Jeff Bezos on critics of billionaires going to space: 'They're mostly right'

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, at the unveiling of its New Shepard reusable launch system at the Space Symposium in 2017.
Matthew Staver | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Jeff Bezos has heard the complaints about billionaires like himself funneling their money into private rocket companies instead of donating to causes on Earth, and he doesn't disagree.

In an interview with CNN ahead of his planned Tuesday morning space voyage in a rocket built by his company Blue Origin, Bezos was asked for his thoughts on critics who call the extraterrestrial flights "joyrides for the wealthy, and [who say] you should be spending your time and your money and energy trying to solve problems here on Earth."

"Well, I say they are largely right," said Bezos, who Bloomberg estimates is worth $206 billion. "We have to do both. We have lots of problems here on Earth and we have to work on those."

Bezos and fellow billionaires Elon Musk, who runs SpaceX, and Richard Branson, who earlier this month flew to space aboard a Virgin Galactic aircraft, have been characterized by critics as deaf to issues on the ground and too obsessed with making space more accessible when they could put their resources elsewhere. Musk has stated that his goal is to put humans on Mars, and has said it is important that humans not be a "single planet species."

The 57-year-old Bezos, who earlier this month stepped down as CEO of Amazon, said it's important to "look to the future ... as a species and as a civilization." In his view, the work being done today will lay the foundation for future generations to work in space, which "will solve problems here on Earth."

Bezos has for years sold $1 billion worth of his Amazon shares annually to fund Blue Origin's operations.

"I have won this lottery," Bezos said at Cape Canaveral in 2017. "It's a gigantic lottery, and it's called Amazon.com. And I'm using my lottery winnings to push us a little further into space. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to do that."

Liftoff for Bezos and his three passengers is set for 9 a.m. ET. Tuesday from Blue Origin's Texas launch site.

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