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What did the Hubble Space Telescope see on these celebrity birthdays? – CBC.ca

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We put Drake, Lizzo, Mendes and Eilish through the cosmic calculator

Happy birthday to the Hubble Space Telescope, which has spent the past 30 years peering into the far corners of the universe.

Scientists have used the contraption, which was launched on April 24, 1990, to take a closer look at everything from the planets in our own solar system to stars in distant galaxies.

NASA, which is the name for the U.S. government agency responsible for space science, decided to mark Hubble’s birthday by launching a cosmic calculator of sorts.

A new feature on the NASA website allows you to input the day and month of your birth in order to see which space image Hubble captured on your birthday.

Here’s what happened when we searched the birthdays of some of the biggest names in music:

Drake

On Drake’s 25th birthday, on Oct. 24, 2011, Hubble captured this image of a galaxy with a golden loop of sun-like stars inside what looks like a ring of smoke. (NASA, Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for TNT)

Lizzo

When Lizzo turned 11 on April 27, 1999, Hubble caught this supernova on camera. A supernova is a large explosion that happens at the end of a star’s life cycle. (NASA, Joe Maher/Getty Images for Bauer Media)

Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes was only five years old when Hubble captured this image on Aug. 8, 2003, of a neutron star, which is created when a giant star dies in a supernova, causing its core to collapse. (NASA, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Of course the images aren’t always that dramatic, but the stories behind them are still pretty awe-inspiring.

Take this one, for example:

Billie Eilish

Six years before Billie Eilish was born, on Dec. 18, 1995, Hubble returned this image of hundreds of galaxies that had never been seen before. According to NASA, their colours and shapes provided clues to help explain how the universe evolved. (NASA, Jean-Baptiste Lacroix/AFP via Getty Images)

Amazing facts

The Hubble Space Telescope has had a “profound” impact on our understanding of space and the universe as a whole, said Bob McDonald, host of CBC Radio’s science program Quirks & Quarks.

The telescope, which is the length of a school bus and weighs about the same as two elephants, is powered by solar panels.

How does it work? It uses four mirrors to collect and focus light from distant objects.

Hubble Space Telescope: COOL FACTS. It only takes the Hubble telescope about 95 minutes to travel all the way around — or orbit — the Earth. Telescopes on Earth often take fuzzy pictures because the Earth’s atmosphere gets in the way. Because Hubble is in space, it doesn’t have that problem. Imagine you could see a tiny night light shining on the surface of the moon from all the way down here on Earth. That’s how well the Hubble telescope can see. The telescope was named after U.S. astronomer Edwin P. Hubble. His big claim to fame? Hubble was able to confirm that the universe is expanding.

What’s next?

Hubble telescope floats in space.

The Hubble Space Telescope has provided amazing images of the universe for the past 30 years, but it’s soon to be replaced. (NASA via Getty Images)

Although the Hubble telescope looks a bit old-fashioned, “it was designed to be upgraded,” McDonald said.

Astronauts have visited it a number of times to do repairs, he said, which means it’s “actually far better now than when it was launched.”

Still, NASA has plans to put a new telescope in space in 2021.

James Webb Telescope with mirrored panels in honeycomb pattern.

Scientists are busy performing a bunch of tests on the James Webb Telescope, including folding and unfolding its giant mirrors, so that it’ll be ready to launch in 2021. (Chris Gunn/NASA)

Bigger and maybe better, too

The James Webb Space Telescope will be much larger than Hubble, McDonald said.

“In fact, its mirror is so large it had to be made in sections that fold up so it can fit into a rocket,” he said.

“In space, it will unfold like a flower and be able to see even further into space.”

It’s possible the James Webb will manage to find another Earth-like planet out there, McDonald said.

The big picture

What’s the point of all this space exploration, according to McDonald? Perspective.

Telescopes like Hubble show us that “our planet is but a tiny speck in an unimaginably huge universe,” he said.

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SpaceX opens era of amateur astronauts, cosmic movie sets – CTV News

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CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. —
SpaceX’s debut astronaut launch is the biggest, most visible opening shot yet in NASA’s grand plan for commercializing Earth’s backyard.

Amateur astronauts, private space stations, flying factories, out-of-this-world movie sets — this is the future the space agency is striving to shape as it eases out of low-Earth orbit and aims for the moon and Mars.

