Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson’s voyage into space: Is the experience worth it?

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin expedition was a success. The founder of Amazon is currently the richest man in the world with his net worth exceeding $200 billion (that’s nearly 20,000 crores of USD). Multiply that with the current exchange rate and you get his worth in INR. These are mindboggling numbers and it all started from Bezos’ garage.

After coming back from his expedition, Bezos shared a video of his journey on his Instagram handle. In it, you can see the spacecraft taking flight and entering outer space.

In the beginning of July, Bezos stepped down as the CEO of Amazon to focus on space expeditions and his company – Blue Origin (something he founded in 2000).


Earlier, in an interview with Business Insider, Bezos had highlighted his vision. “I want to take the assets that I have from Amazon and translate that into the heavy-lifting infrastructure that will allow the next generation to have dynamic entrepreneurialism in space — kind of build that transportation network. That's what's going on, that's what Blue Origin's mission is. If we can do that, then the whole thing will take off and there will be thousands of companies doing creative things,” he had said.


Recently, Richard Branson reached the edge of space too in his Virgin Galactic rocket plane. The 71-year-old entrepreneur is an adventure junkie and has previously tried his hand at powerboat crossing and hot-air ballooning. Branson’s Virgin Galactic Unity vehicle flew above New Mexico at an altitude higher than 80 km. At this point, visitors can see the Earth’s horizon from above and even experience a few minutes of weightlessness where they are allowed to float.


After coming back from space, he gave a press conference. “I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid, but honestly nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space. The whole thing was just magical,” he said.


A long time in the making


Branson had announced his intention to make a space plane in 2004 itself. However, technical difficulties prevented the project from seeing the light of the day. It was definitely one of the most challenging ventures of Branson’s life.


Along with Branson, there were three other people on the flight. They were Beth Moses (Chief Astronaut Instructor), Colin Bennett (Lead Flight Operations Engineer) and Sirisha Bandla (Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations).


Branson’s mission is to make space travel possible for all. “We are at the vanguard of a new industry determined to pioneer twenty-first century spacecraft, which will open space to everybody — and change the world for good,” he said on Virgin Galactic’s official website. As of now, the cost of one ticket is around $250,000 (Rs. 1.86 crore). You can win a ticket for free though by registering on Omaze.com.


Elon Musk – it’s his turn now


Elon Musk’s SpaceX is building Starship – a vehicle capable of taking 100 people to Mars. He believes that humans will need to start living in space in order to survive extinction. “History is going to bifurcate along two directions. One path is we stay on Earth forever, and then there will be some eventual extinction event. The alternative is to become a spacefaring civilisation and a multi-planet species, which I hope you would agree is the right way to go,” he said in an international conference in Mexico.


Interestingly, Elon Musk’s first journey as a space traveller may not be in his own company’s vehicle. He is one of the people who has signed up for a Virgin Galactic flight and is a good friend of Branson.


Is the experience worth the money?


Even though people are willing to pay huge sums to travel to space, it’ll take a long time for Branson and others to make a significant profit out of it. Some people have their reservations as you aren’t allowed to stay in space for a lot of time.


It’s not just the money that is at stake. It’s a person’s life too. In 2014, a developmental flight called VSS Enterprise by Branson crashed and proved to be fatal for one of the astronauts. Testing the limits of human development comes with its set of risks and if one of the flights go wrong, it’ll spell doom for the space tourism industry.


There’s also the argument that this money could be used for humanitarian reasons. There’s a lot of poverty in the world and millions can’t afford to eat food. They go to sleep hungry. It doesn’t take a lot of money to provide basic meals and save hunger-related deaths especially in these difficult times.


Climate change is real and some critics of the expeditions believe that earth’s billionaires will be the only ones who’ll be able to survive apocalypse.


References:

1. Watch: Jeff Bezos floats in space shuttle, passes Skittles in zero gravity (Hindustan Times)

2. Bezos, Branson & Musk — Are billionaires popularising space travel or just on an ego trip? (The Print)

3. What is Elon Musk's Starship? (BBC)

4. Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and where space really begins (Mint)

5. Did Richard Branson really fly into space? Neil deGrasse Tyson weighs in (Hindustan Times)

6. Virgin Galactic Announces First Fully Crewed Spaceflight (Virgin Galactic’s official website)

7. First coronavirus, now starvation: hunger stalks millions of Indians plunged into extreme poverty (The Telegraph)