It seemed like a large percentage of highly online people were of the opinion that the richest man in the world had just wasted huge sums of money on an unnecessary spree and that the $ 10 billion he would have invested so far in Blue Origin, its aerospace company, could have been better spent elsewhere.
Even journalist Soledad O’Brien took pessimistic positions:
The question is, did Bezos and Blue Origin miss an opportunity to better shape the narrative around their media event? And, if so, what could they have done?
The revelations that Bezos might only pay a true 0.98% tax rate – far less than the average American – and his efforts to crush union organizing efforts at his Amazon business, have certainly failed. not help matters. The cowboy hat-wearing CEO’s own comments thanking “every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, because you paid for it,” were equally muted, drawing conviction US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others.
But in some ways, these issues are orthogonal to the question of the value that a suborbital flight like Bezos’ can bring to the world.
To put it another way, there is an adjustment Bezos could have made to improve public perception of space travel and science, which has undoubtedly been badly beaten due to his clumsy approach.
It’s something Elon Musk – who is, without a doubt, just as big a huckster as Bezos – does with ease, and claims an army of space-loving fans because of it: Musk simply explains often. there is a larger goal in play than a simple baby boomer going into space.
The technology developed for the cock-shaped rocket can be put to good use here, and the scientific discovery and research that the technology can enable is potentially good for all of humanity.
“People didn’t understand why it was important for business ventures to replicate what the government did decades ago,” said Laura Forczyk, owner of space consulting firm Astralytical. Inverse.
“I like to talk about the fact that the money spent in space is not really spent in space; it is spent on Earth. All the technologies created in spaceflight are useful to society.
Forczyk saw the getaway in terms of the potential for scientific discovery. New Shepard has already performed experiments for universities, NASA and private companies on previous unmanned flights and intends to continue to do so. With Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which has also started transporting experimental payloads into suborbital space, a larger market could develop for research opportunities in this region, Forczyk says.
Yet Blue Origin’s clumsy attempts at self-promotion haven’t always been the best. The company, which did not respond to a request for comment from Inverse, sent what appeared to be an extremely petty tweet aimed at their competitor, Virgin Galactic, shortly before the latter’s launch a week earlier:
“Maybe they were trying to emphasize, from a marketing point of view, that their product and service had superior characteristics,” Chris Lewicki, engineer and space entrepreneur, tells Inverse. “Looking back, it was clearly a bad idea. “
Lewicki believes the misstep was relatively minor and likely to be soon forgotten. “But it does create a bit of a predisposition for people to be less receptive to the message that follows,” he said.
Maybe Blue Origin won’t pay much for such errors in judgment in the end. Research has shown that even negative word-of-mouth can increase public awareness of a brand and help sell products, says Jessie Liu, professor of marketing at Johns Hopkins University. Inverse.
” Compared to [Elon Musk’s] SpaceX, Blue Origin was born with a lot less hype and publicity in the space travel game, ”she wrote via email. “So even Jeff Bezos’ review that gets people talking about Blue Origin and creating awareness isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the company. “
There could be an opportunity for the aerospace company to identify and hide the most engaged consumers through negative word of mouth, Liu added, because such comments tend to come from people’s emotional investment, and passion can lead to activity.
Although he understands where some of it came from, the negative comment frustrates Lewicki: “There seems to be a lot of attention being paid to two or three individuals, and the wish that they weren’t as wealthy or that they were using their money. wealth in a different way.
He and Forczyk point out that the fact that Bezos and other billionaires aren’t paying the U.S. government as much as they could in taxes is more of an issue lawmakers need to try to resolve, and that Bezos is taking active steps to donate. the rooms. from his vast wealth to causes he considers precious.
“For me, this is an opportunity for introspection,” says Lewicki. “If I’m complaining that Bezos isn’t using his resources to solve problems in a charitable manner, then how do I rank using my time?” “
For us at this point in history, it can be difficult to know what the future results of something like this first passenger launch from New Shepard will be. Comparing Blue Origin to Amazon, Lewicki says Bezos seems particularly adept at creating types of infrastructure never seen before – for example, regularly delivering packages faster than anyone thought possible.
Ultimately, the enemies are going to say whatever they want about Bezos and his activities. It’s possible (likely, even) that even if Bezos were clear about Blue Origin’s higher ambitions – “millions of people living and working” is the slogan – the launch would still be poorly received.
But the billionaire’s passion for space travel runs deep, and Lewicki says Bezos personally told him he never intended to give up on that dream.
“Right now the message he’s talking about is to build the road to space,” he said. “That’s the theme he uses. “
Advocates of space exploration and the advancement of science and technology can hope the road to space is well thought out, with the poor optics and naked commercialism of last week’s 11-minute flight quickly replaced by efforts which no longer clearly serve the greater good.