Last weekend, billionaire Richard Branson took a short trip to outer space on his own commercial spaceship.
Technically, Branson’s Virgin Galactic ship only “touched” the edge of space before safely returning to Earth after a short 90 minute flight. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the next high roller to launch into space within days on his own Blue Origin ship. Tesla founder Elon Musk, whose recycled SpaceX rocket ferried astronauts to the international space station in April, has bought a ticket on one of Branson’s upcoming space cruises.
Some of the richest men in the world are spending billions of dollars to launch themselves into outer space. Is there a real benefit to this expensive endeavor? Or is this just the world’s longest ego trip?
Branson noted how much the Earth already depends on space–our communications are highly dependent on orbiting satellites, for instance. He alluded to the potential space has to help us solve Earthbound problems.
Can there really be that kind of reward for commercial space travel? Less than 80 years ago, IBM founder Thomas Watson saw no use for the computer–predicting there was a market for maybe five of them worldwide. He was off by only a few billion (so far).
It’s too soon to know what will come of regular journeys to space. But we owe it to ourselves to go where no one has gone before to find out.
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