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Space Joyrides for the Rich

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While the rich have long enjoyed luxury cars, mansions and yachts, the newest luxury item is the spaceship. Musk has the most useful rockets—his SpaceX vessels can put satellites into orbit and reach the International Space Station. While they do have some innovations, they are essential an evolution of existing rockets rather than a revolution. Branson has a spaceplane, which can be likened to a passenger version of the old X-15. While spaceplanes do have potential, Virgin Galactic seems to be mostly focused on space tourism. Bezos has a conventional rocket that shot him into space. Because of its limited reach, it seems suitable mainly for space tourism.  As would be expected, many critics see these billionaire space vessels as wasteful excesses: resources are being expended for ego trips to space that would be better used to address serious problems here on earth. Bezos acknowledged the validity of the critics’ point, saying “Well, I say they’re largely right. We have to do both. You know, we have lots of problems here and now on Earth and we need to work on those, and we always need to look to the future. We’ve always done that as a species, as a civilization. We have to do both.” He claimed that his mission is aimed at “building a road to space for the next generations to do amazing things there, and those amazing things will solve problems here on Earth.” Is Bezos right? I do agree that he is correct that the critics are largely right: while Musk can claim that his SpaceX ships put cargo into space, Branson and Bezos have just been joyriding (just barely) into space. Vast resources were expended to enable these joyrides, and, in the case of Bezos, it can be argued that his flight was enabled by his brutal exploitation of his workforce. As is now well known, Amazon workers have been pushed so hard that they need to pee in bottles to meet the requirements of their job. Amazon’s leadership has also been busy crushing unions,. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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