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Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have profound visions for humanity’s future in space. Here’s how the billionaires’ goals compare

  • Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have each spoken at length about their visions for humanity’s future in space.
  • Musk, the founder of SpaceX, wants to launch people to Mars, establish a self-sustaining city there, and use the red planet as a base from which to further explore the solar system.
  • Bezos, meanwhile, talks of using his rocket company, Blue Origin, to put a permanent base on the moon, build up huge space colonies, and eventually have 1 trillion people living and working in space.
  • Although these visions are different, they have strong similarities, too.

Space is a big place, one rich with resources and adventure for the taking. So if you’re the imaginative type, leaving Earth offers near-limitless opportunities for humanity’s expansion.

Of all the people weighing in on how we’ll get to space, what we’ll do there, and on what timeline, the voices of two billionaires — Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos — ring the loudest and most often.

Musk, the tech mogul behind Tesla and the founder of SpaceX (a now-$33-billion rocket company), wants to establish a permanent, self-sustaining city on Mars.

Meanwhile, Bezos — the founder and CEO of Amazon — has his own space company, Blue Origin. Its work so far focuses on building a “road to space” with new rockets that could ultimately pave the way for floating colonies.

These two grandiose dreams are markedly different, and their owners occasionally spar about the details. But it’s not inconceivable that their two companies will one day work together in space.

Here’s what Musk and Bezos have said of their ambitious visions, and how they’re different yet also surprisingly similar.

Musk has been obsessed with Mars for decades.

An illustration of Mars against the blackness of space.

Sources: SECSpaceRef

In 2001 — a year before earning $165 million from the sale of PayPal — Musk came up with an idea for a “Mars Oasis” spacecraft and pledged $20 million to send it to the red planet.

Elon Musk in 1999.

The goal was to send a sealed chamber on a spacecraft to Mars, with dry nutrient gel and seeds inside of it. “When you’d land, you hydrate the gel and you have a little greenhouse on Mars,” Musk said of the idea in 2012.

A scene from “The Martian” showing potato plants growing in soil on the red planet.

Sources: Miles O’BrienSpaceRef

The chamber would be equipped with tools to take photos of the plants and beam the images to Earth. Musk thought this mission would inspire Congress to fund crewed NASA missions to Mars and establish a permanent human presence there.

An illustration of NASA astronauts on Mars.

Sources: Miles O’BrienSpaceRef

But Musk underestimated the cost of rockets: The mission couldn’t be done for $20 million. So in 2002, he founded SpaceX to design reusable rockets that could lower the cost of access to space.

A photo of Elon Musk with SpaceX’s founding staff (and a mariachi band) in 2002.

Sources: Miles O’BrienSpaceRef

Bezos, meanwhile, has long been preoccupied with space colonies. In particular, he has expressed interest in the concepts imagined by physicist Gerard O’Neill in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

A 1970s illustration of a space colony concept developed by physicist Gerard O'Neill.
A 1970s illustration of a space colony concept developed by physicist Gerard O’Neill.

Sources: WiredBusiness Insider, “ The Space Barons

O’Neill colonies would be made almost entirely out of materials harvested in space. They would rotate to make artificial gravity and recreate Earth-like conditions inside.

A 1970s illustration by NASA of a cylindrical space colony, complete with rivers and green space.

In high school, Bezos gave a valedictorian speech about millions of people living among the stars: “Space, the final frontier, meet me there!” he said in closing.

Jeff Bezos in his youth.

Sources: Business Insider, “ The Space Barons

As Bezos grew rich, his friend Neal Stephenson — a sci-fi author — helped inspire him to form a spaceflight company. In 2000, Bezos secretly founded Blue Origin to lower the cost of getting people into orbit.

Jeff Bezos.

Source: “ The Space Barons

Musk has described his vision for humanity’s future in space in perhaps more detail than Bezos has. Musk’s core goal is to “back up” our Earth-based civilization on Mars…

An illustration of a passenger orbiting Mars inside a SpaceX vehicle.

Source: Business Insider

… Just in case terrible, lasting, and global calamities befall our home planet.

Uh oh.

