Inside the billionaire space race — and why it matters
Future. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are engaged in a contest to see who has the bigger rocket. When Musk won NASA’s contract to send astronauts to the Moon, Bezos protested; Musk fired back by mocking him. But it’s no laughing matter: a billionaire space race could produce innovation, perhaps, but also disaster.
Is it really a race?
Most people haven’t even heard of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ version of SpaceX.
- On April 17, NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to build a Moon lander.
Bezos protested. He had personally organized a “National Team” composed of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper to develop the lander together. The Moon lander project was originally going to be a joint effort.
NASA balked and instead gave SpaceX the contract.
This means war
Blue Origin has lost billions in national security and defense contracts to SpaceX. The Moon lander was going to change that. Without it, Blue Origin’s future seems grounded.
Bezos filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which accused NASA’s decision of favoring SpaceX.
SpaceX is planning a mission to Mars “as soon as 2024.” Blue Origin has yet to launch a rocket into space. Even Amazon isn’t contracting Blue Origin to launch its own internet satellites.
But is it even a race? For Bezos, at least… it is. After stepping down as CEO of Amazon, Bezos allocated $3.1 billion to Blue Origin.
Potential for disaster
In its protest to the GAO, Blue Origin said that NASA’s “decision eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base, and not only delays, but also endangers America’s return to the Moon.”
Musk and Bezos also have competing visions for space:
- Bezos is against Musk’s mission to Mars
- Bezos’ vision for space instead includes floating space colonies.
Could two billionaires with Hindenburg-sized egos turn their space race into a legal and personal battle for rocket supremacy? If they do, one only has to look at the space race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to see that unchecked innovation sometimes begets disaster.