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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Tuesday October 12 2010

So I went looking for flat photos of the latest Branson spaceship escapade, reported on, among many other spots, here.  This will do:

image

As will this:

image

I found those here.

Do you remember when Branson was pratting about in balloons?  Trying to break one of those fatuous, made up just to get into the Guinness Book of Records, records, for pratting round the world in a balloon faster than the previous prat in another balloon?  When he was doing all that, I was ready to believe the worst that lefty book writers were writing about him.  It was all stolen, he rips everybody off, he’s actually poor, his empire is balanced on nothing and will crash, blah blah.  But now, all that could still be entirely true but I do not care, because whereas balloons were stupid, rockets are cool.  More the point, rockets are great.

It’s the difference between pseudo-adventure and the real thing, between doing something pointlessly dangerous, and getting seriously and helpfully involved in something that is just as dangerous but which is truly going somewhere and truly achieving something.

I can’t believe I’m the only one who thinks like this about this extreme contrast.  To put it another way, I think that Branson’s ballooning did nothing for the Virgin brand and maybe a minus quantity, but that these rockets are already paying for themselves many times over.

I can remember having libertarian conversations about space travel, back in the eighties and seventies.  We used to fantasise about how space travel ought to be paid for, as opposed to how it was paid for (and still is mostly).  And what we fantasised was: this.

Entrepreneurs love risk it’s what they do best, balloons seem to me to be risk in its near pure form. Branson has that talent to take enormous risks even to the point of seeing risk as a recreation, he just can’t put it down, it is who is.

Posted by Howard R Gray on 14 October 2010

The rockets are paying for themselves?

I am genuinely and honestly surprised by this.

Do you mean as in, “rich guys want to ride in them for fun and are prepared to pay huge sums for the privilege” or as in “the rockets are doing something that actually adds value somehow”?

If the latter, what is it they’re doing?

Posted by Andrew Duffin on 22 October 2010

AD

What I have in mind is that these rockets spread goodwill across a huge brand.  That#s how they pay for themselves, not with the mere billionaire ticket money.  All the other Virgin stuff sells better.  Branson himself gets better political and media access because of how this makes him a hero etc.

All of which makes me suspect that Branson has had something like this in mind for a long time.  It is no mere mid-life-crisis fad.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 24 October 2010

You make ten or twenty billion dollars (and Branson does not have that much) and get rich, well so what. You are perhaps a little famous for a little while. You can do good works with your money as Bill Gates is doing, and while admirable, it still isn’t especially interesting.

On the other hand, you spend your fortune on putting the first man on Mars, and you are might be known to history as Christopher Columbus, or at least as Ferdinand and Isabella.

I don’t think Branson is Columbus, but there might be someone in Silicon Valley, or Hong Kong or somewhere who might be.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 28 October 2010
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