Why billionaires keep pouring money into the space industry

“It’s becoming more of a mainstream place for more financially focused” venture capitalists, said Carissa Christensen, Bryce’s founder and chief executive. “They are in it not because space is cool, but because they think this a place to generate serious return.”

.. For years, the industry was fueled by the vast fortunes of a few billionaires. Musk invested $100 million of his own money into SpaceX before capturing several billions of dollars in government contracts.

.. Last year, Jeffrey P. Bezos described the investment model for his space company, Blue Origin, this way: “I sell about $1 billion a year of Amazon stock, and I use it to invest in Blue Origin.”

.. Richard Branson has backed Virgin Galactic and a satellite company called OneWeb, while Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder, is building what would be the world’s largest airplane by wingspan to “air-launch” rockets.

.. More recently, Mark Cuban invested $500,000 into a company called Relativity Space, which plans to 3-D print an entire rocket. Astranis, which intends to use small satellites to beam Internet to places off Earth’s power grid, recently announced that it was being backed by Andreessen Horowitz, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

.. The growing market has also captured the interest of the Trump administration, which has vowed to expand the partnerships with the private sector that began under former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. During Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, Trump lauded SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and took a shot at NASA, saying that if the government built a similar rocket, it “would have cost probably 40 or 50 times” what SpaceX charges.

Whitey on Mars: Elon Musk and the rise of Silicon Valley’s strange trickle-down science

Musk’s plan to colonise Mars is a sign of an older and recurring social problem. What happens when the rich and powerful isolate themselves from everyday concerns? Musk wants to innovate and leave Earth, rather than to take care of it, or fix it, and stay. Like so many of his peers in the innovating and disrupting classes, Musk prefers to dwell in fantasy and science fiction, safely removed from the world of here and now. Musk is a utopian, in the original Greek meaning: ‘no place’. Repulsed by the world we all share, he dreams of a place that does not exist.

.. Before his death, King had turned his political activism toward the problems of economic inequality and poverty. Abernathy stayed with this focus, and continued to organise people around addressing economic issues for black and white Americans. In July 1969, with the Apollo 11 launch, Abernathy saw an opportunity to keep economic justice on the nation’s conscience. He announced a march to Cape Canaveral in Florida, the rocket launch site.

.. Abernathy told NASA officials, as one of them recalled: ‘The money for the space program should be spent to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend the sick, and house the shelterless.’

.. Abernathy’s insight about the priorities of a country that could send men into space while millions of Americans lacked medical care, shelter and food found a new voice in Gil Scott-Heron.

.. US adventures into outer space – white men in expensive, gleaming white spaceships – captivated popular attention and support in ways that urban poverty did not. Americans continued to send their tax revenues to the heavens.

.. US adventures into outer space – white men in expensive, gleaming white spaceships – captivated popular attention and support in ways that urban poverty did not. Americans continued to send their tax revenues to the heavens.

.. His parents divorced when he was young, leaving Musk to be raised by his abusive father. The boy developed the habit of detaching from reality and entering a dreamlike space of imagination. Later, he would envision new technologies in this state. As a child, he was known as a spaced-out nerd who corrected his peers’ mistakes. He was bullied. By his teen years, Musk fantasised about escaping South Africa for the US. After he graduated from high school in 1989, he followed through on these dreams, leaving behind his impoverished and racially divided country.

.. From his early days in business, Musk developed a reputation for harshness. He chastised one employee who missed a company event to be at the birth of his child: ‘You need to figure out where your priorities are. We’re changing the world and changing history, and you either commit or you don’t.’

.. Musk himself admits that, in his early years as a leader, he assumed that ‘other people will behave like you’. He grew frustrated when he realised that people didn’t behave like him. He lacked a natural ability to empathise with other people’s experiences and points of view.

.. For all its ideals and the great possibilities inherent in them, Tesla remains a company that makes toys for rich people.

.. Musk insists that humans in fact ‘need’ to go to Mars. The Mars mission, he argues, is the best way for humanity to become what he calls a ‘space-faring civilisation and a multi-planetary species’. This otherworldly venture, he says, is necessary to mitigate the ‘existential threat’ from artificial intelligence (AI) that might wipe out human life on Earth.

.. The idea that Google’s CEO Larry Page might create artificially intelligent robots that will destroy humanity reportedly keeps Musk up at night. ‘I’m really worried about this,’ Musk told his biographer. ‘He could produce something evil by accident.’

