Mankind as a “multiplanetary species”?: In the ZDF documentary, completely insane plans by Musk and Bezos become clear

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It sounds like a science fiction script: SpaceX founder Elon Musk wants to send the first manned rocket to Mars before the end of this decade. At the same time, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is planning a space city. ZDFinfo documents the insane plans of the two super rich.

The numbers are unbelievable: 75,000 tons of CO₂, it says at the end of the documentary “Musk vs. Bezos – Space Race” (Thursday, March 23, 9:30 p.m., ZDFinfo), blows every person who takes part in a ten-minute space flight from the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos takes part, in the air.

For comparison: on a long-haul flight of around 10,000 kilometers (which roughly corresponds to the distance between Munich and Los Angeles), there are “only” 0.5 tons of CO₂ per passenger.

The numbers are so important because both Bezos and Elon Musk always make the point of saving humanity or our home planet in their quest to populate space. The documentary by French filmmaker Agnès Hubschman shows the absurd proportions that the “race for the super-rich” has assumed.

“The foundation stone for the new aerospace era was laid at the end of the 1990s,” says the beginning of the approximately one-hour documentary: In Silicon Valley, young entrepreneurs can quickly make a lot of money thanks to the flourishing Internet. One of the lucky ones is Elon Musk.

In his early 30s, he made $180 million in profit by selling PayPal to eBay. He wants to use the money to follow in NASA’s footsteps: “His goal was to put plants and even animals on Mars just to prove that it was possible,” says Tim Fernholz, author of the book “Rocket Billionaires”. .

But the space veterans are skeptical and laugh at the young man. So Musk decides to take matters into his own hands: On March 14, 2002, he founds the aerospace company SpaceX.

The beginning of the “New Space Era”

Around the same time, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was also reaching for the stars. In contrast to Musk, the multi-billionaire, seven years his senior, initially pursued his plans in secret: US journalist Brad Stone remembers digging in a garbage can in front of a remote warehouse in 2003 and finding plans for the New Shepard rocket from Bezos’ company Blue Origin encountered. It’s not the only cinematic retelling in the documentary.

Eric Berger, space journalist at the tech blog Ars Technica, sees this as the key difference between SpaceX and Blue Origin: “At the time, Bezos was building Amazon into a global empire, while Blue Origin was more of a hobby, a side project. Elon, on the other hand, had invested half of its PayPal profits. He went all out.”

On March 24, 2006, Musk launched his first rocket, Falcon 1, in the Marshall Islands. But 30 seconds after takeoff, it crashes: “I was shaken and didn’t speak for four weeks,” recalls chief engineer Hans Königsmann. It only works more than two years and two failed attempts later. NASA signs contract with SpaceX. Bezos is angry about his opponent’s success. In 2015 he followed suit with the first reusable rocket. A Twitter war breaks out between the opponents. The so-called “New Space Era” begins.

Mankind as a “multiplanetary species”

The European space industry is surprised by the successes of private companies. On May 30, 2020, the United States will send people into space for the first time in nine years and for the first time with a private company: SpaceX will take the astronauts to the International Space Station ISS. As a result, Russia loses its monopoly position. China, on the other hand, sees the “New Space Era” as an opportunity: as early as 2003, the People’s Republic sent the first taikonaut into space. In 2019, a Chinese probe lands on the back of the moon: “No one has done that before,” says the documentary.

However, the focus of the film, which can already be seen in the media library, is clearly on the sometimes megalomaniac ideas of Musk and Bezos: It sounds crazy when Musk predicts the end of the world and when he announces that mankind is a “multiplanetary species “ must be. With the SpaceX Starship, it is said that he wants to fly a million people to the red planet within 30 years. The first flight is scheduled to take off later this decade. He himself wants to spend the rest of his life on the red planet.

Bezos, in turn, plans to create floating worlds for Earthlings and industry in orbit: “They are very large structures, kilometers long for at least a million people each with heavy industry and everything that harms our planet,” he explains at a presentation in 2019: “We relocate everything from the earth. We must preserve our planet. He is a jewel and irreplaceable. There is no plan B.”

Future vision or crazy sci-fi idea?

At first glance, preserving planet earth sounds like a noble goal that is definitely worth striving for. But wouldn’t it be better to use the exorbitant sums of money on earth for real climate protection and environmentally friendly technologies? Ten minutes of zero gravity cost Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin customers $200,000. According to Christophe Bonnal from the French space agency CNES, 50,000 customers could pay this price every year.

All in all, that would be ten billion dollars. Life in orbit or on Mars may be technically possible in a few decades. But do people really want to leave their familiar homeland? And what about those who can’t afford the ticket? In the end, the dream of life in space sounds more like science fiction than a real alternative.

“Musk vs. Bezos – Space Race” is just one of three films about the giants’ competition: At 8:15 p.m., ZDFinfo will show the documentary “Musk on a Crash Course – Tesla’s Dangerous Game”, followed at 10:30 p.m. by “World Power Amazon – The Empire of Jeff Bezos”. “.


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Peggy McColl

Mentor l NY Times Bestselling Author. Hi, I'm Peggy McColl, and I'm here to deliver a positive message to you!

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