Flight: more than just a joy ride

Although it may seem financially frivolous, Bezos' trip to space signals a broader economic aim.

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Opinion

July 22, 2021 - 9:04 AM

Blue Origin’s New Shepard lifts-off from the launch pad carrying Jeff Bezos along with his brother Mark Bezos, 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, and 82-year-old Wally Funk on July 20, 2021 in Van Horn, Texas. Jeff Bezos and the crew are riding in the first human spaceflight for the company. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/TNS)

The richest man on Earth briefly lost that title Tuesday morning, but only because for a few floaty minutes he was no longer on Earth. Jeff Bezos has spent two decades using his Amazon wealth to underwrite a rocket venture, Blue Origin. On Tuesday the company launched its first manned flight to space, with Mr. Bezos strapped on board the capsule.

After riding the New Shepard rocket to Mach 3, experiencing weightlessness, and parachuting back to the Texas desert, Mr. Bezos thanked the engineers and crew, along with “every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all this.”

It’s easy to dismiss this as a joy ride, which in part it was, or as the indulgence of a rich man with attention-deficit disorder. But as billionaires’ hobbies go, this is more productive than, well, owning the Washington Post. “The architecture and the technology we have chosen,” Mr. Bezos said, “is complete overkill for a suborbital tourism mission.” That’s because the mission isn’t limited to expensive thrills.

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