To work toward that goal, SpaceX developed Falcon 9 rockets with reusable boosters — the largest and most expensive part. Using these boosters (which are capable of landing themselves back on Earth) in multiple launches saves many millions of dollars per launch.

The main parts of SpaceX’s partly reusable Falcon 9 rocket system.

Source: Business Insider

This reusability sets SpaceX’s rockets apart from all other orbital rockets, which trash their boosters in the ocean or on land. SpaceX successfully landed its first booster on December 21, 2015.

SpaceX successfully lands one of its Falcon 9 rocket’s 16-story boosters for the first time, on December 21, 2015.

Less than a year after that feat, Musk walked onto a stage to formally detail SpaceX’s plans for populating Mars. But those plans don’t involve Falcon 9 directly, nor the company’s newer and more powerful Falcon Heavy rocket system.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk speaks during the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico on September 27, 2016.

Instead, SpaceX is working to develop a fully reusable rocket called Starship. Musk announces major design updates (and sometimes name changes) to this system about once a year; he’s expected to do so again this summer.

An illustration of SpaceX’s upcoming Starship spaceship and Super Heavy rocket booster.

Sources: Business Insider ( 12)

SpaceX’s current plan goes like this: A crewed Starship would get launched into orbit around Earth, then several tanker Starships would launch and meet the first one in orbit to refill its fuel tanks. Using that fuel, Starship would then launch from orbit toward Mars.

Sources: Business Insider ( 12)

Musk thinks Starship could ferry 100 people at a time. He has said the cost of a round-trip ticket to Mars could be about $100,000-$500,000. That price would be “low enough that most people in advanced economies could sell their home on Earth and move to Mars if they want,” Musk said.

An illustration of SpaceX’s upcoming Starship spaceship.

SpaceX is building and launching Starship prototypes in south Texas to test and refine ideas. The full system could become a reality as soon as 2020 or 2021 if all goes as Musk hopes.

SpaceX’s earliest Mars rocket ship prototype, called Starhopper, sits on a launchpad after its first “hops” in April 2019.

Source: Business Insider

A crewed mission around the moon, perhaps in 2023, would ostensibly prove that Starship is safe to fly through deep space.

SpaceX’s rendering of a Starship spaceship (formerly called Big Falcon Rocket) carrying a passenger around the moon.

Sources: Business Insider ( 123)

SpaceX would begin cargo launches to Mars in 2024, according to Gwynne Shotwell, the company’s COO and president. A crewed mission would follow shortly after, perhaps in 2026. Then a permanent city would begin to flesh out in the 2030s.

An illustration of SpaceX’s Starship vehicle on the surface of Mars, with greenhouses and a nascent space colony in the distance.

Sources: Business Insider ( 12), Twitter

But Musk has yet to reveal the technologies and cargo his company would launch to keep people alive on Mars or build a settlement there. SpaceX primarily bills itself as a transportation company — which means it may need others to figure out how to produce fuel on Mars, build off-planet habitats, and much more.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk makes a face during a press briefing on March 2, 2019.

Sources: Business Insider ( 12)

Either way, Musk hopes to establish the first self-sustainable city on Mars by the 2050s.

Elon Musk’s vision of a colony on Mars.

Sources: Business Insider ( 12)

He’d also like to start terraforming Mars with greenhouses gases in the 2100s to transform it into a more comfortable, possibly Earth-like planet. That would help SpaceX to achieve its self-described “ultimate goal of enabling human life on Mars.”

Sources: Business Insider

Bezos has a similar plan to realize his vision of future space colonies.

Jeff Bezos gestures during a presentation in May 2019.

Bezos’ goal is for Blue Origin to “build a road to space” with a rocket called New Glenn, which is scheduled to debut in 2021.

An illustration of Blue Origin’s reusable New Glenn rocket launching toward space.

Source: Business Insider

Like SpaceX’s current Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, New Glenn would have reusable boosters that could land back on Earth and be utilized in future missions, lowering the cost of launches.

A rendering of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket booster landing on a ship in the ocean.

New Glenn wouldn’t be fully reusable like Starship. But Blue Origin is also developing a system called New Armstrong that might not waste any rocket parts. However, details about it are still secret.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and Blue Origin.

