The true reason Musk, Bezos, and Branson are obsessed with space

Cosmology, more than any other curiosity, profits from mystery. 

For those of us that became pseudo-intellectual headaches the week we finished Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, the less we actually understood about the pedagogical gamechanger the more hypnotic the content became.  For the true experts, astronomy is governed by the opposite tack that theology is. Theology is all about the final word: Here’s what happened and death to anyone that suggests otherwise.

Astronomers, on the other hand, salivate at the smell of contradiction: Here’s what we think happened, but we encourage the contrary view. Lastly, you have the wealthy-intellectual elite. To these, the other end of the telescope receives an unconquered sea, alight with star-spangled currency. Cracking NASA’s interstellar monopoly wide open, they’ve been dyeing their cosmic flags for almost two decades now. The USS Branson has been tweaking for a galactic voyage since 2004. “People want to go to space, people should go to space, because they come back changed.” The English Virgin Group founder once remarked in reference to the launch of his Space Tourism enterprise. But alas, to put it in the words of the lion maned magnate  himself, “Space is hard.” 

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The Space Race II

Branson celebrated 69 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center over the weekend, during a blowout conducted in honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Alongside certified NASA members, the event welcomed the attendance of the 100 aspiring astronauts that have already invested in the Virgin Galactic’s interstellar voyage.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s iconic touch down on lunar soil is forever embedded in Branson’s psyche. Upon reflection, he believes Apollo 11 to be the true inspiration behind the Virgin Galactic. 

Elon Musk, the living breathing mascot for prophetic space jargon, recently occasioned the moon landing as the single most inspiring event in history. This makes sense given everything we know about the personality of Musk’s legacy and the aim of his detractors, both drawing from the same well.

The moon landing, in a single bound, made fools of all those that took John F. Kennedy’s declaration for granted just eight years prior, established a nation of insatiable pioneers, introduced the previously inconceivable potential of celestial conquest, all the while reshaping the pop culture landscape as we know it.

What could make the eccentric South African engineer more satisfied than being able to make gadflies eat their aspersions, justify his lofty investments, revolutionize commerce and be the current that effectively energizes a new age?  If any of this is gonna happen in our lifetime, I would forgive you for preemptively declaring  Musk to be the first cosmic Viking to light his vessel upon empyrean shores.

Jeff Bezos recently waxed poetic about his very own space colony, and so now we can fully illustrate the sterile board meeting approved sequel to the Space Race: And this time it’s personal.   Where the first go-round was staged between two cold war rivals, pitting capitalism and communism head to head, this iteration is set between a trio of billionaires committing to a missile measuring contest, the victor of which will be responsible for making science fiction an affordable, practical reality.

To be fair, in this parallel universe wherein keeping up with the adventures of adults in body stockings has become the most important thing in society, it’s kind of refreshing to watch pop culture aficionados with the actual brain and green power to furnish their niche obsessions duke it out. It’s also fun that they each represent different shades of the geek rainbow.  Elon Musk is the modern pot-smoking, Kanye West-loving, Douglas Adams reading, kid with the coolest toys in the neighborhood kind of nerd. Richard Branson is a throwback die-hard Trekkie, ‘ride the tyga,’ owns reptiles for sure and probably a katana, kind of nerd. And Bezos is the practiced statistical analysis by designing a survey so students could rate their teachers, says films/pictures instead of movies, “my watch updates itself from the atomic clock 36 six times a day,” my spacesuit has a pocket protector kind of nerd.

Bezos, Musk, and Branson represent a unique trio of billionaire space-cases only by reason of publicity. The truth is there’s a strange but well-established correlation between inexhaustible wealth and the desire to champion worlds unknown. Aerospace companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin are all behind schedule in their promise of “redundant space access.”

Yet plutocrats eagerly wait in line to microdose on heaven.  

I think colonization attempts to defy that Rousseau maxim that has been needling the rich for nearly three centuries. Namely the submission that there are simply some things that money just can’t buy.’  It’s not the literal wisdom of the quote that tests the patience of the opulent but the implication that exceptional wealth can only be rewarded by the forfeit of a restful mind-or that one can’t have all the money in the world, without the exceeding want for true meaning.

But space tourism thinks cheaply of the adage enjoyed by men still bowled over by steam engines. If the promises of the three Flioneers prove prophetic, it means there is indeed a price on an indelible legacy. To be one of the first humans to colonize the Moon means you can pay your way into a history book, there’s a tag on the children of the future saying Chad Sylverspoon in earnest, histrionic tones. This is doubly true for the trinity of would-be Space engineers mentioned above. Bezos, Musk, and Branson are in the business of impact, which utilizes currency that clears by the millennia.