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By Ma Qiuwen
Source: capital detective
Human beings have never denied the illusion of space: the descriptions of aliens, wormholes and high-dimensional space in films and books fully show people’s imagination. The landmark connection between human history and space began in the United States in 1969: the successful implementation of the “Apollo program” led by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), and the successful manned landing of Apollo 11 on the moon realized a great leap for mankind.
However, after the “Challenger” and “Columbia” space shuttle disasters killed 14 astronauts, “Apollo” after NASA collapsed, the American people gradually lost interest in space.
No one hopes that landing on the moon is the last link between man and space. But space, which is said to be vast and boundless, needs to burn money to make a big breakthrough. So for a long time, space related programs were developed by NASA and the U.S. government.
However, entrepreneurs with extremely high net asset value will not flinch in space investment and exploration once they have both imagination and adventure: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, British billionaire Andy bill who dropped out of school, Richard Branson, founder of virgin airlines, including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who are now the most active players in space It’s a rich man who spends thousands of dollars for space dream.
Today, on the premise of affordability, blue origin, SpaceX and virgin airlines can provide ordinary people with space travel services, all of which cannot be separated from the entrepreneurs mentioned above. In the two documentary works of “new space race” and “the next Mars station”, two journalists working for the digital business news website quartz and the Washington Post recorded the struggles and decisions of entrepreneurs represented by musk and Bezos in the business and privatization of space tourism.
In this book, readers can see the rich people’s another imagination — to strive for the future of mankind.
Fight for free competition
In the field of personal investment in space, there is a joke: what is the fastest way to become a millionaire in space? Start with a billionaire.
The high failure rate is not only due to the precision requirements of the industry itself and the variables when crossing the atmosphere, but also the initial restrictions imposed by the federal government on the industry.
At that time, there were many cooperative projects between NASA, the Pentagon (the office building of the U.S. Department of Defense) and industry backbones such as Lockheed and Boeing. Private aerospace companies were regarded as nouveau riche companies and were not eligible for rocket production contracts. This is equivalent to the competition between private companies and the companies funded by the U.S. government. Besides being unfair, it will affect the free competition in the rocket manufacturing market and raise the cost.
The Pentagon is named for its shape
Andy Beal, the billionaire, is a math genius with a strong love for the aerospace field, hoping to break the ice.
In 1997, Bill founded bear aerospace, which plans to launch a $200 million rocket and takes over a former military test site in McGregor, Texas, for testing. In the process, Bill publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the situation. He once told a hearing in Washington, “in a fair arena, we have confidence in our ability. However, one of the biggest risks we face is that the government may reward or punish the competitors out of good intentions, which may improperly tilt the market. In essence, it determines who wins and who loses. ”
However, the success of the rocket launch test did not change the fate of bill airlines. Soon after, NASA announced a multi billion dollar “Space Launch Initiative” plan, saying that it would start a 10 billion level project aimed at developing and designing reusable space tools that can replace the space shuttle. This has killed bill Airlines, which has been burning money without subsidies.
In October 2000, Bill chose to shut down the company. In his corporate statement, Bill said: “as long as NASA and the U.S. government are still selecting and funding the launch project, there is no possibility of a private launch company.”
Bill’s failure shows that knowledge of rocket science is not enough. The next person who wants to create space will have to wage war in Washington, the courts, and public opinion against vested interests that bill cannot defeat.
Bill musk didn’t take over the rocket for a long time.
Musk wasn’t inspired. The identity of a science fiction fan, coupled with NASA’s prediction that an asteroid might hit Earth in 2029, has led him to seriously consider the solution: find another livable planet. Venus is too acidic, and mercury is too close to the sun. So he bet on Mars.
Despite the dissuasion of people around him, musk founded SpaceX on March 14, 2002, and built the first rocket, Falcon 1, within a year. At the end of 2003, SpaceX put the seven story rocket on a custom trailer and shipped it across the United States to Washington. Under police escort, the rocket walked along independence Avenue along national square and finally stopped in front of the air traffic control authority headquarters.
Falcon 1 successfully launched
Behind the high-profile move is Musk’s crazy ambition to subvert the existing pattern. After this performance, which can be called “performance art”, musk launched “attacks” one after another
In 2004, musk sued his potential client, NASA, to Gao (Government Accountability Office) because NASA did not conduct a competitive bidding and gave the exclusive supply contract directly to another commercial space company, Qishile.
In 2005, SpaceX sued the merged Lockheed and Boeing company, ula (joint launch alliance), accusing the merger of “completely destroying the competition to sell rocket launch services to the government.”.
In 2014, SpaceX seized the opportunity of the poor political relations between the United States and Russia, and launched a disaster with ula using Russian made engines in an attempt to break ula’s monopoly on the Pentagon contract.
Musk’s radicalism is in stark contrast to Jeff Bezos, the founder of another private space company.
Tortoise and rabbit race
In September 2000, Amazon CEO Bezos established blue operations Co., Ltd., the predecessor of blue origin. Since then, Bezos has been silent about the company, and it was not until 2005 that Bezos first announced to the media its plan to build a rocket that can fly into the space boundary via small orbit and carry three or more passengers.
Bezos and the origin of blue
From the perspective of development trajectory, blue origin seems to be one step behind SpaceX.
