The super-rich in space: a flash in the pan?

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos took his own spaceship on an eleven-minute trip into space on Tuesday, just a week and a half after entrepreneur Richard Branson's space flight. Both billionaires plan to offer commercial space travel in the future, and Elon Musk also runs a space company. The space race is drawing a lot of criticism - but some observers say the accusations are oversimplified.

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Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

A huge waste of money

Not everyone is happy about the race of the hyper-rich into space, Hospodářské noviny notes:

“For example campaigners against global poverty like Deepak Xavier, Oxfam International's Global Head of Inequality Campaign, which is one of the world's largest non-profit organisations, reacted angrily. He's particularly disturbed by the fact that Bezos and other billionaires are being allowed to pay minimum taxes while the pandemic left more than eight million Americans in poverty by the end of 2020. The Amazon boss's fortune nearly doubled to 208 billion dollars within a year during the pandemic. The hypothetical tax on Amazon's profits proposed by Oxfam would have been enough to finance the vaccination of nearly 600 million people.”

Le Point (FR) /

We're no better

The former Amazon boss is holding up a mirror to us all, philosopher Sophie Chassat explains in Le Point:

“All of this isn't as simple as it looks. Sure, the billionaire is 'taking off'. But he's also keeping his feet on the ground and setting up his 10 billion dollar Bezos Earth Fund to fight climate change. ... What Jeff Bezos' exaggerated and cartoonishly contradictory behaviour points us to is the extreme ambivalence that characterises all of us. ... In everyday life we vacillate, we contradict ourselves. Jeff Bezos' journey into space should make us think: about the firm decisions that each of us make, and the difficulties we have when it comes to sticking to them.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Childish competition

The obsession of the super-rich with self-profiling knows no bounds, writes the Tages-Anzeiger:

“Branson hadn't even taken off before Bezos' company was already criticising the whole thing: Branson was only travelling in an airplane whereas Bezos was flying into space in a rocket ... . I wonder if the universe is big enough for the egos of these men? Elon Musk, the third of these brothers in spirit, stayed out of the whole debate. Probably because he's been planning much bigger things for a long time - he wants to colonise space. The fact that the era of space tourism is beginning so childishly is to be welcomed insofar as it makes it clear from the start what it's all about: ego boosting. And business.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Soon a billion-dollar business

Branson's flight was by no means just about fulfilling a boyhood dream, The Irish Times explains:

“It was also a hardheaded business venture to prove the viability, technical and commercial, of mass tourism in space - 600 customers of Virgin Galactic have each already paid 200,000 or more for as-yet unscheduled tickets to do the same. ... In a report in 2019 Swiss bank UBS predicted, however, that within a decade high-speed travel via outer space will represent an annual market of at least 20 billion and be competitive with long-distance airline flights, while space tourism alone will be a 3 billion market.”

De Tijd (BE) /

Unworldly ambition

De Tijd sees Branson and co. as positive role models:

“They seek to push through the frontiers of what we know and can do. They give the words 'science and innovation', which too few young people are enthusiastic about, an adventurous spin: discovering, inventing, pushing boundaries. ... In this respect, the journey into space is a success story. Of course there are reservations. ... Nevertheless now, for once, we can also marvel at their boundless ambition and drive. Branson and Bezos show that it's possible to become rich enough in one lifetime to start a space company and realise a childhood dream all on your own.”

The Times (GB) /

Branson and Bezos no match for baby beavers

Fortunately what the people really care about is the state of their own planet and not the space adventures of billionaires, writes The Times:

“There was more excitement yesterday about the first baby beaver being born on Exmoor for 400 years than the private space race; more interest in re-wilding than boldly going to new intergalactic wilderness. It may be fascinating for Nasa, the US space agency, to have discovered water on the moon, but a more crucial issue now is the polluting of our own rivers and oceans. ... Half a century ago, the world's great challenge was to push the limits of human understanding by discovering new planets. Now it is to save our own.” (DE) /

Put an end to the ignorance

According to the UN’s latest report on food security and nutrition, a tenth of the global population is undernourished as a result of the pandemic. says too little money is going to where it's really needed:

“This is becoming more and more absurd. Three billionaires are competing to fly into space with their playmobiles: faster, higher, farther. ... Why doesn't the world put as much energy, technology and money into developing our food systems as the superbrains put into realising their space dreams? ... It's time to put an end to the ignorance. We have to change our global food and market system. ... The fight against hunger must be as united as the fight against the Covid pandemic. ”