Why do three tycoons want to ‘conquer’ outer space?
The first space race of the human race occurred in the context of the Cold War and had as competitors the Soviet Union and the United States, two superpowers that wanted to demonstrate their economic and technological power by sending artificial satellites, living beings and humans from planet Earth into outer space.
(Also read: Was Richard Branson really in space?).
Today, 65 years after the start of that race, of around 8,900 satellites in orbit and more than 500 men and women astronauts, the panorama, knowledge and interests in traveling to space They are different.
I was once a child with a dream looking at the stars. Today I am an adult in a spaceship looking towards our beautiful Earth
The industry of commercial travel outside the Earth has been arousing the interest of the largest fortunes on the planet for several years. Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world; Elon Musk, the third, and Richard Branson, the 621st on the Forbes list, have had their own space race since the beginning of this century. The loot to conquer is not less: estimates from Morgan Stanley indicate that in general the space industry will generate trillion dollar revenue by the year 2040, a figure that is five times the largest fortune in the world, that of Bezos (206,000 million dollars).
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The three tycoons grew up with the dream of traveling into space and the most direct way they found to fulfill it was to create private companies in the aerospace industry. All these companies were born with similar objectives: to take humans to tourism outside the Earth, to get large numbers of people to live in outer space, or even for the human race to colonize other planets.
Of these three characters, it is Richard Branson who can say that he already knows outer space personally. On Sunday, July 11, aboard the VSS Unity rocket plane developed by your company Virgin Galactic, the British billionaire, who turns 71 today, could see the curve of the planet in contrast to space.
85 kilometers above the ground, Branson sent his message: “I was once a child with a dream looking at the stars. Today I am an adult in a spaceship looking towards our beautiful Earth. To next generation dreamerYes I tell you: ‘If we can do this, just imagine what you can do’ ”.
This personal and business achievement for Branson, founder of the Virgin Group conglomerate, came after years of development, research and investment. But not without a tragedy. In 2014, one of Virgin Galactic’s space vehicles exploded when ascending over the California desert, an event that cost the life of one of the pilots on board and left the other injured. At the time, Branson expressed being “deeply saddened” and reflected: “(getting) into space is difficult, but worth it. We will persevere and move forward together”.
In 2018, another ship from the British company took off and reached a height of 82.7 kilometers. This made her the first private company in executing a manned commercial flight into outer space, according to NASA.
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To get there, Virgin Galactic received financial injections that have totaled more than $ 700 million since its founding in 2004. Currently, this company is valued at $ 4 billion, according to Forbes estimates in May.
Additionally, Branson’s company has already raised million dollars in space flight bookings. According to the Business Insider portal, more than 600 people from 58 different countries have booked tickets worth around $ 250,000, and the names of the reservations would include celebrities such as Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga y Justin Bieber, among others.
Travel for everyone?
The promise of traveling into space aboard vehicles developed by private companies has already been fulfilled. However, it is not known whether the same fate will run for the objective of democratize off-planet travel so that they are available to everyone.
How much will it cost to travel to space? It is the first concern to be resolved, and the answers are not encouraging for everyone. Virgin Galactic hopes that by next year the option of leaving the planet, even for a few minutes, will be within the reach of every mortal who can pay the tickets, which will be around the $ 250,000 and $ 400,000.
(You can also read: This is how the fortune of Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, grew).
On the other side is Blue Origin, a company founded in 2000 by Bezos and born from the desire of its founder to “build space hotels, amusement parks and colonies for 2 or 3 million people who would be in orbit ”.
This company is financed annually by the sale by Jeff Bezos himself of a billion dollars in Amazon shares. In addition, Blue Origin receives cheap injections from the US Air Force and more investments from the tycoon’s private fortune.
Blue Origin will take a big leap in the space race this July 20, on the 52nd anniversary of the mission that led the first man to the moon. Bezos and his brother will fly into outer space aboard the New Shepard rocket, named after Alan Shepard, the first American to travel off-planet in 1961. The Blue Origin rocket is expected to reach a higher altitude. at 100 kilometers, 15 more than Branson achieved in his feat.
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And it is that the environment between these billionaires is highly competitive. Blue Origin pointed this out, as it decried Branson’s achievement arguing that the height reached by VSS Unity does not correspond to 100 kilometers “internationally recognized”Of the Kármán line that defines the beginning of outer space. However, for the United States Government, this ‘border’ is 80 kilometers high. This position hinted that there is some competition between the tycoons Bezos and Branson, beyond the fact that the founder of Amazon himself has congratulated the British on his social networks.
For his part, the particular Elon Musk, the third richest man in the world and director of SpaceX, among other companies, traveled to New Mexico to support his friend Branson. His name even appears among the more than 600 reservations for private trips to space on Virgin Galactic ships.
Of the three tycoons, Musk is perhaps the one with the greatest ambitions. In November of last year, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, valued at $ 74 billion, took four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and became the first private company to send humans to the station. The achievements of this company have earned it certification by NASA, in addition to multiple contracts to execute space missions of resupply of the ISS.
Musk’s dream is clear: colonize Mars and be the ’emperor’ of the Martian planet. SpaceX’s famous Starship continues its development to conduct manned interplanetary flights. The South African-born tycoon assured in an interview with Axel Springer SE that the first manned flight to Mars is near and, “if there is luck”, Would be brought forward from 2026 to 2024.
Both Musk and Bezos and Branson continue to approach, faster than before, to the dream of consolidating the business of commercial space flights, which also has a clientele for several years.
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Jeff Bezos’ trip on Tuesday will continue to put points on the tycoon space race timeline. Your testimony will give credibility to technological developments by private companies in the space industry. These companies have also received the endorsement of governments and NASA, particularly, to make the dream of thousands of people in the world of traveling to space come true. This type of support is manifested in permits and contracts that help finance the necessary developments that guarantee safety and, of course, the ability of ships to leave the planet. thinking of returning or living in orbit.
ANDRÉS GALINDO FERNÁNDEZ
On Twitter: @MrTegias
Tecnósfera EL TIEMPO journalist
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