Jeff Bezos, founder, and CEO of Amazon, recently became the second richest person in the world after a rise in Amazon’s stock. Bezos leapfrogged Warren Buffett to sit below Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates with a personal fortune of $75.6 billion.
The news was a good excuse for a celebration and maybe even treat himself to something extravagant. But, how does the man who has everything to begin to think and dream bigger? The Amazon founder decided to put his money where his mouth is and announced he would be parting with $1 billion worth of the Internet retailer’s stock annually to fund his Blue Origin rocket company.
The masterplan is for Blue Origin to become a profitable, self-sustaining enterprise. Bezos also announced a long-term vision to dramatically to cut the cost of spaceflight so that millions of people can live and work off Earth. The concept of launching paying passengers on 11-minute space rides starting as soon as 2018 is incredibly exciting. But this excitement usually turns to disappointment upon the realization that it won’t be affordable in your lifetime.
However, Bezos sees the future very differently and is determined to make space travel as common as airline flights by bringing down the cost by 90 to 99 percent through using a reusable rocket.
I want to see an entrepreneurial explosion in space – Jeff Bezos
This latest announcement is yet another sign that we are about to embark on a new space race next year. Virgin Galatic’s Richard Branson is expecting to launch test flights in 2018 and is hoping to follow up a few months later with his own space tourism program.
500 potential customers with more money than sense have already reserved a spot on one of Branson’s trips for a hefty $250,000 per person. Meanwhile, tech experts are busy warning anyone that is willing to listen that paying a king’s ransom to put your life on the line to use first generation technology is probably not the wisest move.
Elsewhere, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is also busy preparing for a crewed mission beyond the moon for two private paying customers next year too. Musk has bigger plans than an 11-minute taster flight into space and will be sending his passengers on a week-long mission that will ‘skim the surface of the moon’ before heading into deep space.
However, Bezos was quick to play down any suggestions of a space race and advised “We are not racing, this vehicle is going to carry humans. We’re going to make it as safe as we can make it, we’re not going to take any shortcuts.”
It is often said that people change very little throughout their lives and it is nothing short of fascinating to see three of the richest, most powerful men in the world and self-confessed “space geeks” are still chasing their childhood dreams of space colonization.
There is an argument that investing obscene amounts of money into exploring space is insensitive at best considering the level of problems on our planet. With 95% of our ocean floors, unexplored many will also question why we understand more about the surface of the Moon or Mars than what occurs on the seafloor of our own planet.
However, when Stephen Hawking says the colonization of outer space is key to the survival of humankind, maybe we should listen. Hawking famously once offered a wake-up call when he reminded even the harshest critics of space exploration that our use of the finite resources of planet Earth is growing exponentially.
Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain lurking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space – Stephen Hawking
Jeff Bezos may well be the 2nd richest man in the world, but a vision of making space travel affordable for everyone, not just the elite few must be commended. I believe that anyone that is fortunate enough to see our planet from space will be changed forever and see both their world and indeed universe in a different way.
Entrepreneurs will be unleashed, you will see creativity, you will see dynamism, you will see the same thing in space that I’ve witnessed on the internet for the past 20 years – Jeff Bezos
Sure it’s easy to criticize this latest move by Bezos and co, but I think I agree with Steve Jobs when he said, here’s to the crazy ones. Now more than ever we need the big thinkers of the world to show us how the impossible is actually possible in our lifetime.
Six months before the obligatory tech trends of 2018 appear, we already have a heavy hint that space travel will dominate next year. Although it sounds implausible at the moment, these recent announcements all suggest space tourism will be a reality in 2018.
Many will be incredibly excited at the prospect of their dream being achievable in their lifetime, Meanwhile, others will scoff that it will never happen and it’s just a ruse to stop you thinking about what is happening on our own planet, so we can expect polarized opinions, whatever happens in the next 12 months.
If millions of people from around the world get to see planet Earth from the outside, imagine the seeds of inspiration it could plant and the changes it will bring. However, for the same reasons that I avoid the first generation of any technology, I will probably sit out the first year’s flights, but will you?