Saturday’s debate: Should billionaires pursue space tourism?

“While there are undeniably serious problems we face here on Earth, many economic, technological and social solutions will come from the advancement of space tourism,” he writes. Valerie Stimac. On the flip side, “although it is up to you how you spend your money, if a commercial flight to space is in your price range, ask yourself if you could get more for your money by leaving one. a better world for your children and grandchildren, “writes Sadie rae werner.


Valerie Stimac

Author of “Dark Skies: A Practical Guide to Astrotourism”

It has been a busy time in the skies of the southern United States this summer. Within days, two companies – both founded by billionaires – launched their first flights into space with customers on board.

In the case of Virgin Galactic, founder Sir Richard Branson boarded a flight that took him over New Mexico; Less than 10 days later, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos took off from his West Texas ranch where his space company, Blue Origin is launching. Meanwhile, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has regularly made headlines while testing his company’s massive Starship project, which could one day bring colonists to Mars.

Bring those names and you’ll hear a myriad of responses, ranging from excitement to a desire to reallocate the hundreds of billions these three men have earned on their own.

In the United States, where most of the billionaires who typically get into this debate have made their fortunes, the government and the people it represents do not decide how individuals spend them. It can certainly be changed; for now, we must be content to debate the issues and advocate change through the ballot box.

All is not lost though, as there are benefits to allowing billionaires to spend their money setting up space tourism businesses and transporting other ultra-rich people to space.

The space tourism industry is expected to exceed US $ 1 billion over the next decade. While this looks like pockets that are already full, it actually represents jobs in a number of industries: you need more than rocket scientists and engineers for suborbital flights.

There will certainly be a lot of high paying tech jobs, but also a number of white collar and blue collar jobs who will receive paychecks for their support work. New space tourism businesses are stimulating in the same way that every new industry since the Industrial Revolution has developed the economy.

Through space exploration, NASA has devised solutions to problems we no longer have on Earth, using technologies like memory foam, insulin pumps, and scratch-resistant eyeglass lenses.

While there is a great deal of skepticism about the likelihood that a single flight or space tourism company could develop life-changing technology on Earth, it is clear that part of the moral imperative for these billionaire founders understands technological progress. After all, many of them have made their fortunes in the tech industry. That’s why Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic conducted science experiments and carried science payloads on test flights and their first passenger flights.

Finally, there is something to be said about the possibility that even a few of the tourists who make the space trip will return psychologically altered by their experience.

The “Big Picture Effect” was a term first coined by writer Frank White in 1987 to describe the constellation of thoughts and emotions that some astronauts report experiencing while observing Earth. from space.

Specifically, many astronauts report a deep sense of connection to their home planet and a greater appreciation for the precarious nature of our planet’s delicate inhabitable ecosystem. Seeing Earth’s thin atmosphere gives an idea of ​​the extent to which we need to take care of our planet, and many return home with a deeper commitment to environmental and social causes.

While not all astronauts have experienced this effect – and not all space tourists will – one can only imagine the ability to effect change when those who return home are not civil servants and pilots. , but those with deep pockets and the ability to invest in the changes advocated by those who oppose space tourism in the first place.

In some ways, the way to get (other) billionaires to solve the world’s problems may be by setting up rocket companies and sending them into space where they can have a real perspective on the issues and their lives. commit to solving them.

While there are undeniably serious problems we face here on Earth, many of the economic, technological and social solutions will come from the advancement of space tourism. It may not be easy to predict the impact of this nascent industry now; just like aviation and computing – which experts questioned even in their early days – the positive effects for life here on Earth will likely far exceed what we can predict today.

Valerie Stimac is the author of “Dark Skies: A Practical Guide to Astrotourism”.


Sadie rae werner

Author of the newsletter “Horse of a Different Color” on Substack

It finally happened, at age 90, Scotty teleported Captain Kirk.

After all these years on an SS Enterprise built from tin foil, cardboard and hot glue, 90-year-old William Shatner has become the oldest person to ever go to space. For 10 minutes, Jeff Bezos’ second manned flight of Blue Origin propelled the celebrity millionaire, along with three others, into the landscape that served as the backdrop for his on-screen team.

Shatner’s trip to space and the tearful interview that followed was part of an effort to promote Blue Origin and encourage more millionaires to consider space travel for their next vacation. As of July, Blue Origin had $ 100 million in ticket sales – of which $ 28 million was paid by a single bidder; Blue Origin trips are really only for the wealthy.

Shatner, after returning to Earth, described the experience as “the deepest I can imagine” and said “everyone has to do it”. But at what cost ?

When Bezos went to space in a cowboy hat in July with three other passengers, the four-minute trip cost $ 5.5 billion. Bezos explained that his motivation for Blue Origin was to “take a step back”. Twitter responded to this comment appropriately, suggesting that if Bezos was looking to take a step back, he might consider visiting a COVID-19 department or end hunger in the world.

In Van Horn, Texas, the Blue Origin launch site, 28.5% of the population, or one in 3.5, currently lives below the poverty line. While there is no doubt that Shatner and Bezos took a step back from their suborbital flights, it is fair to wonder why men with so much money, and an alleged desire to broaden their horizons, would not choose to do so. exposing themselves to countless problems. on earth.

How far could Bezos’ $ 5.5 billion have gone? For the money spent on his July trip, Bezos could have saved 37.5 million people from hunger; fully funded humanitarian efforts in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Yemen and the Horn of Africa; and helping poor countries adapt to climate change, to name just a few of the elements identified by Global Citizen in their analysis.

While Bezos and other wealthier members of society are not obligated to spend their money on humanitarian causes, the debate remains on whether there is a moral obligation to do so.

If Blue Origin’s intention is to provide an opportunity to take a step back, potential ticket buyers may want to consider taking Twitter’s advice and directing their dangerous tourism to an area made uninhabitable by the effects of the change. climate, then decide if they have a better idea of ​​how they should spend their money.

It should also not be ignored that Bezos has benefited financially from the pandemic more than most. During lockdowns, lingering concerns about new variants and supply shortages, we have become incredibly dependent on Amazon to fill in the gaps.

We continued to use Amazon, despite knowing how it treated warehouse workers, as it was our perceived best option. Bezos might want to take the money he invested in his four-minute trip and consider doing some good, even if for no other reason than to improve his public image.

This is our world. The issues we face today, from climate change to the pandemic, social inequalities, poverty and many more, are all our issues; they concern us all, even if the line is not always straight. None of these problems will resolve on their own, and some are in a better position to help than others.

While how you spend your money is up to you, if a commercial flight to space is in your price range, ask yourself if you could get more for your money by leaving a better world for your children and toddlers. -children.

These men did not go boldly where no man has gone before. To be bold would have been to take the money spent sending millionaires on commercial flights into space and tackle one of the crises we face here on Earth.

Sadie rae werner is a third year law student at the University of Windsor and author of the Horse of a Different Color newsletter on Substack.

Comments are closed.