Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos use NASA as an ATM, says Bernie Sanders


Bernie Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, criticized Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos for “using NASA as an ATM” at the expense of taxpayers.

Bernie Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, fears that private space companies are using Nasa as an ATM to fund their latest endeavors. The prospects of space tourism and colonization – the novel idea that humans can travel privately into space for recreational and colonial purposes – are destined to become a reality supported by well-funded private corporations. Elon Musk is the top executive at SpaceX, where he’s leading the race to colonize Mars and capitalize on the potential that exists outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Jeff Bezos runs Blue Origin, another space exploration company that focuses on tourism and sold a ticket to space for $28 million last year. The owners of both companies are among the richest men in the world, but despite this, SpaceX and Blue Origin are subsidized by the US government.

SpaceX and Blue Origin continue to develop the cutting-edge technologies needed to carry out their noble plans for commercial space travel, but NASA and the US government are supporting them. Instead of exploring space as an entity in its own right – which was the case during the original space race of the 1960s – NASA often outsources its projects to private companies. SpaceX, for example, has secured a contract worth nearly $200 million to explore a moon orbiting the planet Jupiter. One of Blue Origin’s contracts was for $130 million to contribute to a commercial space station in low Earth orbit (LEO). According to Sanders, the competition for federal contracts has even led to legal disputes, as space exploration companies thrive on NASA funding — at the expense of US taxpayers.

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Sanders believes the effort to privatize the space industry has come at the unfair expense of the federal government and taxpayers. So he wrote in an opinionated editorial column published by The Guardian.I fear Nasa has become little more than an ATM to fuel a space race“said Sanders, noting the difference between the current competition and the original international rivalry.”NOTnot between the United States and other countries, but between the two richest men in America – Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who are worth over $450 billion combined.“The senator asks a very valid question: Why is it the burden of the US government to fund companies owned by two of the richest men in the world?

Why does NASA invest in private companies?

NASA Apollo 17 sample collection

To justify his displeasure with US investment in private space companies, Sanders notes the immense wealth of Musk and Bezos. The latter is worth north of $180 billion and receives federal funding for his space company Blue Origin despite owning luxurious properties and considerable capital. All without contributing to the taxes that pay for that very funding, Sanders claims. “In a given year, he paid nothing in federal income tax,“said Sanders.”He is the owner of Amazon, which in any given year also paid zero federal income tax after making billions in profits.“The way private space exploration is structured today means that billionaires can make huge profits without investing those profits in their own businesses. Instead, the federal government – ​​namely NASA – takes the brunt of the capital investment required to advance space technology for entrepreneurial purposes.

The biggest problem identified by Sanders is the question of ownership of space. Although the federal government contributes financial assets to private companies, there is no return on this investment despite the gains made through the space economy. In 2018, private companies earned $92 billion from accumulated assets in space that would not have been possible without federal support, according to Sanders. Even physical acquisitions in space are not subject to government control – the 2015 space law allows private companies to retain ownership of materials and land discovered in space. The law requires the executive branch of the U.S. government to “facilitate commercial exploration and commercial recovery of space resources by U.S. citizens,and Sanders notes that the act was virtually unchallenged in the Senate.

The core of Sanders’ argument is that profits from space exploration should accrue to the country as a whole, not just a few individuals or corporations. Since Nasa and the federal government have funded much of the advances developed by private companies, the senator’s line of thinking is incredibly consistent. “When we take that next giant leap into space, let’s do it for the good of all humanity, not to turn a handful of billionaires into billionaires,Sanders concluded. The US senator suggests that Congress engage in a “serious debate” on the issue as it considers granting a $10 billion bailout to Bezos’ space company Blue Origin.

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Source: The Guardian, space law

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