It doesn’t quite reach the fantasized heights of George Jetson and Iron Man, but still promises plenty of thrills.

“I’m still waiting for my personal jetpack. But the future is incredibly exciting,” NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren said the day before SpaceX’s historic liftoff.

NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, who will test drive Boeing’s space capsule next year, envisions scientists, doctors, poets and reporters lining up for rocket rides.

“I see this as a real possibility,” she said. “You’re going to see low-Earth orbit open up.”

The road to get there has never been so crowded, with Elon Musk’s SpaceX company leading the pack.

A week ago, SpaceX became the first private company to send people into orbit, something accomplished by only three countries in nearly 60 years. The flight to the International Space Station returned astronaut launches to the U.S. after nine long years.

“This is hopefully the first step on a journey toward a civilization on Mars,” an emotional Musk told journalists following liftoff.

Closer in time and space is SpaceX’s involvement in a plan to launch Tom Cruise to the space station to shoot a movie in another year or so. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine embraces the idea. He wants NASA to be just one of many customers in this new space-travelling era, where private companies own and fly their own spaceships and sell empty seats.

“Kind of a changing of the guard in how we’re going to do human spaceflight in the future,” said Mike Suffredini, a former NASA station program manager who now leads Houston’s Axiom Space company.

Axiom has partnered with SpaceX to launch three customers to the space station in fall 2021. An experienced astronaut will accompany them, serving as the commander-slash-tour guide. Two private flights a year are planned, using completely automated capsules belonging to SpaceX or Boeing, NASA’s two commercial crew providers.

The ticket price — which includes 15 weeks of training and more than a week at the space station — is about $55 million. Besides the three signed up, others have expressed serious interest, Suffredini said.

Since last weekend’s successful launch, “everybody’s starting to wonder where their place in line is,” Suffredini told The Associated Press on Thursday. “That’s a really, really cool position to be in now.”

Space Adventures Inc. of Vienna, Virginia, also has teamed up with SpaceX. Planned for late next year, this five-day-or-so mission would skip the space station and instead orbit two to three times higher for more sweeping views of Earth. The cost: around $35 million. It’s also advertising rides to the space station via Boeing Starliner and Russian Soyuz capsules.

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are taking it slower and lower with tourist flights. These space-skimming, up-and-down flights will last minutes, not days, and cost a lot less. Hundreds already have reservations with Virgin Galactic.

Branson is the only one of the three billionaires planning to launch himself before putting customers aboard at $250,000 a pop. His winged rocketship is designed to drop from a customized plane flying over New Mexico.

Blue Origin’s customers will launch on rockets from West Texas; the capsules sport wall-to-ceiling windows, the largest ever built for a spacecraft.

It’s not just rocket rides that have companies salivating.

Beginning in 2024, Axiom plans to build its own addition to the 260-mile-high (420-kilometre-high) outpost to accommodate its private astronauts. The segment would later be detached and turned into its own free-flying abode.

Space Adventures is marketing flights to the moon — not to land, but buzz it in Russian spacecraft.

The moon — considered the proving ground for the ultimate destination Mars — is where it’s at these days. NASA is pushing to get astronauts back on the lunar surface by 2024 and establish a permanent base there.

Musk’s company recently won contracts to haul cargo to the moon and develop a lunar lander for astronauts.

But the bigger draw for Musk is Mars. It’s why he founded SpaceX 18 years ago — and why he keeps pushing the space envelope.

“I cannot emphasize this enough. This is the thing that we need to do. We must make life sustainably multi planetary. It’s not one planet to the exclusion of another, but to extend life beyond Earth,” Musk said after last weekend’s launch.

“I call upon the public to support this goal,” he added, beckoning to the NASA TV cameras.

To fulfil that vision, SpaceX is using its own money to develop a massive, bullet-shaped steel spacecraft called Starship at the bottom of Texas. Prototypes repeatedly have ruptured and exploded on the test pad, most recently on the eve of the company’s astronaut flight from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

NASA’s Bridenstine said space is currently a $400 billion market, including satellites. Opening up spaceflight to paying customers, he said, could expand the market to $1 trillion.

