Featured Article : Billionaire Space Race

27th July 2021

In this article, we look at some of the lighter aspects of the technological achievement that was the recent Blue Origin rocket flight, and we look at the vision behind it.

Space Passengers

The recent flight of the rocket containing and funded by (richest man in the world and Amazon Founder) Jeff Bezos yielded pictures of the passengers enjoying an 11-minute space experience, an interesting back story about the oldest passenger aboard, and appears to have provided a source of comic material, criticism, and inspiration.  With this in mind, here’s a look at a few of the lighter and perhaps less-publicised stories about the flight.

Sorry, I’m Busy!

News broadcasts highlighted the story of how Blue Origin’s commercial space flight crew included Wally Funk, an 82-year-old woman who trained to be an astronaut in the 1960s but was overlooked for a space mission because she was a woman, and who has now become the oldest person to go to space. The reports also featured 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who is the son of Joes Daemen, CEO of Dutch private equity firm Somerset Capital Partners and who has now become the youngest person to fly to space. Daemen paid for the seat on the flight, but what was not widely publicised in reports was the fact that the person who won the auction ahead of Mr Daemen by paying $28 million to go on the flight with Bezos, his brother, and Funk was an as-yet unnamed person who reportedly couldn’t go on that particular flight because they were ‘busy’ due to “scheduling conflicts”!

It has been reported that the unnamed busy person who appears to have double-booked themselves will be able to carry over their auction prize and fly on a future New Shepard mission instead.

Rocket Shape (and Jeff Bezos) Ridiculed

The Blue Origin rocket’s allegedly ‘phallic’ shape has also been mocked. For example, US comedian/host of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon joked that the rocket looked like “R2D2 took some Viagra”, as well as mocking Jeff Bezos for wearing a cowboy hat saying that he looked like a “mash-up between Buzz Lightyear and Woody”.

Moral Viewpoint

In addition to the comedy memes and videos doing the rounds on the Internet, others focused on how billionaires appeared happy to spend fortunes indulging in their own personal space races while the money spent could have solved some much bigger human problems on earth (e.g. hunger, disease, pollution, etc).

Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000 and funded the space tourism/exploration company using money through selling shares of Amazon stock. Mr Bezos has said that he’ll sell approximately $1 billion of Amazon stock each year to fund the Blue Origin company.

Wings Clipped?

Another part of the mission that may not have gone so well is the possibility that, due to changes in the rules of US Federal Aviation Administration (coincidentally, brought into effect the same day as the Blue Origin flight!), Jeff Bezos and his crew may not be eligible to officially receive their astronaut wings.  It may be this way because the crew were essentially passengers in a rocket that was controlled from the ground (i.e. the crew didn’t have any hands-on control of the rocket and may not have carried out activities during the flight that were essential to public safety or contributed to human space flight safety). It is also unlikely that this particular crew were involved in any science missions.

It has been reported, however, that some of those on board Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spacecraft (who also went to the edge of space shortly earlier) may have been assessing cabin hardware or conducting experiments related to suborbital flight which could mean that they would be eligible receive their astronaut wings.

Beaten By Richard Branson?

Although the world witnessed Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic’s space mission days earlier, tweets from the Blue Origin team appear to suggest that the Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane didn’t technically go high enough to make it into what is commonly understood to be space.


Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos (plus their passengers) are not the first commercial space travellers / ‘astronauts’, and these have not been the first commercial space flights.  Although these first missions may appear to have done little more than fulfil the ambitions and dreams of the company owners and a lucky few and test the ‘experience’ that future passengers will get for their money, the reasons for the flights are more serious with a vision in mind that’s linked to earth benefits in future.  For example, as stated on the Blue Origin website, “Blue Origin was founded by Jeff Bezos with the vision of enabling a future where millions of people are living and working in space to benefit Earth. In order to preserve Earth, Blue Origin believes that humanity will need to expand, explore, find new energy and material resources, and move industries that stress Earth into space.”

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Whatever the arguments and criticisms, the flights by Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are real technological achievements that appear to have more far-reaching and potentially beneficial visions behind them than simply billionaires offering expensive joyrides to other rich people. These two privately funded crafts are impressive, re-usable, and in a way, may make us feel that we are heading closer to a future that we have been watching in science fiction films for years, where getting beyond the boundaries of our struggling planet is possible for more people. As mentioned in the Blue Origin vision, the flight may be one of many early steps towards opportunities, resources, materials, energy and getting a different perspective that could be of benefit to earth and its inhabitants. Technology is also likely to be advanced as each new space challenge is met, and at the very least, the flights have provided some excitement and interest at a time when the world has been focused on battling some very serious earthbound challenges that have been making the future feel more uncertain.