Business Technology

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Amazon boss Bezos predicting a take-off in interstellar tourism

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos. Photo: Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg
Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos. Photo: Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg

Marcia Dunn chief executive Officer Jeff Bezos envisions "millions" of people living in orbit as his exploration company, Blue Origin, and other commercial ventures develop spacecraft to make travel more widely available.

Investment from wealthy entrepreneurs with a passion for space will usher in a new era that makes leaving the Earth's atmosphere accessible to anyone, Bezos said Tuesday. Earlier, he announced that Blue Origin will put €180m million into a new rocket assembly facility and launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"Our ultimate vision is millions of people living and working in space," Bezos said during a rare, 30-minute interview in Florida with reporters after the Blue Origin announcement. "We have a long way to go."

There are only six people in space now, two of whom - US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko - are trying to spend a year on the International Space Station to help researchers understand how humans react to long-duration spaceflight.

Bezos (51) said he became enamoured with space exploration as a young boy watching rockets on television, and thought by now "we'd be gallivanting around the solar system."

Bezos said he feels fortunate that the wealth he has made through Amazon enables him to pursue his passion for space. He is the world's seventh-richest man, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Though the race is competitive, Bezos said he respects other players pursuing their interest in space, such as Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk, the CEO of Space Exploration Technologies. Technology will advance more quickly with multiple people experimenting with different methods of space travel, Bezos said.

"We've always been pioneers," he said. "We need to continue that pioneering spirit and a big part of that is becoming space faring."

Blue Origin, founded in 2000, has about 400 employees in Kent, Washington, mostly engineers. The Cape Canaveral facility will create 330 jobs, and Bezos said he expects to launch a rocket from the site by the end of the decade. The company also has a testing facility in Texas where it launched its first test flight in April.

Bezos said qualities he has shown as CEO of Amazon - including forsaking profits in favour of long-term investments - will translate into the effort to reach space.

"I'm kind of well known for being long-term oriented," Bezos said as his signature deep laugh filled a trailer on the site.

"Blue Origin is going to set a new standard for me in that regard. "We're not just launching here, we're building here. Our ultimate vision is millions of people living and working in space."

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