Luckily for us, we live in an age where commercial space travel is becoming a tangible reality. Classic market competition among private aeronautics companies like Boeing, SpaceX, and Blue Origin is helping to drive down the costs of space travel relatively quickly. Echoing the first space race that put a man on the Moon, modern Star Wars among private companies also come in the form of the race to be “first”. The race to be the first to offer passenger space flights, the first to colonize Mars and others are helping to perfect necessary technologies quickly, and drive target launch dates closer to the present.
Amid all of these very admirable, very ambitious and very ingenious objectives, how close are SpaceX and Blue Origin to actually making affordable commercial space travel a reality?
The Digital Age has created a new class of entrepreneurs. The Internet made success accessible for young kids with big ideas by providing the perfect platform and an eager audience all in one. As a result, those kids with big ideas were able to make enormous amounts of money in an incredibly short period of time. With their economic needs met many times over (and possibly before the age of 30), these Next-Gen entrepreneurs tend to turn their attention from short-term profits to long-term investments.
In recent years, we’ve witnessed the rise of altruistic geniuses like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Yes, both are young billionaires who are products of internet success, but they also have a tendency to invest in technologies with the goal of making them accessible to as many people as possible.
Musk founded electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors with the objective of providing more sustainable transportation, and founded SpaceX with the ultimate goal of helping humanity colonize Mars.
Jeff Bezos is the founder and CEO of Amazon, which has not only revolutionized how people shop, but has given them on-demand access to almost any product in the world.
Both are putting their intellect and their fortunes into realizing childhood dreams of space, and more importantly, to improving humanity as a whole. But which altruistic genius is ahead in this 21 Century Space Race?
“Elon Musk” is practically a household name. People seem to know the man better than his projects. Conversely, while everyone knows, uses and loves Amazon, they’re not so familiar with the name “Jeff Bezos” as the man behind the e-commerce giant. How their respective commercial space companies perform over the next few years will help declare a winner, but what kind of call can we make for now?
Musk is on a mission: to Mars. While he is only just beginning to reveal the specifics of his plan to colonize Mars, Space X is already off the ground. Despite the unfortunate explosions of two Falcon 9 rockets in two years, SpaceX has already made supply runs to the International Space Station (“ISS”), and NASA recently awarded the company a joint contract with Boeing to manage the transport of US astronauts to the ISS.
It appears that Musk and SpaceX have done a better job of positioning themselves to be the leaders in commercial spaceflight by forming partnerships with organizations like Facebook, NASA, and competitor Boeing. Partnering with NASA and Boeing also has the added benefit of helping to integrate SpaceX into existing space travel infrastructure while allowing the company to help change the nature of space travel. Finally, Space X has also already developed and tested the technology and publicized detailed proposals on how to use them.
In 2000, Bezos founded Blue Origin with the goal of developing new technologies to lower the cost of space travel. One such technology is a rocket specifically designed for space tourism. He has since received the Heinlein Prize for his company’s achievements, and subsequently donated all $250,000 in prize money to Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, an international student association whose purpose is to promote space exploration.
Regarding concrete plans for space flight Bezos has announced that Blue Origin would be testing manned flights until next year, and the first commercial flights would take place in 2018. The main craft that the company will use is called the New Shepherd, and is projected build six more rockets by 2018. Furthermore, in an all too appropriate Battle of the Sizes, Blue Origin will rival SpaceX’s Rocket 9 with the New Glenn, a reusable suborbital spacecraft that is larger than the Musk’s.
Finally, Bezos bought a newspaper. In acquiring the Washington Post, Bezos made it clear that he understands the power of information, and is interested in making it as accessible as possible. Anything Elon Musk does is news, and perhaps in purchasing the post, Besos is playing catch up. Whether Bezos is busy building a cult of personality or the future of commercial space flight, his endeavors are literally helping affordable space travel take flight.