Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has been getting a lot of press lately, but the Amazon founder and president says he’s spending more money on Earth’s environmental well-being nowadays through his Bezos Earth Fund.
Four-and-a-half years ago, Bezos told reporters that he was selling about a billion dollars worth of his Amazon stock on a yearly basis to move to Blue Origin.
But at least for the time being, he says, Bezos is impressed by his $10 billion, 10-year commitment to the Earth Fund, which distributes grants to projects around the world. During the United Nations climate summit in Scotland this month, the fund announced a $2 billion round of grants supporting land restoration and food production.
Bezos cited funding during last week’s Ignatius Forum at Washington National Cathedral in DC as evidence that he wasn’t just a hungry-eyed billionaire who didn’t care about the welfare of the earth.
“I’m actually spending even more money on the Bezos Earth Fund than I’m spending on space,” said Harvard Business Review editor-in-chief Adi Ignatius.
Much of the discussion took place on topics that Bezos had brought up before—including the idea that the world would have to turn to space resources and space its heavy-industry facilities to preserve its own planet. Residential ”zoning.
“This is not to leave the earth, it is to save the earth,” he said.
Long-distance, Bezos foresees an economy supported by the millions of people living and working in space – perhaps in the kinds of built dwellings at Princeton by his mentor, the late physicist Gerard O’Neill.
Bezos once again corroborated a high-school girlfriend’s claim that he founded Amazon to collect assets earmarked for his space venture.
“If you’re going to have a very expensive night job, it’s super easy to have a lucrative day job, and of course that’s what Blue Origin is for,” he told Ignatius.
Today, Blue Origin has approximately 4,000 employees, most of whom are based at the company’s headquarters in Kent, Wash. Bezos himself was among the first to take a ride on Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spaceship in Texas this summer, and the Orbital-class New Glenn rocket is under development in Florida.
Blue Origin continues to work on its lunar lander concept, even though it lost out on the initial contract to SpaceX, and is also leading an industry team that aims to build a commercial space station over the course of the next decade.
During last week’s event, Bezos played down the connection between experiences in outer space and a broader perspective on Earth and its environment, also known as the observational effect.
“The magnitude of that experience was greater than I had ever anticipated,” he said, “and it’s really such a shift in perspective that shows you in a very powerful and emotional way how fragile this earth is.”
Bezos said that each of Blue Origin’s astronauts becomes “an ambassador for Earth” after a flight. He pointed specifically to how deeply Star Trek actor William Shatner was moved by his suborbital spaceflight in October.
“When he started speaking, it was one of the most exciting experiences of my life,” Bezos said. “He was very emotional, tears running down his face. …he has been the best ambassador to see this planet and the change that he has experienced.”
The next flight of New Shepard is expected by the end of the year, and the launch could be accelerated next year. Until now, Blue Origin has relied on private sales, at as-yet-unknown prices that could run into the millions of dollars. But Bezos promised that the price would drop as the space travel industry transitions from par. Barnstorming Era of the 1920s The 21st century equivalent of the commercial jet age.
“We need to reach 787 of space travel,” he said. “When we do that, it will open up this experience to millions of people.”
He also half-jokingly promised that future space settlements would get Amazon Prime. “It will be built inside,” he said. “Amazon Hypersonic Delivery: It’s Coming Soon to You.”