Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) boss Jeff Bezos is giving up his day job to spend more time with his family of other interests.
Staying as executive chair of the online retailer and web services colossus, he said he will “stay engaged” with his big baby, but “also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions”.
As a reusable rocket launch company, Blue Origin also pits Bezos up against Musk and his SpaceX outfit.
And it is another example of where Musk is pipping his fellow Silicon Valley billionaire, even though Bezos founded Blue Origin two years before Musk established SpaceX, 2000 and 2002 respectively.
Last year, Blue Origin completed one sub-orbital flight, the seventh test launch of its New Shepard rocket, while SpaceX completed 25 orbital launches, including one suborbital abort test.
Spacex, which was valued last summer at US$46bn when it carried out its latest fundraising, is generating revenue from its contracts to carry astronauts for Nasa and equipment and other ‘payloads’ for satellite companies and other space companies, including record numbers on its recent ‘rideshare’.
Falcon 9 launches 143 spacecraft to orbit — the most ever deployed on a single mission — completing SpaceX’s first dedicated SmallSat Rideshare Program mission pic.twitter.com/CJSUvKWeb4
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 25, 2021
Last year, a coalition including Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper won a US$579mln Nasa contract to develop a human landing system as part of the Artemis program to return humans to the Moon.
Both Blue Origin and SpaceX are keen to develop their human spaceflight programs.
So far in 2021, Blue Origin has launched its first test of a new New Shepard spacecraft, designed eventually to take astronauts and payloads into space, called the RSS First Step.
The First Step launch last month was an un-crewed suborbital test flight, with both reusable rocket and capsule successfully touching back down afterwards, with the latter having peaked at about 107km above Earth.
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) January 14, 2021
Competing with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic to provide space tourism, this could be a good money spinner for Blue Origin as it works on developing Bezos’s longer term plans, which include putting a permanent base on the moon and building up giant space colonies.
As Bezos has said: “The solar system can support a trillion humans, and then we’d have 1,000 Mozarts, and 1,000 Einsteins. Think how incredible and dynamic that civilization will be.”
Musk, meanwhile is fixated specifically on Mars.
Last year he said SpaceX, which has already carried Nasa astronauts and supplies to and from the International Space Station, could send its first uncrewed spacecraft to Mars by 2022, with astronauts flying to the red planet within the next three to five years.
With trips to our nearest planetary neighbour depending upon a two-year cycle of the two planets’ orbits lining up, Musk said SpaceX astronauts could fly to Mars in the next window after that in 2024, “if we get lucky” but for 2026 he said he was “highly confident”.
This will use SpaceX’s Starship, the company’s fully reusable interplanetary space flight system, of which the latest prototype took off on a test flight last night from the company’s South Texas site, before exploding on landing.
The SN9 Starship prototype, which is 50 meters tall, reached its target altitude of about 10 kilometers and performed a horizontal flip before coming back to Earth and messing up its landing – the same problem that befell its SN8 predecessor.
Meanwhile, SpaceX’s commercial Falcon 9 rocket has already carried out three launches in 2021, and said this week that it will send four space tourists up into orbit later some time between October and December this year.
Accompanied by a former NASA astronaut, businessman Jared Isaacman is paying for the flight and donating the three other seats aboard the Dragon spacecraft to anyone who donates to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or shares an “inspirational business story” on Twitter. The price of the trip has not been made public.