New age of travel: Jeff Bezos sees ‘millions’ living and working in space

Amazon founder and space entrepreneur looks forward to a time when anybody will be able to leave Earth's atmosphere thanks to investment by wealthy enthusiasts like him

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 September, 2015, 1:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 September, 2015, 1:27pm

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos envisions millions of people one day living in orbit as his exploration company, Blue Origin, and other commercial ventures develop spacecraft to make travel more widely available.

Investment from wealthy entrepreneurs with a passion for space would usher in a new era that would make leaving the Earth’s atmosphere accessible to anyone, Bezos said on Tuesday. Earlier, he announced that Blue Origin would put US$200 million into a new rocket assembly facility and launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

“Our ultimate vision is millions of people living and working in space,” Bezos  said  after the Blue Origin announcement. “We have a long way to go.”

SEE Blue Origin's vision for space exploration

Video courtesy of Blue Origin

There are only six people in space now, two of whom – US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko – are trying to spend a year on the International Space Station to help researchers understand how humans react to long-duration space flight.

Bezos, 51, developed an interest in space exploration as a young boy watching rockets on television, and had thought that by now “we’d be gallivanting around the solar system”. Bezos said he feels fortunate that the wealth he has made through Amazon enables him to pursue his passion for space. He is the world’s seventh-richest man.

Though the race is competitive, Bezos said he respects other players pursuing their interest in space, such as Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk, the CEO of Space Exploration Technologies. Technology would advance more quickly with multiple people experimenting with different methods of space travel, Bezos said.

“We’ve always been pioneers,” he added. “We need to continue that pioneering spirit and a big part of that is becoming space farers.”

Blue Origin, founded in 2000, has about 400 employees in the US state of Washington, mostly engineers. The Cape Canaveral facility will create 330 jobs, and Bezos  expects to launch a rocket from the site by the end of the decade. The company also has a testing facility in the state of Texas, where it launched its first test flight in April.

Bezos said qualities he has shown as CEO of Amazon – including forsaking profits in favour of long-term investments – would translate into the effort to reach space.

“I’m kind of well known for being long-term oriented,” he said, laughing.  “Blue Origin is going to set a new standard for me in that regard.”