Rising Rents Threaten to Prop Up Inflation


The New York Times 22 July, 2021 - 04:00am 4 views

Who is in Blue Origin?

Besides Bezos, the crew included brother Mark Bezos (left), 18-year-old physics student Oliver Daemen and 82-year-old pioneering female aviator Wally Funk. NPRJeff Bezos' Completes His Blue Origin Flight To Space

Where is the Blue Origin launch site?

If all goes to plan, the company's New Shepard rocket and capsule will take off for an 11-minute journey, launching and landing outside Van Horn, Texas at Blue Origin facilities, dubbed Launch Site One. Space.comBlue Origin to launch its 1st astronaut flight with Jeff Bezos and crew of 3 today

Who is the 18 year old on Blue Origin?

Oliver Daemen has his pilot's license and plans to study physics at a Dutch university this fall. Blue Origin said going into space has been a "lifelong" dream for the teenager. Daemen is the first paying passenger on Blue Origin, which plans to sell more seats for future flights. Fox BusinessHow an 18-year-old landed a seat on Jeff Bezos’ first crewed Blue Origin flight

Why is Jeff Bezos wearing a cowboy hat?

“It's utilized as a symbol of individualism.” Bezos' particular hat, says Reynolds, is reminiscent of the one Robert Duvall wore as rancher Augustus “Gus” McCrae in the miniseries of Larry McMurtry's novel “Lonesome Dove.” The top of the hat is pinched with a downward slope, the “Gus crease.” San Francisco ChronicleDid Jeff Bezos just ruin cowboy hats for everyone?

Jeff Bezos’s 10-minute trip to space has inspired a myriad of reactions, from boredom to anger to a surge of “space penis” memes making fun of the shape of his rocket. I am mortally certain this was not the reception Bezos — the richest person on Earth — was hoping for. And I hope that the world’s unimpressed reaction is followed by greater scrutiny of Bezos’s wealth, why he has it, and why we live under a system that makes it possible for anyone to hold over $200 billion while paying virtually no taxes.

By all reports, Bezos has been obsessed with space for 30 years, and spent a small fortune — a pittance to him, it is to be noted — almost but not quite getting there. After his billionaire rival, Richard Branson, pulled a similar stunt 10 days ago, you’d have thought from the media coverage that Branson had landed on the moon and discovered cold fusion in a crater. The coverage of the Bezos fling was about as exciting as this cat meme, and all he got for his troubles in the end were enough penis jokes to last 10 lifetimes.

You’d think the owner of The Washington Post would rate more ink from his colleagues in the biz, but alas for Bezos, he has learned a hard but unavoidable lesson: Almost nobody remembers someone who does something for the second time.

Case in point, and a pop quiz (no Googling the answer, you): It is universally known that Neil Armstrong was the first astronaut to step on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Who was the first astronaut out the door of Apollo 12, the second mission to land on the moon? Answer: Charles “Pete” Conrad. Extra points: What did he say after stepping out of the spacecraft? Answer: “Whoopie!”

Don’t worry, I had to look it up, too. No disrespect meant to astronaut Conrad, who did it right.

Yet as ridiculous as Bezos’s space coffee break was, I still get occasional pushback when I refer to people like him and Branson, who pay almost nothing in taxes annually, as “tax cheats.” They aren’t cheating, I am told, but are playing by the laws as they find them. Change the laws if you don’t like them!

Well, that right there is the thing. Most of us aren’t billionaires who can afford to financially adopt the kind of powerful politicians who can rewrite the tax codes in our favor. What do you call a system where rich people pay Congress members to do just that? I call it cheating, and sleep like a baby at night. If I slip a few Benjamins to the home plate umpire so he will expand the strike zone for my pitcher during the game, I am cheating, and that is this.

Such behavior has launched Bezos into an economic atmosphere no spacecraft can reach, whatever shape it may hold. In one second, Bezos makes as much or more money than the average worker pulls down in a week. In a minute, he makes more than the average worker earns in a year. “Based on the median net worth of an average US household, $97,300, an average American spending $1 is roughly equivalent to Bezos spending $1.95 million,” reports Business Insider. “The Amazon CEO’s net worth took a hit of more than $10 billion in 2019 — and he still didn’t lose his spot as the world’s richest person.”

Yes, Bezos has donated some of his money. After many years of not giving much of his fortune away, he and his then-wife have donated $2 billion to combat homelessness and improve education, gave $200 million to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, and pledged $10 billion to combat the climate crisis since 2018. This is great, but it represents an infinitesimal portion of his fortune. Thanks to the magic of compound interest, his own money will make that money back for him in the time it takes to drive to Nana’s house.

