Bezos or Musk: The Vision for Humanity’s Role in Space

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Both Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk Have Big Plans for Space Exploration — Here Are the Differences:

First Things First

This piece is the result of a booboo I made in yesterday’s article about the SpaceX Starhopper rocket failure. I began the article about SpaceX (founded by Elon Musk) with the words “Jeff Bezos.” Lately, though, Bezos has been talking a lot about what he wants to do in space. So I had him on the brain for other reasons. Anyway, having thought about the differences between the two, I thought this would be a great way to springboard into a discussion about who has the better plan for space: Bezos or Musk?

Bezos or Musk: Leave Earth or Save It?

I listen to Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk talk about spending billions on space exploration and certain things stick out. On the surface, the debate about what to do seems similar to the debate about what to do with public schools. Bear with me here. When it comes to schools, the question is about where to spend our money. Most of us agree that the system isn’t working the way it is. So the question between becomes, “Do we spend money to try and fix the current system or do we scrap it and start from scratch with charter schools and vouchers, etc.?” 

Now let’s look at Earth. Most of us agree that we’re screwing it up. The question now between Bezos or Musk becomes, “Do we (or can we even) pour money into fixing the planet or do we just leave it behind and find another “Goldilox planet?” That’s how the choice seems at first, but if you listen to Bezos talk long enough, you start to realize why he’s the richest man on the planet and you’re not. I’m not saying he’s smarter than everyone else, I’m just saying he thinks a bit differently.  

Bezos Wants to Spend His Fortune on Space Exploration… to Save the Earth.

Jeff Bezos Bio Shot

Jeff Bezos

At first, Bezos’ comments seem contradictory. He says, “We humans have to go to space if we are going to continue to have a thriving civilization.” Then he continues, “We have become big as a population, as a species, and this planet is relatively small. We see it in things like climate change and pollution and heavy industry. We are in the process of destroying this planet. And we have sent robotic probes to every planet in the solar system — this is the good one. So, we have to preserve this planet.” That was in a recent interview with CBS News regarding the Apollo 11 anniversary.

The idea is for Blue Origin (Bezos’ space company) to create outposts on near-earth planets or other bodies where humans and robots can live and work in factories to create products that we need on Earth.  In this way, we could drastically cut the amount of carbon in Earth’s atmosphere and start to reverse some of the damage we’ve done.

I love that idea at first glance. Here’s where I have to be a big liberal poopy-pants, though. The sci-fi writer in me is already drafting up a scenario in which only the upper classes get to live on Earth while all of the working class people have to live and work on Mars or one of Saturn’s moons to make a living and provide the people on Earth with the luxuries they demand. Of course, it also doesn’t help that I watched this John Oliver bit last week. So, I’m not saying it’s inevitable, I’m just saying it’s possible. 

Musk Has Already Spent a Fortune to Get to Space… and Stay There.

Elon Musk Bio Shot

Elon Musk

According to the SpaceX website, 

SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.

That’s a similar, but importantly different, goal. Bezos wants people to live and work on other planets, too, but with the idea that we will use those planets as factories to help make Earth better. Musk is thinking much more about colonization. “Either we spread Earth to other planets, or we risk going extinct,” the SpaceX founder said. “An extinction event is inevitable and we’re increasingly doing ourselves in.”

See the difference? Bezos vision offers a view of a thriving Earth using other planets as factories and mines. Musk’s vision offers a view where the Earth is fracked no matter what, so we need to branch out as far as possible and colonize.  

So Who’s Right?

Well, we don’t know yet. And let’s be clear, I don’t get to tell Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk how to spend their money. In fact, I’ll be honest. It’s very hard for me not to view these guys as the “robber barons” of our age. Now, to be fair, the original robber barons, as bad as they were, are also known as “The Men Who Built America.” And through their competition, they built up cities and railroads and telegraphs and all sorts of other modern advances that led to the tech we love today. Unfortunately, they often did it on the backs (and sometimes graves) of their workers. So, Bezos or Musk? I guess we’ll have to see which idea comes out on top. I’m ambivalent at this point, as long as I don’t have to work at an Amazon or Tesla factory on Mars.


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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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1 Response

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  2. Avatar Sesquatch says:

    I think the author misunderstands the message Musk is trying to give.
    In the last 400 million years, Earth had 5 mass extinction events, all of which wiped out more than 3/4 of all species.
    At the moment we do not have the technology to do anything about such an event, should an asteroid hit us in the next years. The chance for such an asteroid to hit us in the next 100 years is minuscule, but its probability goes up, based on past events, the longer the time period, the higher the chance.

    What Musk says is, over a long enough time period (tens of millions of years) the Earth has a good probability of being hit by an asteroid that would either cause our civilisation to fall or even wipe out most of life as we know it. Depending on how much early warning we receive, we may or may not have the technology to deter it, thus avoid being hit.

    He argues, that it seems to be a good insurance option to spend around 1% of the world’s GDP on making humans multi-planetary species. It is also good to make it for the sake of adventure, fun and boosting the development of new technologies.

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