Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos Ventures Open Space Travel to All
Branson, Bezos ventures may open space travel to all. Launch of a new era or flights of fancy?
Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have brought renewed attention to space travel with their journeys, but their ventures have also drawn criticism.
The space travel pursuits by British entrepreneur Richard Branson last week and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on Tuesday are evoking awe and wonder among enthusiasts and even casual observers, conjuring visions of a day when such flights may become fairly ordinary.
Proponents say these efforts will whet the public’s appetite, help expedite technological advancements and pave the way for economies of scale that will make such journeys relatively affordable.
“I truly think we’re at the verge of the dawn of a new era where hopefully airline space travel becomes as commonplace as airline travel,’’ said Ron Garan, a former NASA astronaut and the author of the new book “Floating in Darkness.” “It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but these are the baby steps that will lead to that.’’
But the ventures to space also have their share of critics eager to bring them down to Earth, seeing them as the vanity projects of billionaires.
After reaching the edge of space with a five-person crew aboard a spacecraft from his company Virgin Galactic on July 11, Branson said he wanted to “make space more accessible to all.’’
The expected price of $250,000 a seat when the firm begins commercial spaceflights as early as next year strains the definition of “accessible.’’
No wonder some prominent figures are voicing their disapproval, noting there are plenty of problems on this very planet – world hunger, the coronavirus pandemic and climate change among the most pressing ones – that could use the resources and attention of wealthy businessmen such as Branson, Bezos and fellow space travel investor Elon Musk.
Nelson chaired the Space Subcommittee in the House before serving three terms in the U.S. Senate, where he was Sanders’ colleague.
“He passionately believes the little guy has often been left behind, and I certainly understand that,’’ Nelson said. “But when it comes to the American system of being able to use money that you have been blessed to have, and to do it for something that’s pushing the limits of research and development, then I think it’s great that these billionaires are doing that.’’
He also cites a number of other advantages from the Branson, Bezos and Musk endeavors, including the possibility they could spur new developments that may enhance airline travel and considerably shorten flight times.“
And it’s starting an industry that doesn’t exist right now, so there are economic benefits, jobs, technological advancements, motivation for kids to study and being a part of it,’’ Garan said. “It’s inspirational.
There’s going to be research conducted and scientific discoveries. So those folks who say this is just a vanity project between billionaires who have too much money and don’t know what to do with it are not seeing the whole picture.’’