Instead of lauding Bezos’s late-blooming philanthropy, we should be asking ourselves: Why is it OK for anyone to have the amount of money that Bezos has, when so much of the world has so little?

“Recently, Amazon won a closely watched National Labor Relations Board election against the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama,” John Logan reported for Truthout in May. “But it did so only after spending millions of dollars on harassing and intimidating its workers for two months before the vote. Now, the company is using the same strategy to bust a new independent union drive at its Staten Island facility in New York.”

Before embarking on his little trip, Bezos made word noises that seemed to indicate he sort of, kind of gets it. When asked if these “joyrides for the wealthy” waste money that could be used to help people on Earth, he replied, “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. We’ve always done that as a species, as a civilization. We have to do both.”

We have to do both… so long as I get to play with my toys first. It was a politician’s answer, the kind of pabulum senators spout to reporters before the elevator doors close. I’ll believe Bezos and his ilk mean it if I never, ever hear talk about low-orbit billboards advertising Amazon products, or about corporate logos (come to think of it, the Amazon logo also has some strange penis action going on) visible on the moon. I fear that is where we are headed, because Bezos and Branson did not do this for the sake of discovery or exploration. They were clear: This was a step toward the commercialization of space, and I want no part of that.

Again, I am not alone. “What Branson’s and Bezos’s baby jaunts into the sky represent is not progress,” writes Barry Petchesky for Defector. “They are not about exploration or knowledge. They are moneymaking ventures. They are, as initially envisioned, about the promise of spaceflight tourism. They are symbolic, but of a future (and a present!) where only the extremely wealthy can get a taste of the peak awe that humanity is capable of feeling.”

There was no peak awe in beholding the Bezos space penis, and word has it Tesla billionaire Elon Musk is lining himself up to be the next obscenely wealthy turd to bounce some expensive metal off the inside of the outer atmosphere.

Meanwhile, billionaires like Bezos made your yearly salary three times over in the minutes it took you to read this article. Launch that into space.

William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America’s Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

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Read full article at The New York Times

Jeff Bezos Wears Cowboy Hat to Space Aboard Phallic-Shaped Rocket | The Tonight Show

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon 22 July, 2021 - 01:01pm

Billionaires Race to Privatize & Monopolize Space as Earth Burns & Workers Organize

Democracy Now! 22 July, 2021 - 01:01pm

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AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with a look at how the world’s richest man completed a 10-minute suborbital flight aboard his Blue Origin spacecraft Tuesday. Jeff Bezos spoke at a news conference after his crew landed.

JEFF BEZOS: I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all of this. So, seriously, for every Amazon customer out there and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart very much.

AMY GOODMAN: The billionaire Amazon founder Bezos’s remarks drew sharp rebuke. Washington Congressmember Pramila Jayapal tweeted, “If Amazon paid its workers fairly and did not fight unionization, workers would not be funding the expensive hobbies of billionaires. They would be taking care of their families and living dignified and fulfilling lives.” Jayapal also noted that the 11-minute “joyride” cost over $2.5 million a minute. “Yes, it’s time to tax the rich,” she said.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union that tried to unionize Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, also responded to Bezos’ comments thanking Amazon customers and employees for paying for his spaceflight.

STUART APPELBAUM: These are people who put their lives on the line during the pandemic and did not receive adequate support from Jeff Bezos. In the middle of the pandemic, he even cut people’s wages, when he didn’t need to. People are being forced to work in conditions where their health and safety is not being adequately protected. There is so much more Jeff Bezos should be doing for his employees.

AMY GOODMAN: Bezos rocketed into suborbital space with his brother, as well as an 82-year-old aviation pioneer named Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen of the Netherlands, who was his first paying customer. Daemen is the son of Joes Daemen, the CEO and founder of hedge fund Somerset Capital Partners. It’s unclear just how many millions Daemen paid for the seat.

For more, we’re joined by two guests. In St. John, Canada, Paris Marx is with us, host of the podcast Tech Won’t Save Us and writer whose article in Jacobin is headlined “Leave the Billionaires in Space.” And joining us from the U.K. is journalist Peter Ward, author of the book The Consequential Frontier: Challenging the Privatization of Space.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Paris Marx, as you watched the richest man on Earth rocket away from it for just a few minutes, talk about your thoughts.