For now, Bezos’ philosophy is to get Blue Origin good at launching and landing rockets with its New Shepard rocket, which is smaller and not designed to reach orbit.

Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard suborbital rocket launches toward space in 2016.

New Shepard is designed to fly past the edge of space in a ballistic arc, giving paying tourists about five minutes of weightlessness at the top. Bezos has said this will give the company robust experience flying human passengers before it targets orbit with New Glenn.

A sneak peek at the final design of Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule for suborbital space tourists.

Blue Origin is also vying to be selected by NASA as a commercial partner in the agency’s push to get astronauts back to the moon. In May, Bezos debuted the company’s “Blue Moon” lander.

Jeff Bezos describes Blue Origin’s lunar lander concept, called Blue Moon, during an unveiling event on May 9, 2019.

Bezos sees the moon as a major part of the road to space: Ice litters the moon’s poles, and that water can be split into hydrogen and oxygen — chemicals that can be used to fuel rockets.

The moon as seen by astronauts in space.

A lunar depot would be part of the means to more easily and cheaply access the abundant resources that are available across the solar system. This vision is broader than Musk’s, which is primarily tied to Mars.

Jeff Bezos speaking about Blue Origin’s mission on May 9, 2019.

Source: Business Insider

If Blue Origin can make launches cheap, mine the moon for fuel, harvest asteroids for metals and minerals, and generate energy in space, it may be possible to construct space colonies and move people off the planet.

An illustration of asteroid mining.

“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,” Bezos said in February.

An artist’s concept of an O’Neill space colony, which could theoretically emulate Earth-like living conditions in space.

Source: Business Insider

Meanwhile, Bezos foresees Earth returning to be a sort of “residential” planet with light industry. People would be able to affordably go to and from Earth and O’Neill colonies.

An artist’s concept of an O’Neill space colony.

Source: Business Insider

Bezos admits the technology does not yet exist to make this happen. But he expects it to within a few generations. So he launched a “Club for the Future” to inspire kids to “preserve the Earth and unlock the potential of living and working in space.”

Jeff Bezos launched an organization called Club for the Future to encourage kids to develop the skills to realize his vision for humanity in space.

Sources: Business InsiderClub for the Future

In the end, Bezos and Musk’s visions, while different, aren’t so dissimilar: They both want to make access to space cheaper, enable people to live and work there, and expand the horizons of humanity.

Just as the US and Russia (among other nations) have learned to work together to pull off major feats — such as the construction and maintenance of the International Space Station — it’s not unreasonable to think that SpaceX and Blue Origin may one day cooperate to achieve the impossible.

The International Space Station (ISS).

Source www.businessinsider.com

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Space

The Interstellar Research Initiative plans to send people to the exoplanet of Proxima Centauri b

In an attempt to protect humanity from extinction in the event of some kind of global catastrophe of a planetary scale, a group of scientists announced a bold plan for the colonization of a distant exoplanet.

Proxima Centauri b

Scientists from the Initiative for Interstellar Studies said they were considering sending people to a potentially inhabited exoplanet in another stellar system.

The most promising option they consider, Proxima Centauri b, which is 4.24 light years away from Earth, which means the journey will take centuries or even millennia. This suggests that generations will succeed each other during the journey.

Technically, this is possible.

However, the challenges facing the mission are so numerous and complex that it can take decades to prepare.

“From the point of view of physics, there are no fundamental obstacles. There are many nuances, but this is not a violation of the fundamental laws of physics, ”said Andreas Hein, Executive Director of Initiative for Interstellar Studies.

No problem.

The main problem is the lack of experience being far beyond the Earth for such a period of time.

Even a flight to Mars, which will last about 6-8 months, raises a lot of questions.

Proxima Centauri b

There is no reliable protection against merciless radiation yet. Medical problems caused by a prolonged stay in space are still poorly understood. Other than that, there is no guarantee that Proxima Centauri b is indeed liveable.

Can you imagine what a setup would be if people born on a spaceship for one purpose would come to a planet absolutely unsuitable for settlement …

However, the authors of the project do not plan to curtail the program and continue to work actively in this direction.

