The two richest men in the world are engaged in a vicious space race that has implications for us all. For years, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have squabbled in the media over everything from who is the wealthiest to who did what first. But their rival space programmes, satellite launches and plans to colonise the planets have launched a new Space Age.
With his company, Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos has thrown himself into space tourism and, in doing so, has revolutionised access to Space. He sees himself as the leader in this burgeoning ’New Space’ market. But he faces a determined opponent: Elon Musk, the eccentric head of SpaceX. Musk’s company has already disrupted the traditional aerospace launch industry and now he’s aiming for Mars.
When Musk first tried to buy a Russian rocket back in 2001, the chief engineer of the Russian Space Agency thought he was a joke. But that only made Musk more determined. Rather than buy rockets, he decided to build them and invested $100 million dollars, half his fortune at the time, in the creation of SpaceX. By 2008 SpaceX had a contract with NASA to supply flights to the International Space Station.
At around the same time Musk was founding SpaceX, Jeff Bezos was working on a secretive project to bring tourists to space. By 2015, he was ready to go public with a new rocket named the New Shepherd, the first reusable rocket to reach space. A year later, Musk announced an ambitious, widely ridiculed, plan to colonise Mars within 30 years. In the meantime, Bezos was working on plans to colonise the moon. When competition with China made returning to the moon a top priority for President Trump, there was one big question: which company would get the lucrative NASA moon contract?
Aside from colonising space and NASA contracts, the two billionaires are also racing to launch the most satellites. This allows them to deliver low latency broadband data services everywhere on the Earth… and to monopolise all future terrestrial communications. Jeff Bezos recently announced the launch of Kuiper, his network of more than 3,000 satellites. Jeff Bezos recently announced the launch of Kuiper, his network of more than 3,000 satellites.
So where will it end? How far will this intensive commercialisation of space go? We investigate.
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