PARIS MARX: Yeah, it was — first of all, it’s great to join you, Amy and Nermeen. It was wild to watch that, right? You know, for so long people have been criticizing this, have been saying that it’s not something that we should do. But to watch this, the richest man in the world, a man who admitted after his flight that all of his wealth comes from the workers who, you know, work for Amazon, who have been underpaid, who have been mistreated for so, so long, and then to compare that with the stories that we’ve been seeing in recent weeks about, you know, the fires in British Columbia burning a whole town to the ground, the wet-bulb temperatures in Pakistan, the flooding that’s happening in Europe, it’s just wild to put these stories next to one another and to see that at a moment when we have so many crises, even beyond the climate crisis, that we need to be dealing with, that the richest and most powerful people in the world are turning their eyes away from the planet into the stars.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Peter Ward, you’ve written a book on the privatization of space, so just could you give us some broader context? When did this begin? Who is Peter Diamandis, the founder of X Prize? What is that? And where do you see this going? It’s only been 20 years or so since this idea began, is that correct?

PETER WARD: Yeah, yeah, that’s correct. So, it actually goes back. The first example of space tourism happened in Russia, actually. The Russians tried to do things when they were thinking of decommissioning the Mir space station. So, while I was writing the book, I looked into the history of that and saw how — it was surprising, obviously, that Russia did it first. I think that was the source of some embarrassment for some of the American space enthusiasts.

Peter Diamandis launched an X Prize to try and get some — essentially, an easier way to get to space so we could have space tourism. And one of the entries was the vehicle that Richard Branson eventually used to get into space.

So, I think, in terms of the future, where this is going, obviously there will be more flights to space taking extremely wealthy people on 12-minute or 11-minute journeys into space. It’s not going to slow down. This was obviously the proof that if Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson will try it themselves, then they believe it’s safe. I can’t see the price ever going down to the point where, like Jeff Bezos says, everyone will have access to space. That just doesn’t seem realistic. This is always going to be something for the wealthy. And it’s kind of sad. I mean, if you compare yesterday’s event to, say, the moon landing, you know, that was a source of great pride for the whole world. Yesterday we just kind of saw a man having a midlife crisis in front of us, possibly the most expensive midlife crisis ever.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I also want to ask Peter about the potential militarization of space, not just its commercialization. A comment made by Peter Diamandis — he said, “Bezos doesn’t need” to compete — “to beat Elon” — Elon Musk — “he needs to beat Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Having the number one and number three wealthiest people on the planet using their money to open space is extraordinary.” So, can you explain, what exactly does he mean by that? “He needs to beat Lockheed Martin and Boeing”?

PETER WARD: I think what he’s referring to is that the majority of the money in space is still from military contracts. So, you see SpaceX and Blue Origin now have a massive lobbying kitty that they spend. They have a lot of people on Capitol Hill. They’re going after those military contracts. They’ve been going after them for a long time. But that’s where the money is. That’s why they’re essentially taking the public money and using it to fund their own space tourism.

AMY GOODMAN: After his suborbital flight on Tuesday, Jeff Bezos told MSNBC the trip reinforced his commitment to addressing the climate crisis by moving polluting industries to space.

JEFF BEZOS: We need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry, and move it into space and keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is. But that’s going to take decades and decades to achieve. But you have to start, and big things start with small steps.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Paris Marx, if you could respond to we’ll just send the polluting industries, not deal with polluting industries, stop them from polluting, but we’ll just pollute space. What does that mean?

PARIS MARX: Yeah, it’s an absolutely wild statement, right? And especially his admission there that it will take decades to do. Like, you know, as I was saying, in this moment, we’re seeing the climate crisis accelerating. Climate change is not something that’s coming in decades down the road. It’s here right now, and it’s getting worse with every single passing year. So I think that we should see that statement as the climate denial that it is.

If we are serious about addressing the climate crisis, then by the time moving industries to space becomes realistic — and I don’t even think that will be in decades, I think that is wildly optimistic — then we will already have transformed the production systems, the transportation systems, the other systems that we rely on, to make them sustainable so that we can live on this planet. So, then, why would we even need to move them to space in the first place? It’s just a statement that makes no sense.

