Virgin Galactic – Do We Really Need To Send Rich People Into Space?

virgin galactic spaceshipAt this time of ecological uncertainty, can we really justify $200,000 adrenalin hits for the rich?

In 2010, according to the World Hunger Organization, 925 million of our fellow human beings went hungry. Meanwhile, untold millions (billions?) of US dollars are being spent to develop the Virgin Galactic Spaceship, of which the BBC has been given an exclusive first glance.

What good is the Virgin Galactic Spaceship to humanity? Will it improve the situation for the thousands of Japanese who are suffering from what is being dubbed the worst natural disaster in human history? Will it stem the violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria? No. The Virgin Galactic Spaceship is designed to give those people who have benefited from an unethical economic system that perpetually condemns millions of people to hunger a $200,000 joy ride.

BBC Virgin space tourismSome people trek miles a day to get a bucket of reasonably clean water because the best resources have been diverted to the rich, while others (Egypt and Jordan come to mind) scrounge just to get decent tomatoes.

Yet we’re comfortable investing a huge pile of money so that 400 lucky? people can see the curvature of the earth? So they can float?

The Virgin Galactic Spaceship represents the best and worst of humanity: sure, it demonstrates our technological might. In a couple of years, it will be possible to hurl six people at a time past the earth’s atmosphere at 2500 miles per hour. That’s really incredible. And it sounds like really good fun.

But it also demonstrates our unfailing arrogance, the same kind of arrogance that built a nuclear power station in a seismic zone despite knowing the horrific effects leaked radiation has on the hapless people in its path.

Like gold cars and ecologically destructive artificial islands, the Virgin Galactic Spaceship is an ostentatious display of our potential. And though the company told the BBC it will require less emissions per person than a trip across the Atlantic, we’re eating up valuable and dwindling resources so rich people can get their next adrenalin fix.

My parents often said “life isn’t fair.” Is that really the best that we can do? Can we really justify with no disruption to our collective conscience, at this time of economic and environmental uncertainty, such a frivolous waste of money and natural resources?

If we want a better world, or any kind of world, come to think of it, why not use that extra $200,000 floating around to invest in educating those whose natural resources and wealth have been usurped by rich nations. Invest in trees. Clean water. Agriculture. Medicine. Decent nutrition.

Why not show the better side of our collective selves? Our compassion, our sense of justice, and our ability to embrace moderation during lean times.

Virgin wants to send thousands of people into space at $200,000 a head. What a world of good we could do if that money were better spent.

More opinion pieces from Tafline Laylin:
Five Things A “Green” Writer Wants For Christmas
From Tour Guide to Green Prophet
Art And Spirituality: The Antidote To Bigger, Better, More

image via BBC

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9 thoughts on “Virgin Galactic – Do We Really Need To Send Rich People Into Space?”

  1. Rich people pay for expensive toys which later become essential tools for the average person. For example, the first hand-held calculators were a novelty beyond the reach of the average budget. Because rich people bought the first calculators, more calculators for the working class can now be bought for about $10. The first automobiles were a rich person’s toy. Because rich people supported the building of the first cars, poor people can now drive automobiles and sometimes live in them as emergency shelters. Because rich people bought the first computers, I can now buy a used laptop for less than $500 and start my own business via ebay.
    Space travel may become just as common to the average person as a laptop computer.

  2. mdawson says:

    I agree with Sjoerd. No returning! One Way ONLY

  3. Hatman says:

    Are you serious? $200,000 is about what it takes to send a single kid to a private college. Relatively speaking that is not all that much.

  4. Sjoerd says:

    The question is; how did they get that rich. I beleive if you make yourself rich you shouln’t care about people or you’ll never get rich.
    Money is dirty, so please do send them to space and leave them there!

    1. I don’t agree that money is dirty. Money is only a concept. It’s what we do with it that makes it “dirty” or “clean”.

  5. Duke says:

    I think you guys are not giving the super-rich enough credit. Most of the people who are buying seats on Branson’s rocket already donate millions of their wealth to various environmental and social causes. Not to mention that Branson himself is a major sponsorer of biofuels as an alternative to petrol based fuel. He alone probably done more to save the world than all of us combined whining about his lifestyle.

  6. Yes this is the same Virgin who support the Prince’s Rainforest Project, (Prince Charles’ effort to get business to pay to save rainforests), and who in earlier publicity about the Galactic development suggested without an ounce of irony that passengers could view for themselves the shrinking arctic ice cap.

    The emissions argument is fatuous. All of the passengers will additionally fly to and from the Mojave desert to take the trip, probably on small business jets having a higher footprint per passenger-km than large commercial planes.

    This is conspicuous consumption at its worst.

    1. I think Branson is just up to his antics again to get attention – he likes PR and knows where his fans will follow him. It can be the jungles hiking in the name of the environment or to the moon and back. I think we need to build him his own planet. The earth’s not big enough apparently.

  7. True. And yet I hear the naysayers already waging their counter points…

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