- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos gave a private talk about his rocket company, Blue Origin, in New York this month.
- Bezos said he wants "a Mark Zuckerberg of space" to exist, but he said it’s "impossible" for that type of off-Earth entrepreneur to exist today.
- "Two kids in their dorm room can’t start anything important in space today," Bezos said, because the price of entry is far too high.
When you buy something on Amazon, Jeff Bezos says you’re funding, in part, an audacious plan to populate the solar system with 1 trillion people.
As a step toward getting scores of humans to live and work and space, Bezos — the founder of Amazon and the rocket company Blue Origin — wants to enable "a Mark Zuckerberg of space" to exist.
"Every time you buy shoes, you’re helping fund Blue Origin, so thank you. I appreciate it very much," Bezos said at the event, which was was moderated by Jeff Foust, a senior staff writer at Space News, and hosted by an aviation group called the Wings Club.
Bezos says the first step to settling outer space is making it cheap and easy to get there. The most pressing issue, he added, is creating rockets that can be reused instead of thrown away after every launch — which would save tens of millions or even more than $100 million per mission.
"We want to drive down costs using reusability, and the vision is to figure out how there can really be dynamic entrepreneurialism in space," Bezos said.
How Bezos plans to fuel space entrepreneurship with Blue Origin
Last year, Bezos he described Blue Origin as "the most important work I’m doing."
The mega-billionaire said he plans to debut the company’s reusable rocket system, called New Glenn, in 2021. The largest and most expensive portion of the rocket — called the lower stage or booster — will heave an upper stage toward space, then land back on the ground for refueling.
After New Glenn, Bezos is also planning an even larger launch system called New Armstrong.
Bezos explained how such systems could seed off-Earth innovation, using his personal history as an example:
"I’ve witnessed this incredible thing happen on the internet over the last two decades. I started Amazon in my garage 24 years ago — drove packages to the post office myself. Today we have 600,000-plus people, millions and millions of customers, a very large company.
"How did that happen in such a short period of time? It happened because we didn’t have to do any of the heavy lifting. All of the heavy-lifting infrastructure was already in place for it. There was already a telecommunication network, which became the backbone of the internet. There was already a payment system — it was called the credit card. There was already a transportation network called the US Postal Service, and Royal Mail, and Deutsche Post, all over the world, that could deliver our packages. We didn’t have to build any of that heavy infrastructure."
Bezos then described "an even more stark example" of how building up infrastructure opens doors to entrepreneurship: Mark Zuckerberg, who co-founded Facebook in his Harvard University dorm room.
"Here’s a guy who literally, in his dorm room, started a company — Mark Zuckerberg started a company in his dorm room, which is now worth half a trillion dollars — less than two decades ago.
"How do you get that kind of entrepreneurial [advancement] in space? You need to lower the price of admission right now to do anything interesting in space, because it requires so much heavy lifting and so much infrastructure development. The entry price point for doing interesting things is hundreds of millions of dollars. Nobody is going to do that in their dorm room. You can’t have a Mark Zuckerberg of space today. It’s impossible. Two kids in their dorm room can’t start anything important in space today.
"I want to take the assets that I have from Amazon and translate that into the heavy-lifting infrastructure that will [help] the next generation to have dynamic entrepreneurialism in space — kind of build that transportation network. That’s what’s going on, that’s what Blue Origin’s mission is. If we can do that, then the whole thing will take off and there will be thousands of companies doing creative things."
Bezos hopes that his company’s launch systems will serve as a crucial first step toward making that vision of the future a reality.
"I don’t know all future steps, but I know one of them is we need to build a low-cost, highly operable, reusable launch vehicle," Bezos said. "No matter which path you take, it has to go through that gate."
Of course, Bezos is not alone in the push to make access to space cheap. Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX, is working on a fully reusable launch system called Starship that could launch into orbit as soon as 2020.
Changing the way people and cargo get to space — and how much it costs to do that — is a hugely expensive and complicated endeavor, which is why Bezos says he has taken on that goal.
"It’s not something that two kids in a dorm room are going to do. But I really want that dynamic life and civilization for our grandchildren’s grandchildren."
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