.. Musk estimates the cost of the Mars mission at around $10 billion per person. His goal is to reduce that cost to $200,000 per person. He said this would allow ‘almost anyone’ to save up and buy a trip to Mars.

.. For $1.5 billion, we could upgrade the lead-contaminated water infrastructure in Flint, Michigan; for $400 billion, we could repair the water infrastructure of the entire US. It’s jarring to think that one of the brightest minds of our age would rather fund 40 trips to Mars than keep children in his own country safe from poisoned water. It’s enough to make one wonder what led Musk to develop such contempt for the billions of humans who could never escape Earth.

.. ‘The idea that Mars will somehow save us from the decisions we’ve made is a false one.’ If we ‘truly believe in our ability to bend the hostile environments of Mars for human habitation, then we should be able to surmount the far easier task of preserving the habitability of the Earth.

.. In his September 2016 announcement, he declared that a fully self-sustaining civilisation on Mars would need around 1 million people. From Earth’s current population of 7.125 billion, the Musk Million would bring 0.014035087719298244 per cent of it to Mars.

.. If Musk prefers the planetary scale of action, he could lead people to preserve our single planetary resource, also known as Earth, the only planet we will probably ever have. Even on Musk’s own optimistic terms, his adolescent space fantasies will benefit only 0.014 per cent of humanity. He makes the politicians who serve the 1 per cent seem like communists.

.. Quite simply, why not address the existential problems facing our society and our fellow humans directly? We don’t need trickle-down science.

.. The moral detachment of the plan signifies a deeper pathology that afflicts our culture of innovation, and celebrates innovators such as Musk, who are all too eager to play with gadgets and leave their fellow humans behind.

Thiel Pushes to Add Commercial-Space Backers to Trump NASA Team

Expected appointments of Alan Stern, Alan Lindenmoyer and Charles Miller to NASA transition team reflect venture capitalist’s influence

Venture capitalist Peter Thiel successfully pushed to give commercial space companies a stronger voice within President-elect Donald Trump’s NASA transition team, the result of an internal tug of war over policy directions and future decision makers at the agency.

.. Mr. Thiel has argued forcefully inside the transition that the original team sent to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was skewed toward appointees closely identified with legacy space projects run by Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., the people said.

.. These critics have complained in conversations with transition officials and others that Messrs. Thiel and Musk, longtime friends and business associates, are working together for their own financial benefit, these people said.

Founders Fund, one of Mr. Thiel’s companies, was an early and significant investor in SpaceX. As a result, these critics argue that Mr. Thiel stands to personally gain from enhanced federal support of commercially run space programs at SpaceX.

Elon Musk’s Wild Ride

Biographer Ashlee Vance examines the troubles at Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity.

Musk continues to befuddle planet earth. He’s part techno messiah—a being sent here from the future to save mankind from itself—and part charlatan—a slick businessman dragging foolish investors along on ever grander, cash-burning bets. Every time one of his companies stumbles, Musk seems to have another spectacular thing to announce—a new mode of transportation, the space internet, or a Martian colony—to thrill and confuse. Is Musk trying to distract us from the troubling aspects of his companies, or are the doubters just the shortsighted, risk-averse people holding us all back from a fantastic future?

.. In Silicon Valley, Musk is admired, beloved, and idolized, but people are starting to wonder whether he’s finally taken on too much. If that’s the case, there’s a disaster scenario coming: Musk has never had more to lose.

The next frontier for the Next Frontier

America will take the Giant Leap to Mars.” That’s the title of President Barack Obama’s special guest editorial on CNN this week. In his piece, the president said there are now more than 1,000 companies in the U.S. involved in the business of outer space. Getting humans to Mars, he said, will take cooperation between the private sector and the government.

.. But whoever is building the equipment for the next mission, Caceres said getting to Mars is going to cost trillions — a number that doesn’t trip off the budgetary tongue. That’s why, he said, when it comes to discussing planning for the trip, it’s always in future.

Boeing CEO Vows to Beat Musk to Mars

Video: Do you believe we need to go to Mars?

It’s exploration. Great civilizations explore.

.. Lockheed’s Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 is being designed to zip through the sky at Mach 20 (about 13,000 miles per hour), flying between New York and Los Angeles in 12 minutes. Boeing’s X-51A WaveRider, which relied on its own shock waves for compression lift, reached Mach 5.1 in 2013.