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European Space Agency to launch space waste collector

A four-armed robotic junk collector will be launched into space by the European Space Agency in what it says will be the first mission to remove an item of debris from orbit.

European Space Agency to launch space waste collector

The ClearSpace-1 mission, scheduled for launch in 2025, will cost €120m and will grab a single piece of junk. But the agency hopes the mission will pave the way for a wide-reaching clear-up operation, with Esa’s director general calling for new rules that would compel those who launch satellites to take responsibility for removing them from orbit once they are retired from use.

Jan Wörner, CEO of ESA, said:

Imagine how dangerous sailing the high seas would be if all the ships ever lost in history were still drifting on top of the water. That is the current situation in orbit, and it cannot be allowed to continue.

In the past 60 years, thousands of tonnes of junk has accumulated around the Earth, including old rocket parts, about 3,500 defunct satellites and an estimated 750,000 smaller fragments, some from collisions between larger bits of junk. The fragments are typically circulating with a velocity of 20,000km/h (12,500mph).

Unless a clear-up operation is mounted, the chances of collisions will escalate as thousands more satellites are put into orbit.

Funding for the mission was agreed at Space19+, ESA’s misterial council, which took place in Seville, Spain, at the end of November. The mission will be run by a consortium led by a Swiss startup called Clearspace.

The target for ClearSpace-1 is a piece of junk called Vespa, which was left in an orbit around 800km above the Earth by ESA’s Vega launcher in 2013. Vespa weighs 100kg – around the size of a small satellite – and was selected because it has a simple shape and sturdy construction, which make it unlikely to fragment when it is grabbed.

The “chaser” ClearSpace space probe will be launched into the target orbit where it will track down Vespa, grab it using a quartet of robotic arms and drag it out of orbit, with Vespa and the chaser both burning up in the atmosphere on the way down to Earth.

A future ambition is to create a clear-up robot that could eject junk into the atmosphere, before continuing to capture and de-orbit other pieces of junk.

Source

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Asteroid as big as the pyramids on its way and could zoom past Earth on Friday

An asteroid as big as the Egyptian pyramids is zooming towards Earth and will squeeze past us on Friday – if it doesn’t smash on to our home planet’s surface.

Named 2019 WR3, NASA expects the space rock to make a “close approach” to Earth later this week.

The space agency has classified the asteroid as a “near-Earth object (NEO)” which means its orbit brings it very close – in cosmic terms – to Earth.

The asteroid was first spotted late last week.

NASA has now observed the asteroid some 74 times to better get a sense of its size and trajectory.

WR3 is believed to have a diameter of between 76m to 170m.

It is expected that on December 6, the asteroid will pass within 5.44 million km of Earth at speeds of 27,036 km/hr.

The warning comes as the European Space Agency approves a $471 million mission called Hera to examine whether a rogue asteroid on its way to Earth could be deflected out of the way.

Working with NASA, the ESA will send a pair of spacecraft to a double-asteroid system called Didymos to examine the asteroids and send valuable data back home.

The larger asteroid Didymoon is about 800m across, orbited by a moon about 160m wide.

If an asteroid the size of Didymoon were to hammer into Earth, it would be devastating.

Patrick Michel, ESA’s lead scientist for Hera, said it was vital to keep an eye on it so we can take action if needed.

“The probability is low but the consequences are high,” Michel told Space.com.

“This is why it’s relevant to take care of it. Moreover, we have the tools … We can’t lose more time.”

The Hera spacecraft will launch in 2024.

Meanwhile, Queens University Belfast professor Alan Fitzsimmons has called for amateur astronomers to assist the Hera mission’s broader goal of protecting Earth against asteroids by nominating asteroids to watch.

“We will get a serious asteroid impact sometime,” he told the BBC.

“It may not be in our lifetime, but mother nature controls when that will happen.

‘We will get a serious asteroid impact sometime.’

“We will need to do something about it. We’ll need to move that asteroid so it misses us and doesn’t hit us.

“Asteroid research is one area of astronomy where amateur observes continue to make an essential contribution,” he said.

Source 7news.com.au

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