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The new space race

Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Larry Page top the lists of billionaires who are at the forefront of space exploration. What’s behind this entrepreneurial generation? Do they want to leave a legacy, go down in history as pioneers, or are they betting that the Earth is now hopeless? What role does Chile play in this trend?

23 February 2021

Why has this issue become relevant? Jeff Bezos (57 years old), the second richest man in the world after Elon Musk (49 years old), announced that he will be leaving his position as CEO of Amazon in the second half of 2021 in order to devote himself fully to his personal projects. Blue Origin, his space company focused on advancing orbital transportation, is where he will be spending most of his time and enthusiasm.

What does this announcement mean? According to the U.S. magazine Forbes, Blue Origin is fighting to win the competition with SpaceX – a Musk company – to develop within a few years a module capable of landing humans on the Moon and returning them to Earth.

Legacy or escape? Apparently a bit of both. “For billionaires, the future of technology lies in its ability to provide an escape,” wrote Douglas Rushkoff, a contributor to media outlets such as The New York Times. This university professor also explained that “the goal is to transcend the human condition and protect oneself from climate change, large flows of migrants, global pandemics …”Ctxt.es

Who’s who in the space race? NASA’s logos are competing with those of private companies that have revived the space race.

  • Elon Musk: Known as Space X – called Starlink by everyone – founded his space company in 2002. This entrepreneur’s greatest ambition has been to send manned flights to Mars for the purpose of colonizing that planet. “I want to die on Mars, just not on impact,” he quipped in an interview with the BBC.
  • Jeff Bezos: His aerospace company is called Blue Origin and was founded in 2000. Since then, his vision has been to build a future where millions of people are living and working in space.
  • Richard Branson: This entrepreneur dreams of democratizing space travel in such a way that in the future it will be feasible for anyone to travel to the Moon. His company, Virgin Galactic, succeeded in launching a manned vehicle with two astronauts aboard 82 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.
  • Larry Page: The Google co-founder is at the helm of Planetary Resources, whose mission is to find resources – such as water – outside the Earth.

How much does a “space venture” cost? For the past few years, Bezos has been selling about US$ 1 billion worth of Amazon stock annually to fund Blue Origin. Elon Musk, the entrepreneur, started SpaceX in 2002 with US$ 100 million of capital from the sale of PayPal, a company which he cofounded.

 

Chile’s role

  • The satellite war: In recent months, Elon Musk has deployed small satellites that will be part of a global broadband system designed to deliver internet to the entire planet. Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos not wanting to be left behind developed “Project Kuiper,” which is capable of providing Internet from space.
  • The SpaceX plan: In Chile, the Undersecretary of Telecommunications (Subtel) received an application from the Tibro (Orbit spelled backwards ) SPA subsidiary to locate seven terrestrial satellite stations in our country. According to the document, these would be located in Coquimbo, Pudahuel, Talca, Puerto Saavedra, Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas.The idea is to establish connections from these locations to the satellites that Musk launched to deliver broadband to the planet, but from space.
  • Amazon founder’s idea: For its part, Jeff Bezos’ multinational intends to initially install eight terrestrial satellite stations, also known as Amazon Web Service (AWS) Ground Stations, in our country. The company has purchased a piece of land in Cabo Negro, very near to Punta Arenas, for this purpose.
  • Why Chile? Because it is the best place from which to test satellite internet to remote and poorly connected parts of the Earth.