What does the richest man on Earth do with his money?
The recently minted “richest man” is Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, and he wants to go to space.
He wants you to go to space, too.
His net worth can rise or fall by billions daily, depending on the stock market, but his $100+ billion status appears secure.
“The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is converting my Amazon winnings into space travel,” he said in a recent interview with Business Insider.
When he was 18 and a high school valedictorian, Bezos told the Miami Herald in 1982 that he hoped to “build space hotels, amusement parks and colonies” for people to live in orbit around the planet. He said he envisioned the planet as a park to be preserved.
Now at 54, Jeff Bezos is fulfilling his dreams with his company Blue Origin, a private re-useable rocket company. By reusing rockets, Blue Origin can significantly lower the cost of space travel and exploration.
Noting that the Earth is getting crowded, Bezos thinks the solar system could support a trillion humans. “And if we had a trillion humans, we would have a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts and unlimited (for all practical purposes) resources,” he says.
Bezos, who is married and has four children, says that is the life he envisions for his great-great-great-great-grandchildren.
Bezos is worried that humanity could reach stasis and plateau instead of finding new frontiers and exploring the universe so humans stay productive and dynamic.
Similar feelings must be common as two other billionaires have space ventures: Tesla CEO Elon Musk is heading up the rocket firm Space X, and Richard Branson heads the space tourism company Virgin Galactic. Musk has opted out of the tourism market and is in a race to go to Mars, and Branson’s Virgin Galactic is said to have more than 700 reservations at $250,000 each from affluent clients and celebrities including Katy Perry and Brad Pitt.
Blue Origin, with headquarters in Kent, just south of Seattle, was founded by Bezos and a handful of engineers in 2000. With the mindset “spaceflight endeavors should be profitable,” they set out to find ways to cut costs, primarily by developing reusable rockets and spacecraft. Bezos wants Blue Origin to be profitable so it can also be sustainable.
Blue Origin recently launched the New Shepard suborbital capsule from its Van Horn, Texas test facility. New Shepard carried microgravity experiments and a test dummy called “Mannequin Skywalker” on the company’s eighth test flight, this time reaching the edge of space. Both the booster rocket and the New Shepard capsule successfully landed near the launch pad, making this the seventh successful flight in a row.
The New Shepard capsule is designed with six large windows (measuring four feet by two-and-a-half feet) to offer panoramic views to six passengers, or “space tourists,” over 62 miles in altitude where they will experience weightlessness until their descent back to Earth. With continued successful test flights, piloted test flights are anticipated to come later this year, but no dates have been set.
Bezos said he is investing around $1 billion in Amazon stock per year to fund the Blue Origin project and is working with NASA for access to its technology to measuring acceleration, pressure, acoustics and other factors that would affect human passengers. Other research being done involves Wi-Fi delivery to spacecraft and microgravity gene expression.
The company recently built a rocket factory near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to build its New Glenn boosters with a powerful BE-4 engine. The New Glenn will help it compete in the United States with SpaceX boosters and the Vulcan rocket from United Launch Alliance in the business of delivering satellites into orbit.
Bezos expects to have the new rocket in a low-Earth orbit by 2020.