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Richard Branson space flight: should billionaires be going to space? | Ticker VIEWS

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As billionaire Richard Branson welcomes humanity to “the dawn of new space age”, we are left to wonder if now is the time to leave earth

In the early hours of today, Richard Branson joined fellow billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos as a competitor in the new age space race. However, should we be celebrating the possibility of a future where the extremely wealthy can afford space getaways?

The last few years have been catastrophic for planet earth. The escalating climate crisis has seen wildfires ravage through Australia last year, and more recently in California. Global tensions continue to rise with escalating conflict throughout the Middle East and a widening political divide. The Covid-19 pandemic has become not only a health crisis, but also an economic and political one.

With this in mind, billionaires going to space as the world burns feels slightly out-of-touch. In many ways, the entire concept feels like it could be pulled from the plot of some dystopian blockbuster. As the world burns, the uber-rich get to escape in their personal space jets. However, these same men (and they are all men), insist that their escapades beyond earth are inherently philanthropic.

Last year, the UN’s David Beasley implored billionaires to “step up” and help fund the fight against hunger worldwide. Beasley also took to Twitter in June to specifically encourage action from Bezos, Branson and Musk.

And yet, it seems this is the exact moment the space race between Silicon Valley’s elite is heating up. Aside from Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos also have space travel firmly in their sights with SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Will space travel be accessible to all, or only the rich?

Traveling to space must be “more accessible to all,” Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson said during a news conference following his successful space flight. However, the sentiment feels rather hollow when you look at the hefty cost of space travel.

Although the $250,000 price tag to go to space with Virgin Galactic may seem excessive, it’s a bargain compared to what other companies offer. A ticket aboard a SpaceX mission costs about $55 million, and a seat on a spaceflight next to Jeff Bezos costs about $28 million.

Even Virgin Galactic’s offerings for relatively cheap space travel cost about the same as the US’ medium house price. Thus far, the company says at least 600 people have made reservations for future Virgin Galactic flights, at a ticket price estimated to cost as much as $250,000.

Space Connector Christina Korp has over 12 years managing former NASA astronauts and says although Branson, Bezos and musk are fuelling the cash and ‘billionaire space race’ angle… it’s just a natural progression to take space to a commercial market.

“I heard their intention is to hopefully begin to do flights once a week or possible once a day (to space)”

Space Connector Christina Korp

Korp says NASA astronauts want to share their perspective of earth and believe more people should be able to also experience space.

“We’re here to make space more accessible to all,” says Richard Branson.

For his part, Branson has committed to reducing ticket prices. Although, he hasn’t specified when we can expect cheaper flights, or how cheap the tickets could become. Of course, many analysts say that space tourism flights will naturally become less expensive as technology continues to develop.

Space travel isn’t the only new technology that has a price tag too large for the average person. During the early days of commercial aircraft, a plane ticket was far out of most people’s reach. Now, over a billion people travel internationally every year (albeit this statistic was prior to Covid-19 restrictions).

“The price point is high, but that’s just like any other early adopter,” said Ann Kim, managing director of frontier tech at Silicon Valley Bank.

Are billionaires using their money to go to space, or is going to space making them money?

At the core of each of these discussions is a central component: money, and lots of it. Experts anticipate that space tourism will represent an annual market of $20 billion, as a competitor to long-distance commercial flights.

The billions of dollars pouring into private space companies represents “a high level” of capital formation, UBS said. Even though space tourism is still in its early days, UBS said they believe the sub-sector “will become mainstream as the technology becomes proven and cost falls”.

With so much money at stake, it leaves you to wonder whether the mission of these billionaires truly is to provide for humanity. And if so, why would they not direct their philanthropic endeavours closer to earth?

This isn’t to say that improving space travel technology won’t be beneficial to humanity. However, you’d be kidding yourself if you saw space technology as anything other than a capitalistic investment.

Let the record say: I’m not opposed to space travel, or investing in the development of space technology. However, perhaps billionaires should be using their astronomical wealth to contribute to social causes closer to earth.

Natasha is an Associate Producer at ticker NEWS with a Bachelor of arts from Monash University. She has previously worked at Sky News Australia and Monash University as an Online Content Producer.

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Tesla is slashing prices to stay competitive

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Tesla cut the U.S. prices of its Model Y, Model X and Model S vehicles by $2,000 each, days after the first-quarter deliveries of the world’s most valuable automaker missed market expectations.

Elon Musk’s electric-vehicle (EV) maker lowered the prices for its Model Y base variant to $42,990, while the long-range and performance variants are now priced at $47,990 and $51,490, respectively, according to its website.

The basic version of the Model S now costs $72,990 and its plaid variant $87,990. The Model X base variant now costs $77,990 and its plaid variant is priced at $92,900.
Tesla North America also said in a post on X said it would end its referral program benefits in all markets after April 30.

Referral program allows buyers to get extra incentives through referrals from existing customers, a strategy long used by traditional automakers to boost sales.

Musk has postponed a planned trip to India where he was to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and announce plans to enter the South Asian market, Reuters reported on Saturday.
On Monday Reuters reported, citing an internal memo, that the EV maker was laying off more than 10% of its global workforce.
Earlier this month Reuters reported the EV maker had canceled a long-promised inexpensive car, expected to cost $25,000, that investors had been counting on to drive mass-market growth.
The EV maker reported this month that its global vehicle deliveries in the first quarter fell for the first time in nearly four years, as price cuts failed to stir demand.

Tesla is to report first-quarter earnings on Tuesday.

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TikTok launches Instagram competitor ‘Notes’

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TikTok Notes has launched in Australia & Canada as a formidable competitor to Instagram, offering a unique platform for content creation, text and sharing.

“TikTok Notes is a lifestyle platform that offers informative photo-text content about people’s lives, where you can see individuals sharing their travel tips and daily recipes,” reads the official App Store description.

Take note

The app allows users to create content by combining short videos with text-based notes, closely resembling that of Meta’s Instagram.

Whether it’s sharing a quick tutorial, a personal anecdote, or a thought-provoking message, TikTok Notes is positioned to be a formidable social media platform.

Currently, the app is only available for download and “limited testing” in Australia and Canada.

As it gains momentum, the platform is poised to contest Instagram’s established reign in the social media landscape.

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Ramifications of a TikTok ban to impact Open Internet

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The United States’ longstanding advocacy for an open internet faces a critical juncture as Congress considers legislation targeting TikTok.

The proposed measures, including a forced sale or outright ban of TikTok, have sparked concerns among digital rights advocates and global observers about the implications for internet freedom and international norms.

For decades, the U.S. has championed the concept of an unregulated internet, advocating for the free flow of digital data across borders.

However, the move against TikTok, a platform with 170 million U.S. users, has raised questions about the consistency of America’s stance on internet governance.

Read more – Big tech to handover misinformation data

Critics fear that actions against TikTok could set a precedent for other countries to justify their own internet censorship measures.

Russian blogger Aleksandr Gorbunov warned that Russia could use the U.S. decision to justify further restrictions on platforms like YouTube.

Similarly, Indian lawyer Mishi Choudhary expressed concerns that a U.S. ban on TikTok would embolden the Indian government to impose additional crackdowns on internet freedoms.

Moreover, the proposed legislation could complicate U.S. efforts to advocate for an internet governed by international organizations rather than individual countries.

China, in particular, has promoted a vision of internet sovereignty, advocating for greater national control over online content.

A TikTok ban could undermine America’s credibility in urging other countries to embrace a more open internet governed by global standards.

 

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