Others & Elon Musk vs. Jeff Bezos in Space Colonization
It actually may be just a passing phase that too many people see two of the richest men in the world, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, competing to colonize space by their rocket companies Blue Origin and SpaceX. The "space economy" of space industrialization and colonization will be far bigger than two rocket makers. When frontiers like America were developed, it wasn't the ship builders nor road builders who got wealthiest. Nor will it be the rocket makers today. Rockets only deliver valuable payloads.
When other companies get involved which do mining, manufacturing of products, utilities, condos for workers, greenhouses, and general property development on the Moon, there will be a boom of wealth in space.
Space resources is the next boom sector. When the internet started, people thought the companies which would get rich would be the bandwidth providers and equipment suppliers, but they weren't, just like the ships and railroads were not. It was the applications such as Amazon delivering products, Facebook providing services, and countless others who went from nothing to extremely wealthy in a short time, based on the new infrastructure.
Even though Elon Musk/SpaceX is far ahead of Jeff Bezos/Blue Origin at this time, neither has put a significant amount of work into lunar development, leaving that field wide open. There are longtime major strategic differences between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk which should be looked at very carefully along these lines, because Bezos could make a major comeback.
Jeff Bezos has a vision much more in line with PERMANENT, as we both are longtime proponents of the Dr. Gerard O'Neill / Space Studies Institute (SSI) school of thought on space development, in that nearby lunar resources are far preferable over going way out to Mars as the next step, we should start with products and services which benefit Earth instead of just running away, the first major space colonies should be in orbit around Earth, and most importantly, space colonies are best located in orbital space instead of on a planetary surface.
Elon Musk has always been obsessed with, and focused on, the dream of establishing a human colony on the surface of Mars.
Jeff Bezos has stated the goal of creating the infrastructure for space development by others. However, Bezos seems to lack a sense of urgency, and is very focused on perfecting little steps at a time.
At this point in time, both have been focused on developing their own rockets to launch payloads and people from Earth into space, and actually have not done much about the following steps. (Notably, Musk had initially tried to negotiate use of some Russian rockets but after some bad experiences decided to drop various ideas and develop his own rocket.)
Blue Origin was founded in the year 2000, and SpaceX in the year 2002. Elon Musk and SpaceX achieved launch into orbit in 2010. Blue Origin has yet to have any rocket achieve orbit. Blue Origin's rockets are small suborbital rockets which go just up and down, which creates a zero gravity experience for very brief time -- minutes. Achieving orbit (mainly the speed) requires much larger and more complicated rockets.
SpaceX has achieved not only Earth orbit, but achieve relatively heavy lift capability to Earth orbit, launched beyond Earth orbit, and has also developed and had approved a human rated rocket so that SpaceX has delivered astronauts to the International Space Station.
Jeff Bezos had far more personal net value than Musk from around the year 2000 up until the time Musk's value started to shoot up dramatically starting in 2020. (Musk was worth 27 billion at the start of 2020 and surpassed Bezos at 185 billion in January 2021 to become the wealthiest person in the world. After some back and forth, Musk has now pulled away some.)
For a long time, the two have engaged in a public rivalry over Twitter and other media, and serious lawsuits in regard to their technical projects. They are far from any kind of cooperation.
From some of the history of the rivalry, before Musk achieved orbit, it appears that Bezos may have been way too overconfident and complacent with his far greater wealth at that time. The same could happen to Musk from this time forward, not just relative to Bezos, but also in view of the countless other wealthy entities in the world who could be drawn into the space race by lunar development.
The worst of the Bezos-Musk rivalry happened in the year 2021. Blue Origin and SpaceX competed for a NASA contract for a human lunar lander. The SpaceX lunar lander was fully reusable. Blue Origin designed one which had two parts, a lander which was left behind on the Moon, and a launcher to return the astronauts -- not fully reusable. The Blue Origin design was more like a government contractor's "flag and footprints" one-off than a serious longterm lunar development vehicle. Furthermore, the Blue Origin design was quoted at a price which far exceeded the SpaceX bid.
For its own reasons, NASA chose the SpaceX bid only. Blue Origin has been filing lawsuits which have delayed the contract, as covered in another article on PERMANENT, which seem ridiculous to me and many others, and driven by spite.
Beyond NASA's judgments, I have a lot more confidence in SpaceX because they have such a good track record and Musk has been far more personally focused on his space projects than Bezos. Blue Origin is far behind in other milestones, too, and there is much criticism of the organization's management. Thank Goodness Bezos has a competitor like Musk, because it would be dreadful to imagine Blue Origin being the only space colonization company of a superwealthy person. What would the situation be if he didn't have Elon Musk egging him on?
Bezos is also very secretive about what work Blue Origin does, but given their lagging progress on just their launcher and a rocket engine, and being behind in other contract work, it's hard to imagine that they have made significantly more progress in secret on other things.
The focus now is on third parties -- companies and people who can develop the Moon. These will become extremely wealthy.
At this point, it looks like ambitious third parties will be buying SpaceX rockets and maybe SpaceX landers on the Moon. If SpaceX also wants to launch to Mars, that's up to them, but given the ability of SpaceX to manufacture multiple rockets, I would think that Elon Musk would be happy to sell deliveries to the Moon for third party entities, for landing both cargos and people. SpaceX might even launching competitors' own lunar landers who deal with Elon Musk and SpaceX in a civil way. I would be surprised if Jeff Bezos would get "mates rates" with SpaceX.
I would like to see both succeed, plus multiple additional parties enter the lunar development race. However, Jeff Bezos needs to undergo a paradigm shift to still be a top player in coming years, and don't be surprised if one or more third parties surpass Bezos in the next decade or so as regards becoming the leader in fulfilling the general O'Neill/SSI vision.
This is why we shouldn't put all our eggs in the Bezos or Musk basket. Musk is still obsessed with Mars, and Bezos/Blue Origin has a questionable company culture established (and I'd rather not get started on that gossip...). It reminds me of the 2000s when I heard many comments that it was best to jump onto the Bezos bandwagon simply because he had so much more money, his wealth was set to skyrocket, and he looked like a sure bet to forward the O'Neill/SSI vision. Unfortunately, over the decades, I've seen countless promising entities falter. I wasn't convinced about Bezos, especially because he was so secretive and I've seen the results of that kind of thing before... History has countless instances of small startups eventually overtaking giants.
From what I see, the big longtime winner may be a small startup now with designs on lunar development and starting to build and test prototypes. Always keep in mind that rockets are just for delivering payloads. So let's get over the Bezos-Musk rivalry and focus on the greater business of lunar development!
See also these two articles on PERMANENT:
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