This photo provided by Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, exits the Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule after it parachuted safely down to the launch area with passengers Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk, near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Credit: Blue Origin via AP

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Matt Kane of Bangor is a paralegal.

The space flights of Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson have been heavily covered in the news lately and have been met with celebrated support and admiration from the general public. This reaction represents the antithesis of what a public response should be.

The average American should be outraged and appalled. The purpose of these space flights is not for the betterment of humanity or any other objectively noble purpose. These flights are simply grandiose expressions of wealth that are singularly aimed at the commodification of space travel marketed towards the wealthiest among us.  

Those who have labeled these flights as “joy rides for the wealthy” are correct. We do have immediate issues in America that would certainly benefit from the philanthropy of Bezos and Branson. Their cumulative wealth dwarfs the GDP of many countries around the world.  

Bezos’ response to this criticism during his pre-flight CNN interview was less than stellar. He said “we have to do both” referring to the need for “joy rides for the wealthy” as well as a vague and esoteric reassurance that his goals are aimed at “building a road to space for the next generations to do amazing things there and those amazing things will solve problems here on Earth.”  

He failed to elaborate on what it is exactly that would be accomplished or give even the faintest idea of what could be accomplished. But who are we commoners to question the knowledge and wisdom of Bezos? After all, he has created one of the most successful corporations the world has ever seen.  

Now we have his burgeoning space empire paid for by the toil of workers paid unlivable wages, monitored with the utmost scrutiny, and in poor conditions. But so what? He’s proven himself a shrewd and capable taskmaster, clever enough to not pay taxes, why not entrust our species’ future to him?  

Bezos very well may be able to secure his place in that future. If his investments in Unity Biotechnology’s niche longevity sciences are any indication, Bezos and his rich friends will be around to personally continue their altruistic stewardship of humanity.

To think that the Bezos’s and Bransons of this world have humanity’s best interests at the heart of their activities is a farce. The fact is, the wealth utilized in these fanciful and self-gratifying space-capades could have been used to immediately remediate many existential crises that exist in the present. Homelessness, food insecurity, and climate change are a few issues that come to mind. Even a fraction of Bezos’ more than $5 billion spent on Blue Origin thus far could have made an everlasting and immediate impact on America and humanity at large.  

The tens of millions spent by Richard Branson every year on Virgin Galactic certainly would have helped too. If helping the general welfare and longevity of the world was their true goal, why the obtuse and indeterminate justification?

There is a reason America doesn’t send men to the moon anymore — there is nothing to be gained. America executes space missions with particular intent focused on the utility and value of the research to be conducted. We have had the capability to send people on space flights for the spectacle of it for decades.

A four-year old chimpanzee, named Ham, made more of a contribution to our society than either Bezos or Branson. We are chumps to celebrate these modern-day Hams.