Richard Branson space flight: should billionaires be going to space? | Ticker VIEWS
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.
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.
Apple takes your eyes and your wallet with the Vision Pro
Welcome to the future of the world, or at least how Apple wants you watch, feel and communicate with it.
Apple describes the Vision Pro headset as “a revolutionary spatial computer that seamlessly blends digital content with the physical world.”
The device features a new operating system that features a 3D interface.
You can watch movies, scroll through apps, pretty much everything you can don on your phone, but this device doesn’t fit in your hands. You use your eyes.
The entire front of the headset is made of polished glass that flows into a lightweight aluminum frame. The top of the headset features a button and a Digital Crown that lets a user control how present or immersed they are in an environment.
But as usual with Apple, there’s a catch, and also, as usual, it’s the price.
The Vision Pro starts at $US3500 and is only available in US retail stores from next year.
Tech commentator Trevor Long told Ticker News the high price will be out of reach for most users.
It comes as Meta licks its wounds having spent billions trying to make the Meta world commercially viable. So why is Apple different? #featured #apple #vision pro #trevor long
“TikTok represents two national risks to Australians”: should you delete the app?
Democracies continue to ban popular video-sharing app TikTok over national security concerns
Australia recently banned TikTok from all federal government owned devices over security concerns.
Canberra is the latest in a string of U.S.-backed allies to take action against the popular video-sharing app.
The ban centres around concerns China could use the app to trace users’ data, and undermine democratic values.
Senator James Paterson is the Australian Shadow Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security, who said TikTok poses a risk to Australians.
“They can get access to awful amount of information on your phone.
“Because it’s beholden to the Chinese Communist Party, there’s no guarantee it won’t fall into their hands,” he said.
Senator Paterson said there are “six or seven million Australians who use the app.”
Cyber attacks are on the rise, so what is being done to combat them?
Australia experienced two of its worst cyber attacks on record last year, as the world braces for cyber warfare to rise
Ukraine has suffered a threefold growth in cyber-attacks over the past year.
Viktor Zhora is leading Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection agency, who said cyber attacks are occurring at the same time as missile strikes at the hands of Russia.
Mr Zhora said in some cases, the cyber-attacks are “supportive to kinetic effects”.
On the other side of the planet, Russian hackers were responsible for Australia’s Medibank scandal.
“This is a crime that has the potential to impact on millions of Australians and damage a significant Australian business,” said Reece Kershaw, who is the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police.
Australian Shadow Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security is James Paterson, who said Australia can learn from cyber warfare in Ukraine.
“Ukraine is a lesson for the world.
“They are fighting a hybrid war, one on the ground and one online. If there is to be future conflict including in our own region, in the Indo-Pacific, it’s highly likely that the first shots in that war will occur cyber domain not in the physical world,” Senator Paterson said.
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