Little Rocket Man

A lot has been made of Jeff Bezos’s short jaunt into space: whether he might have spent his money more wisely; as world leaders gather for COP26 what impact his venture might be causing the environment; even what constitutes “outer space” given that he barely crossed the Karman line (the not universally-recognised end of the Earth’s atmosphere); and that 60 years earlier – the year of my birth and hence my interest in these things – the Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, went three times further in Vostok 1. So I’ve been doing some maths.

Now maths wasn’t my strong subject at school (I famously resat my maths A level having gained a D first time round and subsequently got a U which is why I’m a journalist and not a rocket scientist)! What I’m saying is please do check my working out and tell me if I’m wrong. But if I’m right then…

Given that astronauts have been to the moon and back I decided to use the distance to the moon from Earth as my reference point. That’s 384,400 km give or take. Bezos’s New Shepherd capsule reached an apogee (maximum height) of 106 km. Dividing 106 by 384,400 and multiplying the result by 100 gives you the percentage of the distance Bezos got to the moon – a meagre 0.0275754% of the way.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine such a tiny percentage of such an incredibly long journey so I looked for an equivalent here on earth and settled on London to Leeds at 272 km as the crow flies. And here’s the stunning part. In comparison to the Apollo moon shots, Mr Amazon’s space flight was the equivalent of setting off for Leeds from Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square and getting no further than the north side of the square – just 75 metres – before turning round and coming back!

A bit more maths for you to check: I’m told he’s spent US $5.5 billion on the Blue Origin venture so far which means, in effect, that each of those 75 steps towards the National Portrait Gallery will have cost him an eye-watering US $73.3 million. Cheaper to walk Jeff. And better for the planet.

Image credit: Chuck Bigger/SpaceNews

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Training company boss by day. Cyclist, runner, poet and a whole heap of other things too including son of a mother living with dementia.

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