THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE


Everyone had ideas of what the new decade might hold but, so far, one thing many people never thought we would experience, besides the coronavirus pandemic – and the global lockdown that came with it -, is the billionaire space race we are currently witnessing. On Sunday, July 11, Richard Branson went to space, aboard his Virgin Galactic shuttle. He spent 15 minutes in space and reached the point of zero gravity. Almost two weeks later, Jeff Bezos also went to space, and while he did not break any record himself, his crew included 18-year-old Oliver Damean, who became the youngest person in space, as well as 80-year-old Wally Funk, who became the oldest person in space. Remember Wally Funk? Tesla boss Elon Musk is expected to take a trip to space soon, although he has not given any specific details about it.

The news of wealthy men going to space is not something most people are excited about. Going to space is a very expensive adventure, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, which many critics argue could be used to help out here on earth. A seat on Bezos’ New Shepherd reportedly cost $28 million, which is a lot of money to pay to spend a few minutes outside the earth’s atmosphere. It is figures like this that make people see these adventures to space as nothing more than a rich flex with no actual value of any kind.

On the other hand, there are those who are quite delighted about this competition to get to space among these billionaires. They see it as something that would drive innovation and would, over time, make it cheaper and easier to take a trip to space. This is in line with Branson’s idea of Virgin Galactic. It is a space tourism company that would offer people trips to space. It does not come cheap though, reportedly being priced at $250,000, but the prospects it offers make it worth it. If it gains momentum as expected, space flights could become way cheaper than that in 10-20 years.

As far as innovation and exploration go, the involvement of more parties in the space industry would drive things further. Just a decade ago, only Government agencies like NASA, had a say in space flights. But now, NASA is partnering with Space X to send humans to the moon in 2024.

While it is agreed that a lot should be done to rescue the planet from decay, it should not stop people from exploring beyond the horizon and breaking limits once thought impossible. Advance space tech could also impact aviation, making flights faster, safer, and cheaper. It would also allow us to learn more about the universe, which in turn would help us.

The space race in the 1960s may have been fueled by power rivalry between the East and West, but this time around, it is being propelled by rich men who have the means to drive innovation and progress in the space industry. No doubt, the actions they are taking today would bear fruits in the future, and it is not as distant as one may think.

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