Jeff Bezos and the Blue Origin space exploration programme

It was back in 2000 when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos launched Blue Origin, a company focused on space travel and potential interstellar tourism.

The aim of Blue Origin is cited as being ‘to help people explore the places beyond our planet both for discovery and vacation’. Bezos recently increased his commitment to the company with an annual billion-dollar pledge.

Many see leaving the planet as a source of hope for humanity’s survival by inhabiting other worlds. Others see it as a plethora of resources and knowledge, currently too distant to make use of.

Bezos seemingly falls into both of these categories. According to CNBC, Bezos recently contrasted the origins of tech companies like Facebook, which was started in a college dorm with the immense expense of getting involved in space travel: “Two kids in their dorm room today can’t do anything big in space,” he said, “It’s not practical. The price of admission is too high.”

His company aims to remove the obstacles and expense, allowing outer space to become the frontier for entirely new industries and innovations. The billion dollar a year pledge will also barely effect Bezos’ estimated worth of 150 billion US dollars (according to Bloomberg).

When questioned by journalist Steven Levy at Wired’s 25th anniversary summit in San Francisco about his spending, Bezos replied; “I will not spend one minute of my life on anything that I don’t think is contributing to civilization and society.” This aside, his pledge has drawn much criticism, particularly from those who feel that poverty, climate change, homelessness and disease could be better areas of research and investment. Bezos’ response to such criticism was blunt, to say the least:

You want risk-taking. You want people to have visions that most people won’t agree with. If you have a vision that everybody agrees with, you probably shouldn’t do it because someone else will do it first. All of the real needle-movers are driven by being right when most of the world is wrong.” – Jeff Bezos

Bezos is far from the only entrepreneur casting their eyes to the stars at present. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been making headlines for their innovations in rocket design, performance, as well as their flair for the dramatic.

Blue Origin has been making a smaller splash, but Bezos’ billion dollar commitment is set to pave the way for lower costs which will, in turn, benefit the next generation of innovators.

According to an interview with Wired, Blue Origin aims to set up an infrastructure that can be built upon, and that infrastructure is “reusability, reusability, reusability.” This is a common philosophy for many looking to make space travel more accessible. Reusable rockets are far more cost-effective. They also cut back on production times for future launches and create more longterm efficiency.

In terms of the future, Blue Origin is looking many generations ahead but also planning for launches as soon as next year. The New Shepard rocket, designed to accommodate the return journey of six passengers to the very boundary between Earth and outer space, is on schedule for next year. The larger New Glenn rocket is still in development for an expected date in 2021. According to Phys.org, Bezos isn’t interested in catching up with competitors SpaceX or Virgin Galactic as soon as possible; “I keep telling the team—it’s not a race. I want this to be the safest space vehicle in the history of space vehicles.”

Blue Origin have previously released safety test footage, which was aimed to show the security which has been engineered into their existing prototypes.

With an eye on a sustainable space-faring future, as well as the funds to make it happen, the multinational titan, Amazon could one day be a footnote in Jeff Bezos’ galactic legacy.

 

Ronan Daly

Ronan Daly is a staff writer for My Good Planet who specialises in Technology and Science. With a Masters Degree in English, and over a decade's experience as a teacher and writer, Ronan has brought a breezy, learned style to My Good Planet, making occasionally complex material accessible and understandable to all.