We are close to finishing 7-months of 2021 and the most vivid memory of the year till now remains of corona, oxygen, deaths, the race to get vaccinated, cyclones, monsoon, Afghanistan, the stock market, IPOs.
But in the midst of all this, the most brilliant thing happened which few of us either did not pay enough attention to or dismissed it off as ‘playthings of the ultra rich.’
On 20th July, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, accompanied by three others, through his company, Blue Origin, took off on a 10-minute flight into outer space, experiencing a few minutes of zero gravity. And prior to this, on 11th July, Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group in UK, along with five others, took off into outer space, through his company, Virgin Galactic. Elon Musk, through his company, SpaceX is already ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and he might also be taking a trip in his rocket soon.
All three, multi-billionaires and all of them dreamt as a child, like most of us, of one day going into space in a rocket. Most of us, got into life on earth and the dream just vanished into space but these three had the money and the will to keep their dreams alive and made it happen.
This kind of ‘space tourism’ costs a lot and all three are facing flak, with many critics saying that this is really typical of the rich – spending on their luxuries when the world is going through a crisis. The three are also accused of paying little attention to the pandemic, saying these billions of dollars could be spent for the good of people suffering today rather than on space; why spend on space when those on earth are suffering so much? They are criticized for ploughing money from their profitable companies, albeit personal wealth, into these ventures to merely fulfill their childhood dreams. This ‘space tourism’ is being criticized for being a plaything only for the rich, where only the ultrarich will be enjoying space rides while the rest on earth will remain mute spectators.
Well, we don’t agree with these critics. Putting it simply in one line – if there is no innovation, mankind will never make progress. These three have the money and the wherewithal to go where no man has gone before, so why not? Surely, these and more would have been the kind of criticism when the Concord or even the passenger flights would have taken off 100 years ago. When the Concord (defunct now) or the passenger flights took off, only the ultrarich could afford it and today, it has become a for-all mode of transport, sometimes cheaper than even the train.
Bezos, Musk and Branson are essentially innovating and what they are doing today, could give us earthlings benefit in the next years to come. Maybe in the next 50 years, our grand and great grandchildren might travel to space like the way we take off in the planes and for that to happen, what these three are doing is immense. Yes, they too will reap benefits of their efforts but can we blame them for that too; isn’t this also enterprise?
Look at it this the other way – the money which has come into circulation due to these three into the space ventures would have otherwise remained in banks or lockers or in something else. But this has created employment, given wings to enterprise, money invested here will generate more money and more importantly, will give wings to student’s aspirations – the demand for space engineers and such will only increase.
Do we see the ultrarich in India investing in space? Not now. Indian businessmen are very cautious by nature and they will put money only when it is established and processes are in place.
Let us celebrate these innovators; it takes courage, lots of it, to put money, even if they have lots of it into the unknown.