CEO Space Race Heats up as Bezos, Branson, Musk Ready Moon Shots

GettyImages-532031065-compressorPerhaps bored by disrupting traditional industries on Earth, CEOs are increasingly turning their attention to somewhat higher ambitions. And they could get government backing.

The Obama administration was more keen on Mars than the moon. The former president once argued “we’ve been there before”, when referring to Earth’s closest neighbor. But progress reaching and understanding Mars has been slow, and some hope the Trump administration will consider sending humans to the moon for the first time since the 1970s.

That would present opportunities for businesses that could perhaps partner with NASA on moon missions. And it appears many are already eyeing the opportunity.

Last week, in what was a momentous period for the nascent commercial space-travel industry, Jeff Bezos joined the fray just as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic were announcing new ventures to take people to the moon.

The Amazon CEO told his Washington Post that the company’s space arm, Blue Origin, has told Trump’s transition team of a shipping service that would deliver gear for experiments, cargo and human habitation by 2020.

“IT IS TIME FOR AMERICA TO RETURN TO THE MOON—THIS TIME TO STAY.”

“It is time for America to return to the Moon—this time to stay,” Besos said. “A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.”

The revelation came after Elon Musk announced that SpaceX intends to take two space tourists on a trip around the moon by the end of 2018. The wealthy travelers have already handed over a “significant” deposit, with more crew details to be announced following health and fitness tests, Musk said.

SpaceX is scheduled to send an unmanned rocket to the International Space Station later this year, before sending a manned mission in 2018 as part of a contract with NASA. “We commend our industry partners for reaching higher. We will work closely with SpaceX,” the space agency said.

Richard Branson, meanwhile, announced last week that Virgin Galactic will spin out a new company called Virgin Orbit that will launch small satellites into space, possibly by the end of the year.

The barriers to entry for space travel are falling, so it’s not surprising that more companies are getting involved, according to the MIT Technology Review. “The sooner the companies can establish themselves as the go-to provider, the more [opportunity] they have of shrugging off emerging competitors.”

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Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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