Jeff Bezos shoots himself into space from a small town in Texas
Texas has a long history of space exploration. After all, the first word on the moon was “Houston”. However, there is a new space center in Texas and it is not near Houston. 120 miles southeast of El Paso is Van Horn, a small town of 1,800 people that is home to Blue Origin’s first launch site. This is where Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, will launch into space.
The richest man in the world is scheduled to take an 11-minute suborbital flight on July 20. Bezos will be joined by his younger brother Mark, an anonymous bidder who paid $ 28 million (which equates to $ 442,424 per second) and an unnamed fourth crew member. Neighborhood to travel aboard New Shepard, a rocket widely mocked on the internet for its appearance. The thruster will perform a rocket-powered soft landing as the manned capsule parachutes into the West Texas desert after traveling through space.
Bezos, who lived in Texas for a time as a child, started anonymous land purchase to Van Horn for its rocket launch site in the 2000s. In fact, it was these land purchases that first revealed the existence of Blue Origin, which has a fairly secret history. Blue Origin is similar to SpaceX, another rocket and spaceflight company founded by the newly arrived Texan and fellow billionaire Elon Musk.
A spaceport isn’t the only plan Bezos has for Van Horn. The billionaire has also invested $ 42 million in construction a giant clock near the West Texas town that will last 10,000 years.
Over the past few years, the 165,000-acre ranch that Bezos owns in Van Horn has hosted several launches from Blue Origin. Since the site is focused on suborbital flight, it likely won’t play a role in Bezos’ plans in Earth orbit and beyond. For this, Blue Origin has a orbital launch facility in Florida where its largest New Glenn rocket will be manufactured and launched. Still, suborbital flight has interesting potential when it comes to things like point to point transport. The US military is even considering using suborbital transports to move troops and cargo around the world extremely quickly.
Bezos has long been fascinated by space. When the science fiction television series The extent was canceled by SyFy, Bezos personally stepped in and had the show restarted by Amazon (if you haven’t seen The extent however, you should). So while his ex-wife gives his billions to charity, Bezos poured a billion dollars per year in Blue Origin. Bezos’ endgame for Blue Origin is space colonization, something he talked about in his high school farewell speech. As rival SpaceX targets Mars, Blue Origin’s ultimate vision centers on giant space habitats called O’Neill cylinders. Bezos hopes that one day a trillion people will live in millions of these settlements.
While Bezos may have big plans for the future of humanity, the Van Horn local government hopes that the presence of Blue Origin will boost tourism. After all, few cities can offer a view of rocket launches, and even fewer can say those launches include one of the richest people in history rushing into space.
While the town of Van Horn may be happy with Bezos’ plans, the billionaire has no shortage of detractors. Despite being the first person in modern history with a net worth of over $ 200 billion, he gives very little from his fortune to charity. Bezos also paid very little in terms of federal income tax, being subject to a real tax rate well below what many middle-class households pay (Amazon also got away with pay little or no tax). Additionally, Amazon has been repeatedly criticized for monopoly power and mistreatment of workers. There is even a ironic petition not to allow Bezos to return to Earth after leaving space. As of this writing, the petition has nearly 100,000 signatures.
Van Horn isn’t the only private spaceflight hub in Texas. SpaceX also created a launch facility in South Texas, where he is testing his new Starship vehicle. However, SpaceX’s actions have been controversial among local residents.
There are not one but two new space races currently underway. While the United States engages in a space race against China which recalls the one against the Soviet Union, there is a parallel competition between billionaires. The United States and China as well as Blue Origin and SpaceX are rushing to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Maybe these resources could be better spent elsewhere, but maybe humanity will truly be taken to new frontiers. Much like the Cold War space race, Texas once again finds itself at the center as various factions vie for a place in the stars.