Rich Guys in Space

(Almost) space, the (almost) final frontier.  These are the brief trips of the (almost) starship New Shepard.  It’s continuing mission: to stoke the egos of billionaires; to explore absolutely nothing except new ways to waste money; to briefly go where quite a few men have gone before (and they had a genuine scientific purpose!)

blue originOnce again this week the news is punctuated with the latest flight of Rich Guys in Space.  This time it’s Blue Origin’s ship, the New Shepard, that carried six passengers, including football player Micheal Strahan and the daughter of (real) astronaut, Alan Shepard, on a sub-orbital joyride.  According to Insider, the six space tourists experienced a few minutes of weightlessness 62 miles above Earth, widely considered the edge of space, before floating back to Earth in a pressurized capsule that detaches from the rocket.  The reports on the flight are filled with exclamations about exploration and missions and the crew but for the most part, these are paying passengers and invited guests … and the flight is a mini-vacation.   What says exploration more than a football player and the offspring of a real astronaut.  What says mission more than one seat on a future flight selling at $28 million dollars in auction or science more than bringing along (on a previous flight) the guy who played a captain of the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek.

I am a libertarian.   Although I certainly wonder if the money being spent to amuse a few rich guys could be better spent on earth actually helping people, I respect their right to spend their money as they please.  What I hate is that the media plays along by writing about their accomplishments with the same breathless excitement that used to accompany the flights of the Apollo missions.  We get pictures (and videos) of the launch and of the passengers in their matching flight suits.   We get tweets from Blue Origin … And, capsule touchdown! Welcome back to Earth, crew of #NS19. Laura, Michael, Evan, Dylan, Cameron, and Lane. What an amazing mission from Launch Site One.   Well, at least they threw in a touchdown for the football player.  Calling them crew reminds me of how the airlines used to give pretend pilot’s wings to kids.  By the way, the Federal Aviation Administration said Friday it will no longer award commercial astronaut wings after this year because there are too many people launching into space.  Launching into space to do nothing, I’d add.

I’m not alone in being annoyed by this fuss over nothing.   In an article in The Washington Post titled, Billionaires in space: The launch of a dream or just out-of-this-world ego? quotes Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik as follows: The competition to be the first billionaire in space should mark a milestone in the towering vanity of the wealthy.  Let’s promptly dispense with the notion that any of these flights will add anything to our scientific knowledge, unless it’s the establishment of a new metric for how long it takes for money to burn a hole in your pocket when you have more than you could possibly need.  And for once, I can almost agree with crazy uncle Bernie Sanders, who tweeted, Here on Earth, in the richest country on the planet, half our people live paycheck to paycheck, people are struggling to feed themselves, struggling to see a doctor — but hey, the richest guys in the world are off in outer space! Yes. It’s time to tax the billionaires.

What do you think?


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5 Comments on “Rich Guys in Space”

  1. barrythewiz Says:

    You’re spot on OE, and so is Uncle Bernie. With the top1% of earners controlling 32% of all wealth in this country, they can well afford to kick in a bit more to help alleviate the woes of those battling their way from day to day.

  2. Simply stroking the egos does absolutely nothing for mankind but a flat tax on their annual monetary gains and income would definitely help.

  3. …but aint helping the poor com-yoooo-nism?

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