The goal is to drive down launch costs and ramp up innovation, drawing in more people and more business. By NASA’s count, 576 people have flown in space, with only the wealthy few footing their own bill.

The world’s first space tourist, California businessman Dennis Tito, paid a reported $20 million to the Russians to fly to the space station in 2001 — against NASA’s wishes. The Canadian founder of Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte, shelled out $35 million for a Russian ticket in 2009. Space Adventures arranged both deals.

“It really is the billionaire boys’ club,” former space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin said during last Saturday’s launch broadcast. Once prices drop, he’d consider returning to space, but not without his dogs.

“They’re ready to go, need SpaceX suits for them,” he said.

Once lunar bases are established, the next step will be Mars in the 2030s, according to Bridenstine.

“Those are the kinds of things that inspire the next Elon Musk, the next Jeff Bezos, the next Sir Richard Branson. And that’s what we have to get back to as an agency,” he said.

SpaceX still has to get NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken safely back to Earth this summer in its Dragon capsule. But the company already is looking ahead to the next astronaut crew. Crew mission director Benji Reed got a brief taste of this future as he wrapped up a chat with the astronauts Monday.

“Thank you for flying SpaceX,” he chimed.

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SpaceX opens era of amateur astronauts, cosmic movie sets – EverythingGP

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NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, who will test drive Boeing’s space capsule next year, envisions scientists, doctors, poets and reporters lining up for rocket rides.

“I see this as a real possibility,” she said. “You’re going to see low-Earth orbit open up.”

The road to get there has never been so crowded, with Elon Musk’s SpaceX company leading the pack.

A week ago, SpaceX became the first private company to send people into orbit, something accomplished by only three countries in nearly 60 years. The flight to the International Space Station returned astronaut launches to the U.S. after nine long years.

“This is hopefully the first step on a journey toward a civilization on Mars,” an emotional Musk told journalists following liftoff.

Closer in time and space is SpaceX’s involvement in a plan to launch Tom Cruise to the space station to shoot a movie in another year or so. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine embraces the idea. He wants NASA to be just one of many customers in this new space-travelling era, where private companies own and fly their own spaceships and sell empty seats.

“Kind of a changing of the guard in how we’re going to do human spaceflight in the future,” said Mike Suffredini, a former NASA station program manager who now leads Houston’s Axiom Space company.

Axiom has partnered with SpaceX to launch three customers to the space station in fall 2021. An experienced astronaut will accompany them, serving as the commander-slash-tour guide. Two private flights a year are planned, using completely automated capsules belonging to SpaceX or Boeing, NASA’s two commercial crew providers.

The ticket price — which includes 15 weeks of training and more than a week at the space station — is about $55 million. Besides the three signed up, others have expressed serious interest, Suffredini said.

Since last weekend’s successful launch, “everybody’s starting to wonder where their place in line is,” Suffredini told The Associated Press on Thursday. “That’s a really, really cool position to be in now.”

Space Adventures Inc. of Vienna, Virginia, also has teamed up with SpaceX. Planned for late next year, this five-day-or-so mission would skip the space station and instead orbit two to three times higher for more sweeping views of Earth. The cost: around $35 million. It’s also advertising rides to the space station via Boeing Starliner and Russian Soyuz capsules.

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are taking it slower and lower with tourist flights. These space-skimming, up-and-down flights will last minutes, not days, and cost a lot less. Hundreds already have reservations with Virgin Galactic.

Branson is the only one of the three billionaires planning to launch himself before putting customers aboard at $250,000 a pop. His winged rocketship is designed to drop from a customized plane flying over New Mexico.

Blue Origin’s customers will launch on rockets from West Texas; the capsules sport wall-to-ceiling windows, the largest ever built for a spacecraft.

It’s not just rocket rides that have companies salivating.

Beginning in 2024, Axiom plans to build its own addition to the 260-mile-high (420-kilometre-high) outpost to accommodate its private astronauts. The segment would later be detached and turned into its own free-flying abode.

Space Adventures is marketing flights to the moon — not to land, but buzz it in Russian spacecraft.

The moon — considered the proving ground for the ultimate destination Mars — is where it’s at these days. NASA is pushing to get astronauts back on the lunar surface by 2024 and establish a permanent base there.

