The era of space tourism we, as it turned out, are living in, is considered from different angles. Some talk about a breakthrough in technical capabilities, some—about profits for the industry. Some—about the ecology of such flights, some—about the fact that amateurs have no place in orbit. But the Ukrainian segment of Facebook that vividly, but not very joyfully, responded to the next flight into space of non-professionals, gave a start to a new discussion. Is it moral for such "tourists" to spend millions of dollars on their whims when hunger, poverty, and disease are all around? decided to figure it out.
Musk said: Let's go!
On July 11, 2021, the Virgin Galactic ship left the Earth's atmosphere and later successfully landed at the America Cosmodrome in New Mexico, USA, all information corporations around the world reported. The VSS Unity spacecraft reached an altitude of about 86 km above the Earth surface, which is considered the frontier with space. 70-year-old British billionaire and Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson, two pilots—Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, astronauts Sirisha Bundla, Colin Bennett, and Beth Moses were on board the spaceship.
This is the official narrative. And now about the price tag. A ticket to space now costs $450,000. At least, Virgin Galactic is selling the trip at this price. The company, however, promises that there will be discounts and the flight cost will drop to some hundred of thousands of dollars. But already now the number of those willing to go beyond the stratosphere is huge. Therefore, if you want to catch the spaceship, reserve a place in a queue right now. And you can save half a million dollars in the process.
Another businessman and billionaire, Jeff Bezos, reached a greater height than Branson. Like Branson, Bezos used his own vehicle. Its capsule New Shepard crossed the so-called Karman line that runs at an altitude of 100 km and separates the Earth's atmosphere from space. The spacecraft reached an altitude of 107 km above sea level, achieving a speed of 3,595 km/h during the flight. The following people flew with Bezos: his brother Mark, 82-year-old former test pilot Wally Funk, and the 18-year-old son of the Dutch investment banker Oliver Daemen. Thus, both the oldest and the youngest astronaut in the world visited space at the same time.
Now, another famous rich guy in the world, Elon Musk, has joined the space race. His company SpaceX launched the civilian mission Inspiration4 into space—four non-professional astronauts were sent into orbit for several days. They launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the Dragon capsule.
It's interesting that the Inspiration4 mission from SpaceX was bought out by 38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman, who made his fortune developing systems for processing credit card payments. Three other places in the capsule were also paid for by him. He simply gave them to people with "stories that inspire."
The world community reacted ambiguously to the space tourism development. Branson, Bezos, and Musk were accused of the following.
Firstly, harm to the environment. The carbon footprint of space travel is very significant. If Virgin Galactic implements the plan of 400 travel a year, the fuel burned, its production and delivery will have a significant negative impact on the environment. In addition, according to some experts, a thousand space flights can raise the temperature in Antarctica by 1 degree Celsius. Many eco-activists are confident that the negative impact on the environment will be inevitable, and it would be better if this type of tourism did not exist at all.
Secondly, amateur astronauts are of no use to science. They are mostly just having fun. However, astronauts took plants aboard the Virgin Galactic spacecraft to study how microgravity affects them. Nevertheless, according to NASA, such a study is meaningless. At the same time, even the most outspoken critics admit that the repeated use of rockets and cheaper launches open a window of opportunity for better space exploration, in particular, faster and less costly.
Thirdly, there is a claim specifically against Jeff Bezos, who, according to Bloomberg, remains the richest man in the world for the fourth consecutive year. Bezos is also known to be the former owner of Amazon Corporation, whose employees recently complained about inhuman working conditions, a 14-hour workday, and the inability to leave the workplace even to use the restroom.
"Jeff Bezos never adequately compensates his employees, but his rocket sure looks like it’s trying to compensate for something else," people sneered on social media.
"He (Bezos) and his fellow space-obsessed billionaires are exactly like the rich men aboard the Titanic who pushed others aside to jump into lifeboats," the British The Guardian noted.
But, perhaps, the greatest discontent gushed in the Ukrainian segment of Facebook. For example, in one of the posts that contained a publication about Branson's flight, readers left the following comments:
- "There are so many hungry children and people with cancer in the world, they are just pouring their money down the drain, aren’t they?"
- "From now on, the No. 1 goal for all the rich in the world will be to travel to space. They will measure wieners with each other, who went further, who stayed there as long as possible... And is this all for science and humanity? "
- "Not interested! This is clownery"
- "That’s not something to brag about. And common people raise money for sick children. While they were raising them, it was already too late. Think about it, you rich people. It is not too late."
- "The are growing millions out of thin air"
- "Oh, come on, it will come in handy to entertain tourists, because cashola rules! Suckers must always be blagged, they live for that."