And as Jeff Bezos is saying these things, it’s important to understand that, you know, he is personally still living the life of a billionaire, has massive personal carbon emissions, but his company, the company that built his $200 billion of wealth, Amazon, increased its emissions by 19% last year alone. So, you know, I think that we can see this as a way to distract from the real problems that we face in the here and now, with solutions that are never really going to come.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, during his news conference on Tuesday — and just again to point out, the amount of coverage this got — CNN, I thought, moved their entire operation down to West Texas to cover this, minute by minute, so that you didn’t miss anything. And let’s compare that to the climate crisis, right? The coverage of the shows on broadcast television for those few minutes got more coverage, the hours leading up to it and after it, than a year of coverage of the climate crisis. But let’s go back to another clip of Jeff Bezos. This is Jeff Bezos talking about infrastructure. I want to turn to the news conference, where he called the flight a small step toward building a “road to space.”

JEFF BEZOS: You can tell when you’re on to something. And this is important. We’re going to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build the future. And we need to do that. We need to do that to solve the problems here on Earth. This is not about escaping Earth. … We are going to build an infrastructure. Just like when I started Amazon, I didn’t have to build the Postal Service or Royal Mail or Deutsche Post. There were people to — there were already gigantic, worldwide infrastructure to deliver packages. That infrastructure today is, for space, just way too expensive and doesn’t work.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, Peter Ward, to say that he spent this money — I mean, he’s making the point he built Amazon on the roads that existed, the mail system that existed. And yet, what taxes does he pay? This is really a public-funded flight, the amount of millions that he saved in not paying taxes.

PETER WARD: Yeah, absolutely. It’s pretty outrageous. And obviously, when he’s talking about the road to space, a lot of these people think of themselves as the kind of railroad industry in America when America was being colonized. It was, obviously, they put the railroads down, and then you had all the industry and economy blossomed around it. They obviously are — not many people mention, you know, the destruction of the Indigenous population and the effects that had on the environment. But luckily, you don’t have that in space.

But the really scary thing is, if someone like Jeff Bezos were to lay down that infrastructure, what would that be to stop him conducting the monopolization of the space economy, if there was one? And if he wants to move the entire industry off planet and he controls the entire infrastructure — you know, he has had antitrust issues with Amazon, questions asked — what’s to stop him doing the same thing in space?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Paris Marx, can you talk about what the defenders of these spaceflights, people who have come out in defense of Bezos and Richard Branson, presumably also Elon Musk, saying that their efforts could set the stage for an expansion of space travel that could — and technology, that could eventually affect everyone, presumably favorably?

PARIS MARX: Certainly. You know, there are a lot of people who say the very same things that Jeff Bezos said in that clip that you just played — right? — that this is about the future, it’s about making it so everybody can go to space, and it’s also about laying the infrastructure so that we can start to develop, you know, whether it’s colonies or economies that exist in space. And I think that we really need to see this as, you know, the kind of grand visions for space that are not really realistic. It’s not something that we are going to see in our lifetimes.

And we need to question whether we should be dedicating so much resources to this kind of grand vision of a future that may never arrive, when we’re dealing with so many crises in the here and now, whether it’s climate crises, housing crises, the crisis of inequality that we’re dealing with, and whether we should be refocusing on those. You know, as the earlier clip that you played at the beginning of Jeff Bezos saying that his wealth comes from the Amazon workers, you know, imagine if that wealth had not been taken from the workers and was still controlled by them or controlled by a representative government, that could then deploy those resources to address these serious crises instead of building a potential space economy or space colony in decades or centuries to come.

AMY GOODMAN: He is now the world’s richest man, but Jeff Bezos has spent much of his life focused on going into space. In 1982, the Miami Herald summarized part of his high school valedictory, writing, quote, “[Bezos] wants to build space hotels, amusement parks, yachts and colonies for two or three million people orbiting around the earth … saying 'The whole idea is to preserve the earth.'” His, quote, “final objective is to get all people off the earth and see it turned into a huge national park.” That was from a summary of valedictory addresses that year in high school. Paris Marx, your response?

PARIS MARX: Yeah, you know, that’s the same thing that he says today, all these decades later. And we should realize that those ideas come from his college professor, Gerard O’Neill, who developed the idea for these space colonies that, you know, he thinks that we should be living in. You know, Jeff Bezos’s plan is not to colonize Mars, like Elon Musk would have us do, but to live in these space colonies that would be orbiting around Earth or in the vicinity of Earth, and we would leave the planet, as you said, and return to it sometimes for vacations, to see the wonderful world where we used to live.

