From a bold study to another playground for 0.0000001 percent
L.In the summer, at a time when the pandemic was straining the finances of many people, inflation was rising and unemployment was still high, the sight of the richest man in the world having fun in space hit a nerve. On July 20, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos reached the edge of space aboard a rocket built by his company Blue Origin. A few weeks earlier, ProPublica revealed that it had not paid income tax for two years, while in other years it paid a rate of only 0.98 percent. Many who watched were saddened when Bezos thanked Amazon workers whose low-paid work enriched him enough to start his own rocket company, although Amazon stopped workers’ efforts to unite a few months ago. Not helped by the fact that another billionaire, Richard Branson, had launched his own company’s rocket just a week earlier.
COVID has changed the willingness of many people to give up the excess of the rich. The pandemic has made it impossible to ignore the distinction between those who could literally flee our world and the rest of us stuck on earth facing the Earth’s woes: racism, climate change, global diseases. Even several members of Congress expressed their disagreement with Bezas. “Space travel is not a tax-free vacation for the rich,” said spokesman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. Bezos and Branson, illuminating themselves as passengers, downplayed the work that hundreds of scientists and engineers from Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic have invested in the design, construction and testing of their spacecraft. It also masked the reality that successes in private spaceflight could eventually pay off in greater access to space for all and additional research opportunities that could benefit all. All their flights gave the impression that space, which has historically been seen as a brave pursuit for the benefit of all mankind, has just become another platform for 0.0000001 percent.
This article was originally published under the title “Billionaire space tourists have become unbearable” in Scientific American 326, 3, 55 (March 2022)
DOI: 10.1038 / scientificamerican0322-55
Billionaires’ space tourism has become unbearable
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