Musk’s company recently won contracts to haul cargo to the moon and develop a lunar lander for astronauts.

But the bigger draw for Musk is Mars. It’s why he founded SpaceX 18 years ago — and why he keeps pushing the space envelope.

“I cannot emphasize this enough. This is the thing that we need to do. We must make life sustainably multi planetary. It’s not one planet to the exclusion of another, but to extend life beyond Earth,” Musk said after last weekend’s launch.

“I call upon the public to support this goal,” he added, beckoning to the NASA TV cameras.

To fulfil that vision, SpaceX is using its own money to develop a massive, bullet-shaped steel spacecraft called Starship at the bottom of Texas. Prototypes repeatedly have ruptured and exploded on the test pad, most recently on the eve of the company’s astronaut flight from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

NASA’s Bridenstine said space is currently a $400 billion market, including satellites. Opening up spaceflight to paying customers, he said, could expand the market to $1 trillion.

The goal is to drive down launch costs and ramp up innovation, drawing in more people and more business. By NASA’s count, 576 people have flown in space, with only the wealthy few footing their own bill.

The world’s first space tourist, California businessman Dennis Tito, paid a reported $20 million to the Russians to fly to the space station in 2001 — against NASA’s wishes. The Canadian founder of Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte, shelled out $35 million for a Russian ticket in 2009. Space Adventures arranged both deals.

“It really is the billionaire boys’ club,” former space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin said during last Saturday’s launch broadcast. Once prices drop, he’d consider returning to space, but not without his dogs.

“They’re ready to go, need SpaceX suits for them,” he said.

Once lunar bases are established, the next step will be Mars in the 2030s, according to Bridenstine.

“Those are the kinds of things that inspire the next Elon Musk, the next Jeff Bezos, the next Sir Richard Branson. And that’s what we have to get back to as an agency,” he said.

SpaceX still has to get NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken safely back to Earth this summer in its Dragon capsule. But the company already is looking ahead to the next astronaut crew. Crew mission director Benji Reed got a brief taste of this future as he wrapped up a chat with the astronauts Monday.

“Thank you for flying SpaceX,” he chimed.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press

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Three powers are now capable of launching astronauts into space: Russia, China and Elon Musk – Haaretz

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It was from launchpad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, that Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off for the moon in 1969. It was from there, too, that the disastrous missions of the space shuttles Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 took off. But today, nine years after the last mission of the Atlantis space shuttle, only weeds emerge from the scorched asphalt. For nearly a decade, the United States has been left without a human launch system. When it has wanted to send its astronauts to the International Space Station, it has been compelled to buy places on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft, which were launched from Kazakhstan.

In the meantime, at NASA, they were left wondering what to do with a rusting launch facility. Then, in 2014, the perfect client appeared: the eccentric billionaire engineer Elon Musk, who made his initial fortune from the sale of PayPal. The founder of the electric vehicle company Tesla and of the space exploration company SpaceX, Musk took a 20-year lease on the site. He wasn’t the only tech baron who entered a bid. When Musk’s bid was accepted, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and of the aerospace firm Blue Origin, moved quickly to lease the adjacent complex, No. 36, from which the probes were launched to Mars and Venus in the 1960s and 1970s.

Last Saturday, the fire was again ignited at launchpad 39A. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley blasted off for the ISS in a Dragon capsule. “Launch America” was the name NASA’s PR folks gave the widely covered event. The United States, it was said, had resumed launching astronauts from American soil. In fact, only the soil was U.S. property. The spacecraft, the launcher, the launch devices, even the spacesuits – all are the private property of SpaceX. The appearance of the NASA logo, which was displayed proudly on the spacecraft, was purchased. By the same token, it could have been the Coca-Cola logo that appeared there. Thus, as of the moment when these lines are being written, only three powers in the world have the capacity to launch astronauts into space: Russia, China and Elon Musk.

