Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|July 22, 2021|3 Minutes|In Editor's Desk

Editor’s Desk

Billionaires rocket – so what?

It used to be a new yacht and a Maserati that were the status symbols for billionaires. Back in the day, in Africa, they used to say the ultimate status symbol was a British passport, a Swiss Bank account and a South African lifestyle.

This year it seems to be the ultimate for a billionaire to jump on a rocket and zoom for the stars.

South African born Elon Musk – who thinks one day we should live on Mars – has blasted off, so has Virgin billionaire Richard Branson.

More than 20 years ago, on a TV show, the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – worth more than $200 billion – said he wanted to explore space one day. At the time, it would have been a pipe-dream desire tantamount to winning the world cup or having tea with God.

Yet, this week, Bezos lived to see his dream – an 11-minute flight to the edge of space aboard a Blue Origin rocket. The rocket was called New Shepherd after the American Alan Shepard who was one of the first men on the moon.

Maybe it is time to ask what these billionaires are doing? Is this a worthwhile way to open up the road towards a new world of wealth creation? Or is it merely rich boy joyriding?

How much money was burned and carbon created by the Bezos flight alone? Was anything learned from the flight and what kind of leap forward for mankind will come out of it?

Hundreds of thousands of people left behind by Bezos on earth signed a petition calling for Bezos to be prevented from returning to earth.

“Billionaires should not exist… on earth, or in space,” said one petition.

Well, they do exist and there are likely to be many more in Africa this century, but should they be blowing their money on trips in space?

Surely, there are many projects that not only can create wealth on earth, but also solve the many problems facing mankind. In Africa alone, the money would be better directed to connecting people with green electricity and the internet, or ending hunger, or recycling waste along with building infrastructure to encourage investment.

The proponent of these rocket trips say they will open up space tourism – a field likely to create a whole new wave of entrepreneurs. It is up to the billionaires to show us how to spread the wealth from rockets otherwise they will be seen merely as the expensive obsession of the wealthy few.