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Toy rockets July 24, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Listening to the Bugle podcast the other day I was struck by a comment by Helen Zaltzman where she noted – and I paraphrase – that it was striking that billionaires with all their money seem unable to think of anything better to spend that money on than things that go vroom vroom – yachts, sub-orbital spaceships and so on. And she suggested – again I paraphrase – that it was as seven year boys were given unlimited money to spend stuff on.

Catherine Bennett last week made a similar point, complete with quotes. Branson apparently suggested that:

“I was once a child with a dream, looking up at the stars,” the author of Screw It, Let’s Do It offered as the origin myth behind a video of him bobbing about in his space suit. It may be an incongruous thought for anyone who has come, after a lifetime’s exposure, to understand Branson’s dream as primarily that of making money and hoisting nearby women into the air. But fair enough, he was probably innocent once, even if it doesn’t, like any early interest in the stars, come across in his autobiography, Losing My Virginity.


“Ever since I was five years old I’ve dreamed of travelling to space,” Jeff Bezos says. Specifically to ride upwards for roughly as far as Huntingdon is from London, float for a few minutes, then come back again?

The unfortunately – one presumes – phallic shape of the Bezos rocket has been the cause of some hilarity online. It certainly seems weirdly parodic. 

But beyond that what strikes me is the paucity of all this. Here’s a bunch of billionaires who – with an assist financially from states – are offering sub-orbital flights to those who can afford them. Musk is the only one who seems to be doing more than sub-orbital flights, but all this seems to raise the question what precisely is all this effort for? Four minutes in freefall for stupendous sums seems extravagant. And beyond that what is the plan? There’s no clear scientific outcomes from all this, and precious few commercial ones – indeed in some ways all this seems to be nothing more than advertising campaigns for the various billionaires activities. And the idea this somehow ‘opens up’ spaceflight to people is so fatuous as to be hardly worth engaging with. Only a tiny elite are going to have the resources to engage with this area. Frankly that’s no great return, no great step forward. It makes the inegalitarianism of Concorde look like red revolution by comparison.

One small entertaining note. One of those who paid $30m dollars backed out ‘due to scheduling conflicts’. One has to wonder did the person take a look at all this and think ‘doesn’t look the safest’. Now I may be overly sensitive to such matters having managed only in the last decade to quash a very deep fear of flying, but while I’d happily board passenger aircraft (commercial, not so keen on private jets – not that I’ve ever had the opportunity, though when the CLR Institute gets going, well, who knows?) I think I’d be fairly leery about stepping aboard any of the capsules that are going up. 


1. Wes Ferry - July 24, 2021

These ‘adventurers’ might earn themselves some credibility (rather than uncritical coverage by most of the mainstream media) if they put some money into decent pay and facilities for their workers (Bezos) and not into suing the NHS (Branson).

Bezos sounded like an 18th century mill owner from a Dickens novel when he said: “I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this.”

Liked by 2 people

2. Michael Carley - July 24, 2021

“I think I’d be fairly leery about stepping aboard any of the capsules that are going up.”

Yep. Space travel is very risky and the risks to humans are kept just tolerable by huge administrative and technical effort and the use of heavily tested hardware which has been in service for decades.

Realistically, nobody knows what the reliability of these new systems is.

Liked by 1 person

3. EWI - July 25, 2021

At a certain threshold of wealth, all that remains is your (fragile) ego


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