Did Blue Origin Beat SpaceX in Landing Reusable Rocket?
These days, most of the headlines about space exploration or rocket launches feature Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, and its founder Elon Musk. Yet Jeff Bezos, the CEO and founder of Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), also has a private space firm, Blue Origin, which recently made history.
Bezos’ company launched a rocket 62 miles (100 kilometers) high and brought it safely back to Earth. He released a mind-blowing video of the landing on Twitter. It was his first tweet ever.
At first, Elon Musk congratulated Bezos and his Blue Origin team, but then he got a little bitter. After all, SpaceX has a similar program that’s completed smooth landings.
The problem is that Bezos knows how to manage perceptions as well as Elon Musk. He knows that saying “We sent a rocket to space and back” is easily understood by the average person. SpaceX has to qualify that statement with a bunch of technical jargon.
The two companies aren’t that far apart in reality, but Jeff Bezos made a spectacle out of the launch, and that has Elon Musk feeling a little sore.
The rarest of beasts – a used rocket. Controlled landing not easy, but done right, can look easy. Check out video: https://t.co/9OypFoxZk3
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) November 24, 2015
Congrats to Jeff Bezos and the BO team for achieving VTOL on their booster — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 24, 2015
Musk and Bezos Revive the Space Race
There’s no question that Jeff Bezos made history with a 62-mile flight and landing. It’s just that Elon Musk doesn’t think it was quite as historic as everyone else’s achievements. After all, SpaceX has (kind of) accomplished the same thing while running a profitable business.
SpaceX has a $2.6-billion contract with NASA to ferry astronauts back and forth from the International Space Station. In total, it has $5.0 billion worth of contracts on its manifest. But you know what they say, billionaires will be boys.
Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk both got to where they are today by wanting to be first. They are stubborn and relentless in their pursuit of success, so it’s understandable that their competitive side will show from time to time.
But that is a good thing. The rise of SpaceX was something we desperately needed. To see Elon Musk revive enthusiasm for space exploration was thrilling, but it also felt a little lopsided. Like there was something missing.
As I watched Jeff Bezos celebrate over his successful launch, I realized what it was. People were obsessed with NASA in the 1960s and 1970s because it was competing with Russia’s space program. The rivalry made it interesting.
Now SpaceX has a worthy adversary. The rivalry between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk will push the reach of humanity further into the stars than we thought possible. I can’t wait.