In November 2006, blue origin launched the Goddard test rocket, but the rocket only climbed 285 feet, far less than SpaceX, which surpassed the first launch of a suborbital space flight. And three months ago, SpaceX signed a $278 million contract with NASA.
The blue origin remains cautious about the next launch of the new Shepard. Generally, blue origin will only inform the media if it has achieved the expected results; however, musk can’t wait to make any progress known to the public. No matter whether it is successful or not, people can always witness the launch of “falcon 1”, “Falcon 9” and “dragon spaceship” in live broadcast for the first time.
However, both Bezos, who believes in “slow is smooth, smooth is fast”, and musk, who “works hard and works hard”, are satisfied with their own pace. The author also compares their styles to “Tortoise” and “rabbit”.
In fact, they had dinner together in 2004. “We talked about rocket engineering,” Musk recalled. “Technically, he was obviously wrong, and I wanted to give him the best advice I could I did try my best to give him good advice, but he ignored most of it
Musk introduces the heavy Falcon rocket to the public
The opportunity for them to sit down and have a quiet conversation is no longer possible as the companies of both sides expand and develop.
As mentioned above, in 2014, SpaceX tried to use ula to use Russian made engines to make trouble and break its monopoly on Pentagon orders. Things should have been smooth, but blue origin stood on the side of ula – selling the company’s engine be-4 to the alliance, which made Musk’s attack meaningless.
Competition became more intense in 2015. The “new Shepard” first flew into space and then landed vertically, which means that the rocket is no longer a disposable consumable, and there is a greater possibility of reducing costs and realizing wider commercialization, which is the goal SpaceX and blue origin wanted to accomplish since its inception.
Only a month later, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 did the same thing – to be exact, there were some differences: “the new Shepard is just an 18 meter high suborbital rocket, while the Falcon 9 is a real launch vehicle that can put satellites into earth orbit.
To this end, musk and Bezos two people on twitter in order to compete who launched more significant and quarrel, the scene was not very good.
But then again, there’s nothing more driving than direct competition, and no one knows that better than musk and Bezos, who worked in Silicon Valley. Without Barnes & noble, the world’s second-largest online bookstore, Amazon would not be today’s Amazon. Without Detroit, Tesla would not have been Tesla today. In a similar logic, blue origin and SpaceX made their achievements today.
It’s not just interest
Back to the beginning of the story, musk and Bezos are science fiction fans, and Bezos has been a fan of space since childhood
His grandfather worked in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a secret weapons research and Development Department of the United States. He was influenced by many topics of “science and technology and space” since his childhood;
Since he was 5 years old and watched Apollo 11 landing on the moon on TV, he felt unprecedented inspiration;
He even admitted, “it can be said that the creation of Amazon to make money is to enable the space dream of childhood to continue to move forward.”
However, interest is not enough to support a person to invest a huge amount of money in the cause of accidents and even human lives at any time. For example, Musk’s enthusiasm for colonizing Mars is not only due to his “self-defense” when the planet collides with the earth, but also reflects what he wants to leave for the United States and mankind.
“I don’t want our highest level to be Apollo,” he said. “I don’t want a future like that, when I can only tell my grandchildren that this is the best thing we’ve ever done. From small to large, I have always hoped that human can build a base on the moon, and we can definitely go to Mars. But on the contrary, we are going backwards, which is the biggest tragedy. ”
“It’s going to be very difficult, there may be a lot of sacrifice, and terrible things will happen along the way,” Musk said. But this is also the case with the founding of the United States. ”
This is what he did. Several failed launches of Falcon 9 failed to defeat his confidence. After the Dragon spacecraft, which was able to transport cargo, successfully arrived at the space station, its upgraded version of the “heavy Falcon” plan to transport astronauts. This larger rocket can promote Musk’s original goal of colonizing Mars.
On February 6, 2018, the “heavy Falcon” carried a red 2008 Tesla Roadster for the first time – or musk’s ostentatious style. Although the core rocket sank into the Atlantic Ocean, the result was not so perfect, but people felt that the day of immigrating to Mars was approaching.
Concept map of space flight of Tesla sports car
Bezos also has his own faith. “Our whole idea is to protect the earth, and all heavy industries will go into space – to develop energy in space and leave the earth clean,” Bezos said. “The planet is extremely limited and cannot meet the resource needs of an unprecedentedly developed and ever-changing world in the future.” He wants to use his great wealth to lay the foundation in space and leave it as a legacy to the world.
Although the two people’s goal orientation is not consistent, but in the final analysis, their starting point has exceeded the pure commercial interests, and in order to achieve the goal, the competition has not stopped.
Just on October 17, SpaceX announced that it was almost ready to build permanent human settlements on Mars with spacecraft rockets. They also planned to use the spacecraft to go to the moon and conduct point-to-point flight on the earth in 2022. Blue origin also listed the blue moon plan in 2018, which plans to launch a lunar landing mission in the next five years. This year, blue origin has delivered a lunar lander model to NASA for testing.
Obviously, there is an endless battle for money. However, it is under various difficulties that the foresight and dedication of these “space entrepreneurs” are particularly valuable.
(statement: This article only represents the author’s point of view, not Sina’s position.)