To understand how this situation came about, we need to go back to 2010. As the end of the space shuttle program approached, the Obama administration decided to shift to outsourcing. Instead of investing government resources in transporting cargo and people into orbit around Earth, NASA would focus on deep space ventures, such as preparation for a manned flight to Mars. As part of the plan, it was decided that NASA would develop the heavy-lift SLS (space launch system) rocket and the Orion spacecraft that would launch on it. At the same time, the federal government would encourage private investors to develop launch systems for near space – moon tourism, for example – and would underwrite trips for its NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

The new space revolution is deceptive. To an observer on the side it looks as though commercial firms are competing with NASA. Actually, NASA is both the principal investor in the companies and their biggest client. The space agency has funneled more than $8 billion to Boeing and to SpaceX over the past decade, most of it earmarked for the development and production of launchers and spacecraft. The rest of the funds are intended to purchase 12 flights to the International Space Station for NASA – six in Musk’s Dragon and six in Boeing’s Starliner, which is also due for a debut manned launch as early as next year.

NASA is proud of the program: It has led to the development of two independent systems for sending humans into space at half of what that would cost the government. After all, the businesspeople also chipped in with a few dollars. But in the meantime, a few things happened – and a few things didn’t happen. The inauguration of NASA’s SLS has been repeatedly postponed, and the agency’s Orion spacecraft has also not yet lifted off. And China landed rovers on the moon.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft lifts off to the International Space Station from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 30, 2020.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft lifts off to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 30, 2020. Credit: JOE SKIPPER/ Reuters

Launch leader

During the past few years, Beijing has been investing vast sums in an effort to attain American capabilities. Already now it is leading in launches: Last year, of 102 devices launched into space, 34 were Chinese and only 27 were American in origin. This year, China is planning to launch no fewer than 48 satellites, shuttles and other mechanisms, and to leave the West in the stardust. China is eyeing the moon, and there’s concern in the United States that a taikonaut – as the Chinese call their astronauts – will plant the red flag on Earth’s satellite 50 years after the Americans left it – an image that will symbolize a new world order.

Which is why President Donald Trump signed an executive order in his first year in office instructing NASA to land an American on the moon by 2024. Mars was again shunted aside. In March, NASA announced that three companies, including those of Musk and Bezos, would compete for the privilege of bringing America back to the moon. The competitors received development grants totaling $1 billion; early next year we will learn who won the hefty contract. As for NASA’s SLS and Orion projects, they have been put on ice indefinitely. The United States will bel returning to the moon in a private spacecraft.

Actually, the heavy-launch vehicle that sent Armstrong and Aldrin to the moon was built by Boeing, and the capsule in which they landed was a product of the Grumman Corporation. But the U.S. government had purchased those fantastic machines from the manufacturer, the way one buys a car. In contrast, the spacecraft of Musk and Bezos will operate like leased cars. The United States will invest in their development, but in the end they will remain in the garages of Musk and Bezos. At the conclusion of NASA’s contract, the most expensive space assets in the world, which can do what rockets and launchers that were developed by a superpower like the Soviet Union are unable to do, will be in the private and exclusive hands of two super-tycoons.

We got a glimpse into the future of privatized space in 2018, when Musk launched his red Tesla Roadster car into space in a Falcon Heavy launcher test flight. It was a brilliant marketing gimmick: The electric sports car entered into solar orbit while its sound system played David Bowie’s “Starman” in a loop. According to Musk, he wanted to inspire people; according to others, he wanted to boost the value of Tesla shares. Be that as it may, in the coming decade Musk will be capable of sending his car to the moon, to Mars and in fact to every corner of the solar system.

In the meantime, Musk did not hesitate to transport Behnken and Hurley to last weekend’s launch in a Tesla Model X: Millions watched as the NASA astronauts got into that shiny new, Musk-produced car. When the Apollo 8 crew orbited the moon and recited verses from the Book of Genesis, American atheists sued the administration on the grounds that public funds must not be used for religious propaganda. But an advertisement for a car? In Donald Trump’s USA, not a single eyebrow was raised.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk celebrates after the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket spacecraft, May 30, 2020.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk celebrates after the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket spacecraft, May 30, 2020.Credit: STEVE NESIUS/Reuters

This is just one example of the United States’ growing dependence on the good will of businesspeople. Musk is dreaming of settling a million people on Mars. He has declared that he doesn’t want to be one of the first pioneers to land on the red planet, only to retire there, but who knows what will happen at the moment of truth? Perhaps after his space taxi successfully delivers NASA astronauts to the moon, he will change his mind and decide to launch himself in the inaugural mission to Mars.

