Not everyone is thrilled that Jeff Bezos wants to go back to the moon

Not everyone is thrilled that Jeff Bezos wants to go back to the moon
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At this year’s International Space Development Conference, Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com, and a rocket company called Blue Origin laid out his vision of going back to the moon. 

Bezos is being taken seriously because he is one of the world’s richest men, he’s building the hardware to accomplish his vision, and he’s articulating the need to return to the moon at a time when NASA has been tasked with accomplishing the feat.

Indeed, Bezos would like to go back to the moon in partnership with NASA, but has vowed to go it alone if necessary, according to an account published on Geek Wire.

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The return to the moon is part of a greater vision of a human civilization that has spread out beyond the Earth into space. Bezos posits moving heavy industry into space, where it would have access to materials mined from the moon and asteroids and 24/7 solar energy.

 

Earth would be “rezoned” for residential use and light industry. The future that Bezos imagines by moving into space is much grander, more beneficial for most humans, than the present is.

Surprisingly, not everyone agrees that going back to the moon — or that Jeff Bezos taking the lead — is a good thing.

For example, economist Adam Ozimek ridiculed Bezos’s lunar vision in an article in Forbes, comparing the businessman to the super villain Thanos from the Marvel Comics Universe. Ozimek claims that the Earth can sustain 4.4 billion more people without recourse to moving into space.

He suggests that Bezos “focus on policies and research on things that make housing cheaper, energy cleaner, protect natural resources and encourage density. Forget about the moon!”

Ozimek artfully leaves out what the quality of life might be for between 11 billion to 12 billion people packed in dense urban jungles, consigned to Earth without access to the boundless resources that space has to offer.

He leaves off with a jibe, “With all due respect I think what's really going on is Jeff Bezos is a nerd, and nerds love space, and seriously that is fine. Go throw your money away in space if that's what you want.”

RT takes a different line of attack. The news agency that has ties to the Russian government accuses Bezos of mistreating his employees, working them to exhaustion and forcing them to live in tents and urinate in bottles.

Why, then, is the Amazon.com CEO spending a billion dollars a year on a private space program when his workers are groaning under his merciless heel?

Bezos has denied the allegations, according to Business Insider, and it’s not clear what these stories of bad working conditions at Amazon fulfillment facilities have to do with Bezos’ ambitions to return to the moon.

It is possible, given that the news agency is an arm of the Russian government, that Moscow is using the reports to take Bezos down a peg or two and interfere with his space ambitions. 

Russia is still harboring ambitions of its own and is still smarting over having been beaten to the moon by NASA almost 50 years ago.

The notion of a western capitalist nation going to the moon while Russia’s space program is all but moribund, lacking funding and dependent on the space station partnership with the United States, may be too much to bear.

Besides, casting aspersions on capitalist captains of industry is an old practice of Moscow’s, dating back to the days of the Soviet Union. Sniping at Bezos is easier than fixing the problems that plague Russia’s space program and the country’s economy in general.

Mark Whittington, who writes frequently about space and politics, has published a political study of space exploration titled “Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? as well as “The Moon, Mars and Beyond.” He blogs at Curmudgeons Corner.  He is published in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Hill, USA Today, the LA Times and the Washington Post, among other venues.