It’s important, when Jeff Bezos talks about the future that we could have in space, that he imagines that the reason we need to go to space is because economic growth needs to continue. And in order to achieve that, we are eventually going to run out of energy and resources here on Earth, so we need to leave the planet. And he says it’s a choice between stasis and rationing or growth and dynamism. And I think that is a false choice.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Peter, can you talk about that, this idea that Bezos has of colonizing space, versus Elon Musk’s plan to make Mars self-sustaining, part of the justification for which he says that “If there’s a third world war we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of human civilization somewhere else to bring it back and shorten the length of the dark ages”? Peter Ward?

PETER WARD: Yeah. So, the pair of them have differing views. Bezos obviously has this idea that we need to preserve the Earth. Musk, it’s more of a — it’s called the Plan B option. He thinks that we should go to Mars and have some kind of human presence on Mars just in case we destroy the entire planet, civilization, species here on Earth.

And I have to say I agree with what Paris said earlier in terms of the climate crisis. There’s no time to execute these plans. There’s absolutely no time. It will be too late by the time any of these are done. So, while I do see that there is — I mean, I believe that there is merit in space exploration. It’s not done like this, not done with billionaires heading the way, not with scenes like we saw yesterday. It’s just not what we need to save the planet. It’s like Paris said. It’s a false choice.

AMY GOODMAN: Paris Marx, how is the U.S. federal government enabling this? You’ve got Musk’s SpaceX, which won a $149 million contract from the Pentagon to build missile tracking systems. So these are private companies that are — heavily rely on public government funding. You write, “This is the real face of the private space industry: billions of dollars in contracts from NASA, the military, and increasingly for telecommunications that are helping companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin control the infrastructure of space.” Talk more about this.

PARIS MARX: Absolutely. And, you know, I would start by agreeing with what Peter said, is that I think that there is good reason to want to explore space, but the way that it’s happening is not one that we should want to see. And I think what we have, especially in the past few years, is that the U.S. government has kind of embraced these visions from people like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. You know, under Donald Trump, there was talk about going to Mars, how he kind of adopted that idea from Elon Musk and from the private space industry. And Joe Biden has said similar things about wanting to embrace the private space industry.

And so, I think we need to be concerned about the direction that this is heading us down, because there is worry in the United States about the rise of China. And one of the ways that the United States seems to be wanting to push back on that, through militarization and showing its technological power, is by doing more in space. And instead of in the past where it would have done that through NASA — and, you know, NASA still gave contracts to companies like Lockheed and other defense contractors — but in this period, we’re looking at more of a privatization of space, where companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin are trying to be the face of that mission. And they are, as you said, heavily reliant on public contracts, even as they claim that they are private companies and this is entrepreneurial and all these kind of narratives that we’re used to hearing. And so, I think we need to be concerned. We need to be watching as this happens, because, really, this private space industry that is being built is being built on public dollars, and billions of public dollars.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Peter Ward, could you explain — both you and Paris have now said that there are many benefits to space exploration. Could you explain what some of those benefits are and in whose hands that exploration ought to be? And also, as you mentioned, Peter, that earlier it was Russia that began this commercialization, what are the other countries that are doing this, space exploration, and even — I’m sorry, the commercialization of space exploration?

PETER WARD: Yeah, sure. So, I mean, the advantages of space exploration, I think number one is a greater understanding of who we are and where we come from, which I think is important. You inspire people to take up science and technology to learn more about the world and how they can potentially help it. There are more practical reasons. None of us want to get hit by an asteroid anytime soon, so it is good to have plans like that in place. Obviously, we rely on the space industry for all our communications. Satellites are vitally important. So there are key reasons why we should be doing space exploration.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter, before we go, you write about mining. There are resources in space. Historically, when humans find resources, we must — we almost always kill each other to get them. Talk about, for example, minerals on the moon.

PETER WARD: Yeah. So, we can mine resources on asteroids. We haven’t found a way to do it in a cost-effective enough way to go and do that. There would be a case if we found elements on the moon. If we found water on the moon, you can convert that to fuel, so it could fuel up a rocket which is on its way further into the solar system. But, of course, we have this history throughout our species where when we find resources, we inevitably fight over it. And, you know, you don’t have to be a huge sci-fi fan to see the potential where this is going. You know, you could have companies fighting over resources on the moon, over Mars. If you had a colony on Mars which was run by a company, you would literally rely on the CEO of that company or the shareholders of that company to provide you oxygen. So, the potential of some kind of horrible dystopian nightmare out in space is really, really huge.