That will be his prerogative. Musk is committed to getting NASA astronauts to the moon. He is not committed to getting NASA to Mars as well, even though the same spacecraft, with government financing, is serving both destinations. If Musk or Bezos wish to upstage NASA, they may find themselves competing with the agency. Toward the end of the decade, we might be seeing a completely new type of space race: the United States, China and two tycoons. Who will win?

And, in fact, who is who? Columbus sailed to America (as it turned out) under the Spanish flag. Armstrong flew to the moon under the Stars and Stripes. If the first flags to be planted in the soil of Mars are those of Tesla or Amazon, will it mean that “the Americans” got there first?

From the public-opinion perspective, the boisterous competition between Musk and Bezos is no less interesting than the contest between the world’s great powers. Will the landing by one corporation constitute a business and personal victory over the other corporation, or will it be a national triumph reflecting the economic and technological might of their country of origin? And what if Chinese taikonauts in a government-sponsored spacecraft land after them? Will China then be the victor in the international arena?

Reasons for concern

With heavy-lift space vehicles comes heavy responsibility, such as the need to prevent disruptive light pollution (caused both by reflective glare from the craft and by their passing in front of celestial objects) and reducing the man-made space debris that is accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere. In the meantime, Elon Musk is not giving the impression that he’s an especially responsible fellow. In fact, he’s now in the process of launching 13,000 Starlink satellites that will for the first time provide the planet, as well as future Mars settlers, with comprehensive internet service from space, thus doubling the number of active satellites of all companies and countries. This SpaceX project is already creating light pollution that conceals the stars from astronomers, and last year one of Musk’s satellites almost collided with a research satellite of the European Space Agency. Can we trust him to disinfect his spaceship of earthly bacteria before the Mars launch in order to prevent interplanetary biological pollution?

[embedded content]

Of course, heavy-lift launchers also accord many rights. Whoever controls the means to launch people into space decides who will fly. Until now, that decision was in American and Russian hands. For example, it was the United States that invited the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon to join a space mission, within the framework of its special relationship with Israel. The United States has never invited an Iranian or a Chinese astronaut.

For his part, Bezos, whose vast fortune apparently spares him the need to be a media star like Musk, dreams of settling billions of people on space stations orbiting Earth. Whom will he invite? And who will he not invite? Corporations, like states, have enemies. The Chinese retail giant Alibaba is an Amazon competitor. Will Bezos agree to have Alibaba deliver packages to his colony? Or perhaps Musk will invite Alibaba founder Jack Ma to be the first tourist to do a Venus flyover, simply to rile Bezos, his space nemesis?

One thing is certain: There’s money to be made in space. Lots of money. NASA’s current administrator, James Bridenstine, estimates that the space economy is already generating revenues of $383 billion a year. If space were a country, its GNP would be higher than Israel’s. But with all due respect to satellites, the true potential of space lies in tourism and in mining minerals from asteroids or the moon. Those markets were off-limits all these years because of the staggering initial capital investment needed to reach them. Now, with the aid of government subsidies, businesspeople have developed the infrastructure to expand into both near and deep space. And to judge by the way they conduct business on Earth, they will go about it mercilessly.

In 2018, Amazon earned $11 billion and didn’t pay even one dollar in income tax. About 10 percent of the warehouse staff employed in the U.S. by Bezos – the world’s richest man – need government assistance to buy food, a higher percentage even than the hamburger flippers in McDonald’s. Some of them have to urinate into plastic bottles, for fear of the consequences if they waste time on toilet breaks. This rapaciousness is unlikely to stop in the far reaches of the universe. And it’s Bezos who is selling Amazon shares for billions every year just to enter the game. Musk has also gotten down to serious work and has already established himself as a global monopoly in the realm of commercial space launches, garnering 65 percent of all international contracts. In the first quarter of 2020, even before the successful flight of Dragon, he launched more kilograms into space than China, Russia and Europe combined.

There is no doubt that the engineers of SpaceX and Blue Origin have astonishing technological achievements to their credit. And there is also no doubt that we all want to see a Mars landing in our time. But we have to remember that we are in the meantime privatizing humanity’s interstellar future and placing it in the hands of people who can barely be restrained on Earth.

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