Mere minutes after touching the edge of space, Jeff Bezos and his fellow Blue Origin crewmates stood back on Earth, shaking champagne at the throng of cameras pointed their way with grins wide enough to see from … well, space. No matter which channel you turned to — CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC — the praise was effusive and breathless. But no matter how many times networks replayed the brief launch or how much Anderson Cooper waxed poetic about Amazon founder once being “this young guy building rockets” from 3D printers, it was near impossible to imagine feeling inspired. In just 11 minutes, the Blue Origin flight encapsulated everything wrong with billionaires buying their way into the final frontier.
Once upon a time, the space race might have represented hope and wonder (plus a healthy dose of rah-rah jingoism). Now, from where so many of us are sitting on this rapidly burning planet, watching billionaires like Bezos and Richard Branson take joyrides up to space and back feels like the worst kind of mockery. (Especially when, as has been extensively reported on and documented, Bezos’ company in particular discourages many thousands of its low-paid warehouse workers from being anything other than anonymous vectors of productivity.)
So, sure, it makes sense that these business owners would want to take a turn on their zero gravity rollercoasters. But watching so many ostensible journalists unequivocally herald these literal flights of fancy felt like watching a feed from another reality completely untethered to our own. As our world quite literally burns and crumbles around us, these men pushing the limits of the planet in their (unavoidably, symbolically phallic) rocket ships, simply because they can, is less inspiring than it is completely depressing.