Jeff Bezos addresses critics saying he should invest in Earth, not space

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Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, addressed his space critics Monday, a day before he is due to blast off — admitting they are “right” to argue he should invest more in helping people on Earth first.

“There has been a chorus of critics saying that these flights to space are just joy rides for the wealthy, and that you should be spending your time and your money and energy trying to solve problems here on Earth,” CNN’s Rachael Crane told the Amazon founder Monday morning.

“So what do you say to those critics?,” she then asked.

“They’re largely right,” Bezos, who boasts a net worth of about $206 billion, shot back.

“We have to do both,” he clarified.

Bezos acknowledged that there are problems “in the here and now on Earth” that need to be confronted — but added that it’s also important to look toward the future.

The long-term goal of Blue Origin, he said, is to get so good at operating space travel that it becomes more “like a commercial airliner.”

“If we can do that, we’ll be building a road to space for the next generations to do amazing things there, and those amazing things will solve problems here on Earth,” Bezos explained.

The billionaire e-commerce mogul was speaking alongside the three other passengers on Tuesday’s space flight.

Those three passengers are Bezos’ brother Mark, spaceflight legend Wally Funk, who will become the oldest person to fly to space, and Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old son of a Dutch financier.

Bezos noted that Daemen, who will become the youngest person ever to fly to space, could be among the generation that benefits from the current wave of space exploration by companies.

“Maybe he’ll found a space company that uses the infrastructure that this generation is building right now,” Bezos said of Daemen.

Tuesday’s flight will make Bezos the second billionaire to take the extraterrestrial journey. Sir Richard Branson flew to space with his company, Virgin Galactic, last week.

Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, hasn’t said when he might fly to space on one of his company’s rockets.

While progress in the industry has garnered excitement among investors and spectators, some have pointed to the businesses as shining examples of wealth inequality in the US.

Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, slammed Musk, who has a net worth of about $177 billion, earlier this year, saying that “we need to focus on Earth” and raise taxes on higher earners to tackle “obscene” inequality in the US.

Sanders has also targeted Bezos’ space efforts. In May, the Vermont senator proposed an amendment to the Endless Frontier Act, which aims to keep the US space program competitive with other countries.

Sanders’ proposed amendment called a part of the bill a “multi-billion dollar Bezos Bailout” because it would likely give Blue Origin a $10 billion NASA contract.

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