Space Opportunists

I’ve been seeing Jeff Bezos and others getting stick on social media the past few days. So, Sir Richard Branson has become an official astronaut, and another billionaire is next on the list of celebrities-in-space. I posted some comments earlier today, and these are expanded as follows …

I’m more hesitant than some of my friends to take a hickory switch to rich behinds for these demonstrations. True, their ships will cater to the 1%. Hundreds of tech people and engineers and such will stand anonymously behind the flights past the fifty-mile mark. A few test pilots have also paved the way, one with his death.

Maybe there are worse ways to die, ending one’s life by one’s own choice to push the envelope of human experience. More tragic I think are people who succumb to drive-by shootings, lynchings, or even starvation that could have been prevented if politicians and corporations were a little more humane and a lot less corrupt.

Did Mr Branson take a seat that would have been better occupied by someone else? I think about Jodie Foster’s line from Contact, “They should have sent a poet.” I have no problem with the exploration of the universe, even in the face of grave human problems on Earth. If VG, SpaceX and others are employing young people and inspiring them and others to look beyond themselves, that is great. The space program has opened human eyes to the reality we are very small and very blessed. And God’s creation is full of endless wonder.

Some seem to think that astronautics and social justice are an either/or proposition. This is less than inspired thinking.

Jeff Bezos could ship 70 million MRE’s overseas today and ten million starving people can have dinner every night next week. But what about next week or next year? Who’s going to root out political corruption and corporate opportunism that leads to the distribution problems that contribute most to world hunger?

And let’s face it: rich dudes have been self-indulging while they pushed for better technology in research, and sponsored artists of all sorts for centuries. That’s not a totally bad thing. If they are stiffing employees and cheating competitors, these are entirely separate sins. Flying into space is not a grave evil.

Mr Branson and others probably could contribute more to the causes of charity, and possibly justice. Most likely they could also pay the 99% they employ a good bit more and still have enough resources to take a weekend joyride into the stratosphere and beyond. And have a nice home. But we don’t need rich guys to save the world. That’s the job of everyone. And if the vistas of space give a few people a lightened heart and/or an enlightened mind, then all the better.

Technology image credit: By Virgin Galactic – Original publication: Immediate source:, Fair use,


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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