Jeff Bezos, Richest Man on Earth, Fires Back at Criticisms of Spending Money on Space Flight

by Jennifer Shea

Jeff Bezos headed for outer space today. But before he suited up for his journey, he took time out to respond to critics of his suborbital joy ride.

The Amazon founder is worth approximately $202.8 billion as of today, according to Forbes. And some have pointed out that his money might be better spent on the problems plaguing planet Earth.

CNN’s Rachael Crane asked Bezos about those criticisms recently. And Bezos acknowledged that they are “largely right.”

However, he added, “We have to do both.” He cast this space flight as a step toward a future in which space is more accessible to humans. Bezos said he wants Blue Origin, his aerospace company, to eventually become like the commercial airline companies.

“If we can do that, we’ll be building a road to space for the next generations to do amazing things there,” Bezos said. “And those amazing things will solve problems here on Earth.”

Jeff Bezos Sought Taxpayer Funding for Blue Origin

Recently, a Senate measure to give Blue Origin a second moon lander contract ran into bipartisan opposition. Lawmakers from both parties said Bezos doesn’t need the money. (The first moon lander contract went to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, after which Blue Origin, a runner-up, filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office.)

The $10 billion authorization was part of China competition legislation, the Wall Street Journal reported. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) had reportedly pushed for the second moon lander contract.

But Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who represents a district in Seattle, told the Journal that, considering that Bezos is the richest man in the world, his company doesn’t need a government “handout.”

Bezos Reached Lower Regions of Space

On Tuesday, Jeff Bezos and three fellow passengers – his brother, Mark; 82-year-old Wally Funk, who participated in NASA’s Mercury program but has never been to space herself; and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, a Dutch student – made it to outer space. They traveled there in the New Shepard, a re-usable spacecraft created by Blue Origin.

The countdown stopped at the 15-minute mark for reasons which remain unclear. But otherwise, the journey was problem-free. Liftoff went smoothly, and the passengers got to experience weightlessness once up in space.

Then they got a one-minute warning to strap back in for the return to Earth. The passenger capsule separated from the rocket, which returned to the company’s launch pad in west Texas. The capsule, equipped with three large parachutes, slowly fell back to the desert from which it had taken off.

According to Variety, in private Blue Origin footage aired by some TV networks, Bezos could be heard saying upon landing, “Best. Day. Ever.”

The Blue Origin flight follows a similar journey to space by billionaire Richard Branson in his Virgin Galactic supersonic space plane. Branson made it to outer space on July 11, a journey which he said heralded “the dawn of a new space age.”

Whether their journeys represent a milestone for commercial space travel or a new hobby for the super-rich remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: both billionaires seem to have had a pretty good time on their respective trips.