In the past year, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos began opening up about the scope of his ambitions with rocket company Blue Origin, explaining that he envisions millions of people living and working in space. In addition, Bezos has spoken of moving heavy industry from planet Earth to create a garden paradise on our home planet.
In this view, Bezos’ philosophy differs significantly from the other titan of the new space industry, Elon Musk of SpaceX. Both men agree that reusable spaceflights are essential to lowering the cost of accessing space, but they disagree on what to do once we get there. Musk has spoken openly about providing humanity with a “backup plan” and recently revealed his ultra-ambitious plans to colonize Mars with 100 passengers at a time via its interplanetary transport system.
Bezos rejected this approach on Oct. 22 at the Pathfinder Awards at the Seattle Museum of Flight. In comments first shared by GeekWire, Bezos said Earth should become a residential area. “I don’t like the Plan B idea that we want to go into space so we have a backup planet,” he said, pointing to NASA’s efforts to send probes throughout the solar system. “Believe me, this is the best planet. There is no question that this is the one you want to protect. This is the jewel. We evolved here, we were more or less made for this planet. It’s beautiful and we can using space to protect it.”
Humanity has two futures, Bezos said. It may continue to grow, or it may settle into some sort of population equilibrium. As an example of the limitations of the planet, he gave energy as an example. If we take basic energy consumption on Earth and add it up to 3 percent over 500 years, it would be necessary to cover the entire Earth’s surface with solar cells to meet demand by the year 2500. “We have to go into space if we want to grow as a species,” he said. “Another route would be to face stasis, but I don’t think that’s that interesting. I don’t think we just want to survive on this planet, I think we want to thrive and do great things.”
With its reusable approach to lowering the cost of spaceflight, Bezos said Blue Origin will try to provide the infrastructure needed to enable people to do interesting things in space. Bezos said he believes that if he can provide low-cost access to space, the next generation will figure out how to creatively use weightlessness, 24/7 solar power and valuable resources on the moon and asteroids.
“With the internet, two kids in a student room with a good idea can change the world,” he said. “That’s very hard to do in aerospace because the entry fee is so high.” So the Amazon founder, who took advantage of the existing infrastructure to dominate online shopping, believes his job now is to enable the future Amazons of the space.