Billionaires funding their aspirations to go to space has become the norm. They're pumping massive amounts of money into their own exploration companies and touting the benefits of their endeavors. But not everyone is on board.
In addition to public concerns over income inequality, several politicians criticize the massive volumes of bailouts these space companies receive.
Billionaires Can Fund Their Space Dreams
Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) shared his thoughts on the private aerospace industry and his feelings about the industry giants taking taxpayer money to pursue their ambitions.
In an op-ed penned in The Guardian, the Senator expressed concern that NASA is turning into an "ATM" that private space companies sponge to pull funds and finance their operations. The companies have taken some serious NASA bailouts and continue to form partnerships guaranteeing contracts worth billions.
Sanders pointed the finger at SpaceX and Blue Origin - the two largest companies in the private aerospace industry - saying that allowing these companies to lead the industry poses a threat to the future of the final frontier.
"If we are going to send more human beings to the moon and eventually to Mars, who will control the enterprise and what will be the purpose of that exploration? Will the goal be to benefit the people of the United States and the entire world, or will it be a vast boondoggle to make billionaires even richer and open up outer space to corporate greed and exploitation?" Sanders said.
Sanders' comment came as NASA verged on receiving $10 billion in Congressional funding. A portion will fund a private-public partnership between NASA and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin.
Aerospace Companies Prepping For A Payday
Blue Origin and SpaceX aren't the only two companies running the private space industry. But considering their size, they've remained front and center when it comes to vying for NASA contracts and blazing the trail.
None of it sits well with Sanders, who has become one of Congress' harshest critics of the billionaire class. The Vermont Senator has campaigned for the Oval Office in an expanded social reforms promise that would be funded by taxing the ultra-rich.
In his op-ed, Sanders pointed out that Bezos and SpaceX founder Elon Musk are worth a combined $450 billion. As he argued, both men have enough wealth between themselves to fund their space aspirations. They shouldn't need taxpayer-funded bailouts.
A Familiar Sentiment From The Senator
This isn't the first time Sanders has directed his ire toward billionaires funding trips to outer space. Earlier this month, Sanders appeared at a Senate Committee on Budget meeting and raised the familiar issue of income inequality.
The Vermont Senator argued that the United States has become an oligarchy. Bezos and Musk can take "joy rides in space" while millions of Americans can barely survive.
While Sanders and others don't see the need to invest in companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, many beg to differ. Musk supports the idea that humanity can be a multi-planetary species and should conquer as many worlds as possible. Bezos is also fixated on taking humanity beyond the Earth - so much so that he spends $1 billion annually to fund Blue Origin.
NASA's continued need to partner with private companies on space missions will eventually render it impossible to function without private money. NASA will have to keep awarding contracts. Vital or not, private space companies are here to stay.