Among all the negative comments, the most often mentioned is the "misuse of funds" by billionaire astronauts. Those, as it is said, first of all, should be engaged in charity work—it sounds as if they have to redeem their guilt in the eyes of society. And this guilt lies in the fact that these people were able to earn huge fortunes. But do they really have to become donors, or is it their good will? talked about this with representatives of the intellectual community and heard the following from them.
In the Soviet period, wealth was beyond the law
Mykhailo Pozhyvanov, a deputy of previous convocations, himself does not refuse charity. He takes part in various projects, but his favorite brainchild is the ABC-art gallery, where he exhibits works of Ukrainian artists for free and popularizes them. Our interlocutor explains the "class hatred" for Branson, Bezos, or Musk by the peculiarities of the "communist" upbringing.
Since Soviet times, the population has been taught that a wealthy person is a dishonest person: a thief, an extortionist, in a word, a "capitalist". This was also played up in the novel by Ilf and Petrov The Little Golden Calf, where the inventive Ostap Bender terrorizes and blackmails his victim—millionaire Koreiko—with the phrase that "all large fortunes were acquired illegally." For a Soviet person mired in poverty, such an opinion was comforting. As if I hardly survive on 60 rubles of my salary not because the country and its economy are incompetent and distorted, but because I am honest and happy with my noble poverty.
Chairman of the Foundation for Municipal Reforms "Magdeburg Law"
In fact, things, of course, are different, Mykhailo adds: in a world where the market economy, competition, and respect for private property reign, everyone can earn capital.
"But such an opinion comes slowly to the consciousness of a" post-soviet "person. Moreover, taking into account the fact that our society is largely composed of people of the older generation," he notes.
To reverse this attitude, the Ukrainian state must promote the idea of patronage and offer preferences to benefactors, in particular tax preferences, Pozhyvanov believes.
It is customary for us to deny a person joy
Authoress Liudmyla Taran says almost the same.
"A person should feel joy. The joy of being able to make decisions on one’s own without looking back at numerous advisors. The joy of fulfilling desires. If this is honestly earned money, then everyone has the right to spend it on what they want," she is convinced.
The only problem in our country is that we, in principle, do not believe that any significant income can be honest, the authoress adds.
«We have too negative experiences before our eyes: our entire oligarchy and politics. And we have a big gap between the rich and the poor—abnormal for a civilized country. Our envy of other people's fortunes is caused by our "soviet" past, and both by mistrust of rich people in principle and a lack of understanding that charity came to our territory precisely from countries where both capital and private property freely developed.»
Society protects itself by suppressing the individual
Psychologist Anastasiia Bohuslavska looks at the problem more broadly and does not consider it exclusively a Soviet legacy.
According to her, society always limits a person in their choice. And it does this because it is about a person's survival: when a person helps others, and does not take care of himself or herself, it is worse for an individual, but better for a group of individuals. It turns out that goodness for society turns out to be a restriction for its individual representatives.
«Even religion leaves a person free choice: do what you want, but do not harm others. And in the case of the "space tourists" flights there is no harm to others. People make their dreams, intentions, or plans come true. Having fulfilled his or her dream, a person will be filled with it, will be inspired and will be able—if desired—to help others even more. So what kind of immorality are we talking about in the case of space tourists? And why then do we have no claims to the oligarchs, to the drug lords who plunder the country or really cause negative consequences for society?»
She warns that an excess of guardianship over others turns into a tragedy for those who are helped.
"Our people already have developed paternalism and infantilism—they are still waiting for someone to come and do the job for them. And even better—just give money. Erich Fromm wrote about people who are afraid to take responsibility in his book Escape from Freedom. We are used to waiting for gifts, subsidies, and other types of assistance. And the absence of all of the above mentioned is explained solely by someone else's "immorality," the psychologist says.
There are no achievements without aspirations
"The question of morality or immorality of wealth is really not easy, and it’s good that you raise it," Yevhen Magda, Director at the Institute of World Policy, praises . "Because it relates to various stereotypes. If we are talking specifically about the desire to conquer space, then this is the eternal human aspiration to progress. Let's think about whether humanity would have made such progress, would it have been successful in the fight against diseases (with the same coronavirus), if it had not taken such steps? Could we count on something today?"
In fact, the nature of today's competitive economy, the nature of liberal outlooks on life and success in life, suggests that people who have money are free to spend it on anything, he notes.
"Of course, this should not violate the law. Therefore, I see no sedition in the aspirations of Richard Branson, or Elon Musk, or Bill Gates, who funded space research. The richer, the more successful we all become, the fewer such questions will arise."
Director of the Institute of World Policy
But most of us are still far from wealth and success. But almost everyone there is an advisor and specialist in any area, including spending other people's income. Perhaps, it is worth starting internal changes not so much with the capital accumulation, as with the fact that, caring about someone else's ethics, do not forget about your own?