So, Richard Branson became the first billionaire to personally touch the edges of space. However, it’s likely that soon, he will not be the only one. There’s now a list of Space Billionaires, who are undertaking a space race for themselves, which includes very famously, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. They have now given birth to a billionaire space race, that will require an exorbitant amount of resources, which are at their disposal. But, the one question that needs to be asked is: to what avail? No one wants the uber-rich to go to space, and here’s why.
On July 11, Branson (Virgin Airlines owner) became the first billionaire to travel to space, albeit only 50 miles above the Earth’s surface where the military declares space officially starts and returned safely to Earth. This wasn’t like a trip to the Moon, Mars, or even a complete orbit of the Earth. It was just a trip for Branson to brag that he went to space and came back. By doing so, he became the first person to test out his own personal spacecraft, which he had built with his space travel company, Virgin Galactic.
Soon, Bezos is also set to go 12 miles higher than Branson, beyond the Karma Line for just four minutes. But the real question is, why are they doing this? What’s the purpose that billionaires going to space will achieve? There is so much that is wrong with the way we are treating this planet and billions across the world. Why are the insanely rich hell-bent on a billionaire space race that is not giving any tangible benefit to human society?
What deserves more attention than a billionaire’ space race
Just as billionaires are prepping to leave this planet, the people living on Earth are living through a nightmare. Growing inequality because of tax exemptions and financial bailouts keeps affecting the income of the working class, who have to struggle to make ends meet. Furthermore, the United States itself is in the midst of a worsening climate crisis, with record-breaking droughts and temperatures. A place as cold as Canada recorded close to 50C temperature (121F) in British Columbia. Even Seattle, Bezos’s hometown recorded 42.2C (108F).
And to top this off, there is an immense disparity in the global vaccination drive. Although life is slowly coming back to normality in the UK and the US, Asian, African, and other third world countries continue to be deprived as the West hoards the vaccines. What’s even more astounding is that the cost to vaccinate the world and to get rid of this pandemic is a small fraction of the gargantuan wealth that the billionaires have amassed throughout their lives. Yet, they prioritize an ego-inflating space race over global prosperity.
Let us take a look at their side of the story as well. Bezos has pledged over $10 billion to climate relief efforts and Branson even proposed a climate dividend. However, as is the case with everything billionaires propose for charity, it’s unclear where the money will go. Most of it is just PR stunts, as the wealthy pretty much get most of their wealth back in the shape of tax relief. The crux of the argument is that it’s about time that billionaires try to focus more on giving back to society, which they exploited to extract wealth, instead of going on a billionaire space race.
How this billionaires’ space race brings nothing promising for the human race
Even if we take into account the fact that Elon Musk is trying to colonize other planets, specifically Mars, shouldn’t we first learn to live sustainably on our own blue orb rather than trying to deform every other livable planet that we see? Living within our own means and more equitably should be a bigger priority than wasting resources on something so trivial in the face of the catastrophes that humanity faces every day.
And if we’re being even more honest, what’s so unique about going to space? The feats these billionaires are boasting about just through personal wealth have already been achieved by humanity in the 60s. In fact, with the help of government funding, humans planted a flag on the moon in 1969. With such feats already under the belt of humanity, what good would space tourism would do?
What do the critics have to say?
Thankfully, some of the biggest critics of the billionaire class did not stay silent at this ostentatious display of wealth. Bernie Sanders, Nina Turner, Anand Ghiridaradas brought forth some strong arguments. They argued about the plight of the working class, and how tax rebates for the rich should have instead gone to alleviate poverty. It is argued that capitalism distributes resources well and according to society’s needs. A billionaires’ space race is NOT what society needs right now. You can read their critiques below.