Jeff Bezos is just a few weeks away from being among the first humans to leave Earth in his New Shepard rocket, and a growing number of people are hoping he won’t be allowed back.
New Shepard, named after Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, is a sub-orbital rocket that has flown over a dozen successful missions without a crew onboard. The 59-foot tall vehicle launches from Blue Origin’s facility in West Texas where it lands vertically 7.5 minutes later. New Shepard’s capsule separates from the rocket before parachuting back to ground 1.5 minutes after the booster.
The Amazon/Blue Origin founder (and his brother) will be on the very first crewed flight of New Shepard on an upcoming mission called NS-16. The mission is currently scheduled to happen on July 20, 2021, a day with importance already:
On this day 60 years ago, Alan Shepard made history by becoming the first American to fly to space. In the decades since, fewer than 600 astronauts have been to space above the Kármán Line to see the borderless Earth and the thin limb of our atmosphere. They all say this experience changes them.
Of course you don’t become the wealthiest person on Earth without making a few detractors along the way.
A petition through change.org to not allow Jeff Bezos to return to Earth has collected over 100,000 signatures ahead of the mission. The ask is simple:
Billionaires should not exist…on earth, or in space, but should they decide the latter, they should stay there.
CNBC spoke with the petition creator and his inspiration for the viral petition:
Ric Geiger, 31, an account manager for an automotive supplies wholesaler in Michigan, tells CNBC Make It he started the petition “as a joke” with an initial goal of reaching 150,000 signatures. Geiger says he launched the petition after he saw a similar joke “on a meme page on Facebook” that he thought was “hysterical,” but when he looked online to see if there was an existing petition, he couldn’t find one.
“For me, it started as a joke, because obviously there is no way we can keep Jeff Bezos from re-entering Earth,” Geiger wrote in an email. (Indeed, the petition offers no proposals for how anyone could, realistically, prevent the Amazon billionaire from returning from his spaceflight, which is set to launch on July 20.)
However, Geiger also felt the initial humor of the petition and its title would ultimately allow him to “reach a broader platform” to spread a more serious message about the issue of wealth inequality.
Space Explored’s take
While Geiger admits that a funny petition can’t actually keep Jeff Bezos in space, it’s also true of this particular space ship. New Shepard passes the Kàrmàn line (the widely agreed point at which space begins), but the rocket isn’t designed to go far enough for the payload to not return. Blue Origin is preparing its much more powerful New Glenn rocket for missions far beyond the edges of Earth — pending customers and engine readiness.
As for Bezos taking a joy ride on the spacecraft that his wealth funded, we’re mostly just jealous that we haven’t been invited to be ride along yet. Blue Origin hasn’t released pricing information for paying customers to book seats on future New Shepard space flights, but the MSRP is expected to be many tens of millions of dollars per 12-minute mission.
With the likes of Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and SpaceX providing pathways to space for non-astronauts, the price of entry may one day fall enough to make lesser mere millionaires afford tickets and not just billionaires. All kidding aside, regardless of who sneaks their way onto Blue Origin’s first crewed space flight, we’re encouraged by the progress of private space exploration companies. Better for the billionaires to buy the infrastructure than us scrounging up change from our couch cushions.
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