AMY GOODMAN: Well,, we’re going to leave it there for now. We talk about Jeff Bezos as the richest man on Earth, who founded Amazon. He also owns The Washington Post. He bought it in 2013 for $250 million. And it’s interesting to see how they covered his spaceflight. One headline read, “Jeff Bezos blasts into space on own rocket: 'Best day ever!'” One op-ed was headlined “The billionaires’ space efforts may seem tone-deaf, but they’re important milestones.” Another headline, “The billionaires’ space race benefits the rest of us. Really.”

Well, I want to thank Paris Marx, host of the podcast Tech Won’t Save Us and Jacobin article, we’ll link to, “Leave the Billionaires in Space.” And Peter Ward, journalist and author of The Consequential Frontier: Challenging the Privatization of Space.

Next up, as white men dominate the airwaves on climate coverage, we’ll speak with the co-editors of the book All We Can Save, an anthology of essays by 60 women at the forefront of the climate movement. Stay with us.

There are very solid engineering reasons why Jeff Bezos's rocket looks exactly like, you know, that.

Business Insider 22 July, 2021 - 12:00am

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The New Shepard rocket's tumescent shape was low-hanging fruit to social media users who were quick to point out the craft's phallic design, and wonder whether that design meant its billionaire passenger was compensating for something.

But experts say this suborbital sausage fest was anything but accidental. New Shepard's characteristic shape was designed to optimize cabin space for up to six passengers, as well as well maximize how stable the rocket when coming back to Earth, according to Pedros Llanos, an engineer and professor of spaceflight operations at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

"The main reason the design looks like this is because Jeff's first goal is to send people to space, so everything revolves around having four to six people in the cabin and so maximizing cabin volume," Llanos told Insider. His group at Embry-Riddle has sent cargo up on previous New Shepard launches in 2017 and 2019

"Jeff also wanted to have the biggest windows in space so people could have an awesome experience," Llanos said, which further increased the size of the capsule.

While most spacecraft resemble, in part, male genitalia, New Shepard's wide mushroom-like capsule — and the skinny girth of the booster underneath — are the driving source of recent innuendo. 

Blue Origin declined Insider's request for comment. 

According to Llanos, Blue Origin engineers tested more than 100 different configurations for the capsule shape before settling on one that starts wide at the base and tapers — a bit like a muffin top.

Given that the capsule is the first thing to cut through the air as New Shepard ascends skyward (scientists call this forward-most part the nose cone), it's rounded to reduce drag, Llanos said.

Drag is the force that slows an object down as it moves through the air. The shape of a rocket affects how much drag it experiences, NASA said: "Most round surfaces have less drag than flat ones. Narrow surfaces usually have less drag than wide ones."

The capsule needed to stay stable on the descent too — it detached from the New Shepard booster in the atmosphere and free fell for four minutes before deploying parachutes and delivering Bezos and three other astronauts safely to the ground. That's why engineers had to make the bottom so wide.

"The more base it has the better it's going to land," Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Insider. A capsule shape with a narrower base would've been less stable during reentry.

Like most rockets, New Shepard has a propellant-filled booster that helps blast its capsule toward space. 

The higher in space a rocket's objective is, the more propellant it needs to hold in order to power its journey. So a booster carrying a spacecraft bound for the orbiting International Space Station, like SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, is going to be taller and larger than a booster for a rocket like New Shepard that's only designed to go to the very edge of space. 

"You don't need as much fuel to go suborbital; everything on Jeff's rocket is optimized to go suborbital," Llanos said. "If it had gone orbital the design would've been much different."

Since Bezos's rocket was only aiming for the Kármán line — an imaginary boundary 62 miles above sea level, where many experts say space begins — its engineers cut down the height and girth of New Shepard's booster. (Narrower surfaces usually have less drag, too.)

The move reinforced the rocket's phallic profile. 

McDowell said there are other rockets that have capsules wider than their boosters — what are known as "hammerhead" rockets.

Notably, he said, United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket, which will fly NASA and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the space station on July 30, has a similar profile.

It's hard to predict whether future commercial space missions will sport a similar design, according to Llanos.

Certainly, Blue Origin's next rocket — named New Glenn — looks more like a bullet than a penis.

"It's more elongated and longer to accommodate a much larger payload," Llanos said. 

But New Glenn is designed to go into orbit and back. And unlike its suborbital predecessor, the rocket won't have a rotund nose cose, meaning New Shepard will likely be the only craft of its kind put out by Blue Origin.

"This is probably the most phallic-looking spacecraft you're going to see, if I had to guess," Daniel Ramspacher, a propulsion engineer at NASA Goddard Space Center, told Slate.

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