Billionaire space race: Leaving the planet in turmoil

Last July, we saw billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos engage in a private spaceship flight competition.

Since the pandemic started, billionaires have seen their fortunes increase by tens of billions and are continuing to throw money into extravagant projects. Between the catastrophic state of our climate, the spread of diseases and the rates of poverty, any investment in less fortunate people could go a long way, but we have yet to see them go the extra mile toward that.  

Space travel has involved massive government projects throughout history, whereas recently, there's been a switch to private industry. This shift only worked to benefit these billionaires' companies, putting them at the forefront of scientific achievement. 

The point of this so-called race is said to be “making humanity multiplanetary.” However, framing this project to be for the good of humanity is a deceiving sentiment. 

In reality, it all comes down to billionaires’ potential profits from satellite launches and rocketry firms. 

With as unbelievable of a goal as this, their first step to achieving it is space tourism. Reaching a culmination of waste, the companies are in the process of creating tourism programs with unthinkable costs that only cater to the richest. 

The fact of the matter is that Earth is undeniably in a state of crisis, but space is much worse. With barely liveable conditions, space inhabitance was not made for the human race; it will take centuries, if ever, before the moon or any other planet can become a home to humans. 

A fatal flaw of these plans is that billionaires are rooted in an idealistic way of thinking — they truly believe living in space is the answer to Earth’s rotting. Even then, that is if they are considering the environmental impact they have or if they are simply doing this for their own gain and glory. With Bezos’ carbon footprint resting at 2224.2 tonnes and Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk estimated at 2084 tonnes in 2018, these men prove themselves to be more concerned with company profits than means of sustainability. 

Due to the high amount of resources rapidly used, Branson’s and Bezos’ flight programs were only a few minutes long, a fleeting moment in space costing millions; I cannot see how this could be interpreted as a necessary endeavor, above all else. 

 As far as the exact costs of the spaceships go, Musk’s SpaceX originally spent $1.2 million on lobbying in the first half of 2021, while Bezos gradually increased spending in hopes to beat SpaceX for the $2.9 billion NASA contract. 

 Although NASA awarded SpaceX the contract for the moon landing project, it was promptly suspended due to legal pressure from Bezos’ company. Nothing screams boredom and greed more than a billionaire begging for billions more.  

Critics specifically called out Branson for his focus on self-image and commercialization of his spaceship program. 

 He coined himself "Astronaut 001" and provides a spaceflight experience geared toward customers, but he is really only selling the company name. 

People are so fed up with financial elites that there is even a petition going around on requesting Bezos not be allowed to return to Earth. Although intangible, the 150,000 signatures exemplify how citizens are reacting to the exploits of the rich.

 Instead of providing money and resources to better the planet we live on, these billionaires are preaching a future among outer space. NASA has previously funded earth science initiatives, but funding was repealed by congressional conservatives in an effort to focus on interplanetary exploration. Across the board, billionaires are leading the scene, and preserving the planet is the last thing on their agenda. 

The days when accomplished scientists ventured into space for exploration are long over and have been replaced by billionaires’ pursuits to treat space like a new toy.

We are witnessing a dystopian future evolve now more than ever, wherein all we are meant to do is sit back and watch it unfold. 

The problems that plague the Earth have yet to be accounted for, and employing space as a method of escape is the least efficient use of spending. Addressing solutions for restoring Earth is much more viable than fleeing it.

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