It was one small step for mankind.
Jeff Bezos followed Richard Branson to the edge of space on Tuesday. The Amazon boss ticked his top item off his personal wish list when his Blue Origin spacecraft blasted off from the Texas desert, lingered in weightlessness for a few brief moments and then floated flawlessly back to Earth on colorful parachutes.
Even for those cynics who cast doubt on the utility of billionaires playing with their rocket toys, the scenes today — and last week, when Branson floated around above the Earth — were spectacular. And since spaceflight is never really safe, the foreboding idea that something could have gone wrong added an edge to the coverage — which was a hit on television news and websites.
Some analysts are saying that the current multimillion-dollar price tag to book a seat on private rockets to blast off from the unhealthy planet could soon herald a new public era in space exploration. Certainly, the reusable nature of the Branson and Bezos programs (the reverse thrusters of the Amazon chief’s booster brought it into a pinpoint landing shortly before his capsule hit terra firma) could be important. And the combined billions they have spent could have scientific payoffs.
But ordinary Joes will not be lining up to become astronauts for years. Even Bezos admitted in an interview with Fintech Zoom before his flight that critics who said he should splash his cash on fixing terrestrial challenges had a point.
“Well, I say they’re largely right. We have to do both. You know, we have lots of problems here and now on Earth and we need to work on those, and we always need to look to the future,” Bezos said, adding that his mission was about blazing a path for future generations to get into space.
Fair enough. But the hoopla over two spaceflights that didn’t reach orbit — and NASA’s recent return to launches in a commercial partnership — underscores something else as well: the bravery and audacity of early space pioneers, who performed far more impressive and risky feats in much more rickety craft over 50 years ago, including several trips to the moon.
That really was a giant leap.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and the US government’s top infectious diseases expert, Anthony Fauci, might both be doctors but they can’t stand each other. When the pair meet during congressional hearings, there are almost always fireworks as Paul, an ultra-conservative libertarian, seeks to puncture the aura of expertise that surrounds Fauci.
In their latest clash, on Tuesday, Paul effectively accused Fauci of lying to Congress about the nature of National Institutes of Health funding to a virology lab in Wuhan, China, that conservatives claim was the origin of the coronavirus pandemic. Fauci, who has served both Democratic and Republican presidents for decades, did not take kindly to the accusation.
When you have won seven Super Bowls, you can say what you like.
Even so, famed NFL quarterback Tom Brady’s searing mockery of former President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday was something else. The Tampa Bay Buccaneer is one of Trump’s favorite sport stars and had appeared to tip his hat about his political affiliations when “Make America Great Again” headgear was once spotted in his locker.
But Trump’s ears must have been burning Tuesday when Brady showed up with his teammates at the White House to celebrate their championship win — and proceeded to lampoon the ex-President in front of the man who beat him in the house where he used to live.
Turning to President Joe Biden, Brady recalled February’s Super Bowl 55 triumph after he had left his New England Patriots for the Bucs, which confounded many experts.
“Not a lot of people think that we could have won. In fact, I think about 40% of people still don’t think we won. You understand that, Mr. President?” Brady said, sparking disbelieving laughter at his chutzpah. A chuckling Biden quickly grabbed the rhetorical pass, replying, “I understand that.”
Not content with jabbing Trump over his false claims that he actually won last November’s election, Brady then decided to take a pop at Biden’s nickname “Sleepy Joe” — coined by Trump to malign his rival’s cognitive powers. The veteran NFLer said that during a game last year against the Chicago Bears he forgot the exact position of the game “and they started calling me Sleepy Tom.”
It’s safe to say Brady isn’t Trump’s favorite athlete anymore.