Jeff Bezos wants one trillion humans in the solar system and will spend $1bn a year to achieve it

Critics say plan would have huge environmental implications

Andrew Buncombe
Washington DC
Tuesday 16 October 2018 15:44 BST
Jeff Bezos predicts we'll have 1 trillion humans in the solar system

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and technology entrepreneur, has said he hopes to see the solar system populated by one trillion people. He is also pushing his plan to get them there.

Mr Bezos, who recently accepted $500m from the US military to help develop his Blue Origin space flight project, said he would not be there when the cosmos was so crowded, but added that people were “starting to bump up against the absolute true fact that earth is finite”.

“The dynamism that I have seen over the last 20 years in the internet where incredible things have happened in really short periods of time,” Mr Bezos said, speaking at an event in San Francisco to mark the 25th anniversary of the launch of Wired magazine.

According to CNBC, he added: “We need thousands of companies. We need the same dynamism in space that we’ve seen online over the last 20 years. And we can do that.”

Mr Bezos is one of several private entrepreneurs seeking to reduce the cost of space flight and he intends to invest $1bn over the next year as part of that ambition. Other projects looking to develop commercial space travel include Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

Among the high-profile players, 54-year-old Mr Bezos has been the most outspoken in his willingness to work with the Department of Defence.

Blue Origin: Amazon's Jeff Bezos launches rocket higher than ever before

“We are going to continue to support the [Department of Defence],” Mr Bezos said.“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defence, this country is going to be in trouble.”

Many in the tech industry, among them Google and Microsoft, have been concerned about the implications of working the Pentagon on space travel amid concerns about the potential for the further militarisation – and perhaps weaponisation – of space.

This summer, Donald Trump announced he wanted to develop a “space force”, a declaration that triggered both sniggers and concerns. “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defence and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” he said in June.

“That’s a big statement. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force – separate but equal. It is going to be something.”

Critics of have seized on the potential implications for the environment of Mr Bezos’s vision, and his willingness to work with the military. His comments came shortly after the UN’s climate science body, the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said there was barely a dozen years to make massive changes to global energy infrastructure to limit global warming to moderate levels.“There is no documented historic precedent,” the IPPC said.

Michael Mann, a climate expert and Professor of Earth Sciences at Penn State University, said it was “sometimes difficult to distinguish real word stories from satire”.

“I know Bezos has been looking for ways to leverage his immense wealth for the betterment of mankind. But I can’t help but wonder why these captains of technology always look away from the earth rather than towards it, when talking about confronting the challenges that face humanity,” he told The Independent.

“Mr Bezos, in explaining this venture, said ‘We are starting to bump up against the absolute true fact that earth is finite’. That is absolutely true, but space is not the answer to that challenge. There is no planet B, at least not one that is reachable on the timescales that are relevant here. What we truly need to do is decrease the rate of our exploitation of natural resources and the continued burning of fossil fuels that imperils human civilisation.”

The DoD last week announced it was awarding grants to three private firms to each develop a domestic launch system prototype. The aim is that the US would move away from foreign propulsion systems such as the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine, CNBC said.

Mr Bezos’s Blue Origin received $500m, arms and aerospace giant Northrop Grumman will get $792m, and United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing Defence, Space & Security and which already provides launch services to the US government, is due to receive $967m.

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