This weekend, the world witnessed the news of Richard Branson’s space journey. Together with Jeff Bezos, he has the aspiration to send the richest of the earth into space. It has little to do with space travel. It’s like a game of “Who has the biggest one?”
With the phrase “Who has the biggest one?” I mean the rocket, of course. Another way to describe all of this is a game that should show who can pee the furthest. The who in this case are the richest people in the world. Well, two of them to be precise: Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos.
Let’s go back to March 2020. During the first pan-European COVID-19 wave Virgin Atlantic announced that they were about to ask the British government for financial aid. This was denied. Even when Branson wanted to use his island (Necker Island) as collateral. He was able to invest 224 million of his private assets into this company. This shows that Branson has money, a lot of money. Even after he decided to give away half of his money in 2013. It’s estimated that he now has about five billion in his bank account.
Necker Island is part of the Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands are considered to be a tax haven. This helped Branson with the introduction of Virgin Galactic in 2004. After the successful mission, the share price went up. At present, the value is around 13 billion euros.
What can you do with 13 billion euros? Well, at least you can shoot rich people into space with a rocket. It is also questionable whether eighty kilometres of altitude counts as “space.” That’s a scientific discussion I’m not going to get involved in. What I do know is that you can play astronaut for thousands of euros after you buy a ticket.
I don’t think it has much to do with the “real” spaceflight. Especially when you consider that it’s become a titanic battle between Branson and Bezos. Both men have the same goal: to make as much money as possible by making people play or feel like astronauts.
It’s not the first time Branson has gone to war to attempt to lure someone else with a lot of money. We saw this earlier with the hot air balloons and specially designed aircraft. The question of whether all this benefits science so that others can benefit from it is one to which I have not yet received a clear answer.
At a time when the world has plunged into a crisis of unprecedented proportions, Branson decided it was time to abandon Bezos and launch his rocket just a little earlier. Well done though, really well done. It must have made the employees of another Branson (Virgin Atlantic) company feel good about looking for a new position in 2020.
In short, this is a game of who can pee the furthest. Peeing with money. Lots and lots of money.