Boys and their toys
We all know about type A personalities and their driven behaviour, but some senior business leaders have taken their private passions to new heights. Literally. Next month Amazon’s Jeff Bezos will take a ride to space in a reusable rocket launched by Blue Origin, his space company. This is not just any ride, this is the maiden flight with passengers. Coming along with him will be his brother, an unnamed individual who paid US$30 million for the privilege, as well as an astronaut yet to be named. In fact, the rocket, called the New Shepard, is named after Alan Shepard, who in 1961 was the first American in space. Maybe it’s Shepard who will be aboard.
The entire circuit up to 350,000 feet – almost but not quite into orbit – and down again helped by parachutes to land somewhere into the briny sea takes all of eleven minutes. Three of those minutes will, once everyone is unbuckled, provide a weightless zone where they can float about with grins wider than a crescent moon. For his part, Bezos is facing the danger despite his earthbound duties as founder, executive chair and largest shareholder of Amazon, the world’s biggest internet company.
Another modern-day billionaire, Elon Musk, has been working the same territory. Between them, Bezos and Musk are worth something like US$350 billion, a sum as astronomical as their plans. Musk’s SpaceX rockets are busy taking supplies to the International Space Station and have a contract with NASA for missions to the moon by 2024. Musk, whose tweets can move the market value of Bitcoin, also intends to colonize Mars with the first flight arriving on the red planet as early as 2026. He has admitted there are perils, saying of some of the early flights, “You might not come back alive.”
While all of this seems unlikely or impossible, or both, aren’t such adventures precisely what the human race is all about. In 1492, Christopher Columbus was looking for a faster way to get from Europe to the East Indies by heading west. Instead, he bumped into America, and became famous for finding something he didn’t know was there. But there must have been many who watched him sail away from Spain, thinking he was crazy. But without crazy people, there’d be less progress for the rest of us. May Jeff Bezos and his fellow high-flyers survive and his ideas thrive.