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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.

Tech

Twitter Files: Jack Dorsey urges Elon Musk to ‘release everything without filter’

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The fallout continues as Elon Musk keeps pursuing transparency

Ex-Twitter boss Jack Dorsey is calling on the new CEO Elon Musk to make all the ‘Twitter files’ public.

The move comes after the company’s former deputy general counsel James Baker was fired for his role in suppressing the Hunter Biden laptop story.

Baker is accused of being part of a ‘deep state’ at the social media platform and sabotaging or obstructing the recent efforts by Musk in releasing information to the public.

Twitter’s former deputy general counsel James Baker is also former counsel to FBI director James Comey.

The situation allegedly came to Musk’s attention on Tuesday after revelations that Baker was delaying the release of files showing government collusion with Twitter to journalists Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss.

In a Tuesday thread Taibbi wrote, “On Friday, the first installment of the Twitter files was published here. We expected to publish more over the weekend. Many wondered why there was a delay.”

“We can now tell you part of the reason why. On Tuesday, Twitter Deputy General Counsel (and former FBI General Counsel) Jim Baker was fired. Among the reasons? Vetting the first batch of ‘Twitter Files’ — without knowledge of new management.”

Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Jordan promised investigations into this and other Big Tech firms colluding with government officials to suppress information.

“I am very concerned about the government influencing big tech in this collusion we now see big tech, big media, big government all working to keep information from with the people,” Jordan said.

When asked about this story during the White House daily press briefing, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she will not comment of things that happened during U.S. President Joe Biden’s presidential election.

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How did Musk lose his title as the world’s richest person?

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Elon Musk has briefly lost his title as the world’s richest person

This is all following a steep drop in the value of his stake in Tesla and his $44 billion purchase of Twitter.

Bernard Arnault, the CEO of LVMH, which includes luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, briefly took over the title, with a personal wealth of $185 billion.

Musk has held the top position since late 2021, but has seen his wealth drop, as Tesla investors are worried that he is focused more on Twitter than the electric vehicle company.

Tesla has lost nearly half of its market value and Musk’s value has fallen approximately $70 billion since he made a bid for Twitter back in April.

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Tech

Musk slams investigation of bedrooms at Twitter HQ

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It’s every office worker’s dream, turning headquarters into a snooze zone… but Elon Musk has slammed concerns

Elon Musk has criticised San Francisco Mayor over an investigation into offices turned into bedrooms at Twitter’s headquarters.

Musk accused the city of attacking companies providing bedrooms for “tired employees”.

The new Twitter boss recently demanded staff committed to long hours or left.

San Fran authorities are investigating potential violations of the building code

A Department of Building Inspection official told local media ‘We need to make sure the building is being used as intended.”

It follows this tweet from the director of product management, attracting thousands of eyeballs for her hashtag ‘sleep where you work’ post.

In May 2020, prior to Musk’s takeover, Twitter told employees they could work from home “forever” if they wished too.

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