Unless you've been living on a rock this month, you'll know billionaire Jeff Bezos completed his brief trip to space on Tuesday morning.
Bezos, aboard his rocket ship the New Shepard which is a part of his space exploration firm Blue Origin, flew to the Kármán line, an imaginary boundary 100 kilometers, or sixty-two miles, above the Earth's surface. The capsule was designed to separate from the booster, reenter the atmosphere, and float back down to Earth with the help of parachutes.
Just eleven minutes after launching, Bezos, his brother Mark, eighty-two-year-old pioneer of the space race Wally Funk and eighteen-year-old student Oliver Daemen landed in the West Texas Desert.
A live broadcast of the event captured the launch, the capsule's descent, and the crew's excited reactions after having reached the edge of space and returning safely.
But after his voyage, Bezos did the unexpected by deciding to thank Amazon customers and employees for making the trip possible: "I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this," Bezos said during a post-fight press conference. "Seriously, for every Amazon customer out there and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It's very appreciated."
Bezos became the second billionaire to reach space with Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson claiming the title just 9 days before Bezos. Critics of both space endeavors have said the money that was used to build the rockets could have been used to combat the climate crisis or any other humanitarian crisis according to Insider Business.
Nevertheless, both billionaires have responded to the criticism by stating their creating opportunities for new markets by blazing the way for space tourism.
"I say they are largely right," Bezos said in an interview with CNN this week. "We have to do both. We have lots of problems here on Earth, and we have to work on those."
Jeff Bezos could end homelessness in this country and still have more money than he could ever hope to spend. But going to space and not paying taxes is nice too. https://t.co/vfWZ780UQ4
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) July 21, 2021
Bezos has also undergone criticism for amassing one of the biggest fortunes the world has ever seen, while employees of his company complain they are subject to harsh working practices and low income.
The comments at the press conference led to outrage on Twitter, where politicians and others argued that Bezos should be paying more taxes.
Representative Mark Pocan tweeted: "Translation: Thanks for letting me exploit your labor and profit off of you literally peeing in bottles so that I could enjoy a few seconds at zero gravity!"
Bezos has also directly invested in initiatives to solve the climate crisis, including the launch of the Bezos Earth Fund, which is set to spend $10 billion by 2030. The nonprofit invests "in scientists, NGOs, activists, and the private sector to help drive new technologies, investments, policy change, and behavior," its CEO, Andrew Steer, said.
"We will emphasize social justice, as climate change disproportionately hurts poor and marginalized communities."