to corner an emerging private sector market in transporting crew and cargo to space stations, created by cuts to NASA’s publicly funded spaceflight program.

If Bezos’s flying phallus represented little more than a restless billionaire’s attempt to kill the emptiness within, then it might be irritating, but ultimately it wouldn’t matter. It would be what happens when you get so rich and powerful that no one is left with the guts to tell you that the hat looks ridiculous, and so does a business model seemingly based on exploiting warehouse workers while serving other millionaires. a ride at the glorified fairgrounds. in the space.

But if what it actually heralds is the unbridled commercial exploitation of the pristine environment by an elite group of super-millionaires more powerful than many governments, encouraged by the unbridled way they were allowed to operate on Earth to believe that they can do Same thing in heaven, well, Houston, we have a problem. I better hope for everyone’s sake that this is really a middle-aged vanity project after all.

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