Andrés Benítez column: Billionaires playing in space

By Andres Benitez, economist

“I felt serene and at peace floating without gravity. It is a day that changed my life forever, “said Jeff Bezos after his 11-minute trip to space, something that is hardly credible when the images showed a sort of school trip, where the billionaire pirouetted through the air, played with a ball and trying to throw a kind of M&M into his brother’s mouth. Nobody seemed to look towards “the earth, its beauty and its fragility”, as he later commented.

Something not too different happened with another billionaire, Richard Branson, who debuted his own space toy just nine days before Bezos. The script was the same, from beginning to end, although the founder of the Virgin group added a touch of superhero when arriving at the base, in the middle of the desert, by bicycle flanked by two imposing Range Rovers. An image like taken from Avengers.

Reactions to all this have been mixed. On the one hand, there is the audacity of these men, but also the caricature image they project. “Some believe that this is all a huge waste of money and a new way of entertainment found by those who have everything and more,” said The Wall Street Journal.

Stronger were the criticisms in the world of scientists, where it is concluded that this has no relevance, since agencies like NASA have been making more complex trips for 50 years. Even the Russians have already brought civilians to the International Space Station. And for this reason, few liked that Bezos’s flight coincided with the day of the arrival of Apollo 11 to the Moon, in 1969. Because no one wants that feat that moved the planet to be confused with these “space fairies.”

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None of this worries Bezos or Branson, who continue to think they changed the future of space exploration. Well, that remains to be seen. But the most remarkable thing is that the one who gained from all this was another billionaire, but who stayed on the ground: Elon Musk. He did not participate in the show, but it was clear that his company, “Space X”, is by far the one that is making the most contributions in the conquest of space.

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