Super rich people have toys that 99 percent of the world’s population never dream about – like oceangoing yachts, private jet airplanes, trophy wives and now what two billionaires, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, say are their own spacecrafts, despite the fact that their expensive toys have as much in common with the crafts that landed men on the moon as a back yard pond has with the Atlantic Ocean.
Only people with the wealth of Branson and Bezos could have spent countless millions of dollars on their self-anointed spacecrafts because they are among the 42 million people in the world who are considered to be billionaires. That’s approximately only 0.08 percent of the world’s population of eight billion, but they control more than 44 percent of the world’s wealth.
It’s not that what Branson and Bezos did was a walk in the park. It was dangerous. It could have ended in tragedy. But let’s put things in perspective.
To call them astronauts, as their PR people did, along with much of the cable TV reporters, is an insult to the NASA astronauts who trained for years, putting their lives at risk with some dying when the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart on January 28, 1986, 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members aboard.
Journalistically, what was missing from the cable reporting, not a surprise, was that as The Atlantic reported on July 19 that, “There is no universal standard, let alone a legal definition, for the region high above the ground, where Earth’s atmosphere thins and gives way to space.”
The article, by Marina Koren, went on to say, “Until now, this definition was the subject of obscure and somewhat geeky debate. But for anyone who buys a very expensive journey with Bezos #virgingal or #virgingal Branson, it might matter quite a bit. Branson and Bezos built their companies in part to fulfill their personal dreams, but they’re also competing for customers…” What’s the point of paying an extraordinary amount of money to go to space if your other rich friend can deny that you went around Earth? In this context, the edge of space is not a scientific fact, but a selling point,” wrote Ms. Koren.
The one aspect that can not be disputed is that from a publicity viewpoint the two billionaire’s race for space was a success.
Bezos and Branson envision “space tourists” paying north of $200,000 for a ride in their expensive toys.
That’s a far cry from what Neil Armstrong’s said when he became the first person to set foot on the Moon at 10:56 p.m. ET on July 20, 1969: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
About the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or email@example.com.