If only we could get billionaires into a pissing contest over solving world hunger, cancer, or climate change…
A headline caught my eye yesterday, and the knee-jerk reaction was infuriating. The person who last month bid $28 million to be Jeff Bezos’ first passenger on the inaugural Blue Origin flight is suddenly too busy to go, and my immediate reaction was that no one in their right mind would pay that much to go to space and then have bigger plans. You bump your wedding day for outer space!
What the legitimate fuck? pic.twitter.com/FnAR4UrEoO
— Abby (@abbythetweet) July 16, 2021
After reading more, it might be even worse than it looks. The unspecified ‘scheduling conflict’ preventing the auction winner from joining this flight means that an 18-year-old high school grad on his gap year has been bumped up, and will become the youngest person ever in space (or, as the scientists among us will likely note – very high in the sky in a rocket plane).
This is a guaranteed headline, which Blue Origin’s first flight needs following Richard Branson’s quick trip to the stratosphere to beat Bezos in the Billionaires’ Space Race. Also joining the flight is an 82-year-old woman named Wally Funk, who trained to be an astronaut in the 1960s but never made it into space, because in her era having ‘The Right Stuff’ essentially meant having a penis. Joining her will be Oliver Daemen, who participated in the June auction with his Dad’s money, but didn’t quite bid high enough for the first flight. Together, Funk and Daemen will become the oldest and youngest to ever fly in space.
How much Daemen bid is unspecified, which probably means he wasn’t second, third, or even fourth. But for someone like Jeff Bezos, what Daemen might lack in money to burn, he makes up for in marketability. The highest bidder will get to go on a future Blue Origin flight, but part of me can’t shake the notion that Bezos bumped them himself, in order to manipulate more headlines for the flight that Branson swooped in and took first.
One way or another, Bezos knows the space race is as much about grabbing headlines to pull in investors as it is about burning rocket fuel to parts unknown, and he’s not about to let Richard Branson or Elon Musk take that away from him.