Kourtney Kardashian and I have very little in common, and I doubt many of our interests overlap. However, I know we agree on at least one thing: there is a correct way to eat a Kit Kat bar. (Albeit my way comes with fewer rules and is mostly limited to the belief that biting into a Kit Kat bar whole should be a felony, but I admire her commitment to the cause nonetheless).
In 2016, Kourtney decided it was time to unleash upon the world this unhinged explanation of how to eat a Kit Kat. The nearly two-minute video features a title card that reads “Kourt’s quirks” (truly horrifying), where she methodically bites off the chocolate coating and separates the three inner wafers, (as they are to be eaten individually). Words do the method no justice.
The video is unfortunately a follow-up to an equally deranged 2015 video in which she and Khloe explain how to eat a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. (Chocolate first, peanut butter innards second). They are the first and second most-watched videos on her YouTube page, with a combined 6 million views.
The Kit Kat video is the exact brand of innocuous trolling the Kardashian-Jenner clan has perfected. It’s the kind of fuckery where you think they might be in on the joke, but you’re not exactly sure. There is a glimmer of self-awareness but no hint of irony. And it is in the vein of this unnerving yet deliciously stupid content that brings me to today’s weekly finance update: The billionaire’s space race.
I wrote about this back in April and (quite eloquently if I may add – must’ve been the Covid reading list) said:
The collective interest of humanity is served by learning more about the universe, but the goal of such missions should be driven by the goal of gaining scientific knowledge and enhancing global cooperation, not nationalism and profit-making.
Unfortunately, it seems that Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson have yet to read my articles or take my opinion into account (very rude of them if you ask me).
The billionaires are back and vying to rocket their white, soft, male bodies into space faster than one another. It all has airs of a very potent cocktail of playground antics meets toxic masculinity – dominance over everyone and everything (even outer space), show no needs, have no emotions, always #winning, brouhaha…
Richard Branson, British billionaire, entrepreneur, and man I had never heard of before writing this article, who happens to look like the villain in every spy movie, is the founder of the Virgin Group. Their only recognizable company to me is Virgin Mobile, but they supposedly have several retail, banking, sports, travel, hospitality, entertainment and motorsport iterations all under the moniker “Virgin”.
Of note is Virgin Galactic, with which Richard Branson announced that he would attempt to go to space on July 11th, just nine days before the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos will make his own spaceflight. (By this date my article will be overdue so I cannot comment on how this will pan out). For the moon-landing generation who gets emotional about space – Jeff Bezos aptly plans to fly out on July 20th, the Apollo 11 anniversary. Even though Branson blatantly cut ahead of Bezos, he dismissed the notion of it being a “race” and went so far as to invite his fellow billionaire to watch, saying:
“I would love for Jeff Bezos to come and see our flight off.”
(This is bitchiness at its finest and anyone who says otherwise is delusional or hasn’t been a girl in high school – the true experts of the back-handed nicety).
Since the early 2000s, Branson and Bezos have been working to develop, test and launch suborbital rockets that can take high net-worth thrill seekers on brief, 2,300-mile-per-hour rides a few dozen miles above Earth (at the mere cost of $250,000 per ticket, may I add. For context, that’s a quarter of a million dollars. In other words, people are paying a quarter of a million american dollars to fly above the m- I digress). Their efforts have long been framed as the “billionaire space race”, because, well, they’re quite literally billionaires racing each other to (barely) outerspace. It is an accurate framing.
I’d love the drama of it all if not for the fact that I can think of a thousand better ways to deploy money and resources. Unfortunately, the underbelly of clickbait and shock-value news is a disappointing reality of emptiness: in other words, the lack of substance, meaning, and benevolence, overrun as they are by instant gratification and eternal selfishness.
In speaking of the egocentric, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also frequently rears his square head in the “space race” game. However, the orbital rockets SpaceX builds are far more powerful than the suborbital tourism rockets built by Branson and Bezos, overall requiring more infrastructure to launch. Musk has said little about his personal space ambitions beyond that he’d “like to die on Mars — just not on impact.”
I actually can’t even bring myself to comment further, but at least he’s realistic.
How does this affect the industry?
Unfortunately, this isn’t just a juvenile pissing contest.
To speak finance for a moment:
In the first quarter of 2021, venture capitalists invested $4.5 billion into 76 space-related companies according to Space Capital.
Over the last decade, $187 billion has been poured into nearly 1500 (mainly American) companies…
Few of these companies focus on space tourism (apparently it is not as lucrative as things like satellite launches – a thing of which I still don’t understand the full purpose. Something wifi related?) but the Branson-Bezos face-off is quickly becoming the entire face of the industry. (In the same way Kourtney, for an unsolicited moment, became the face of Kit Kat).
Basically, if anything catastrophic were to occur, it would have a substantial ripple effect on investment interest and regulation.On the flip side, successful trips could increase investment interest in the sector, including by aerospace companies and airlines that have so far only kept their sights within the atmosphere.
A quote from someone who actually knows what she’s talking about:
Miriam Kramer, Space Editor for the news site Axios, says that this little drama has sparked more attention than ever before on the private space industry. (I guess she’s right seeing as I’d never write about this sort of thing unless the news was screaming about it in my face)
“If you look at these companies that are taking what was once purely the purview of governments and bringing it on themselves, I think that is wildly influential and will be on par with sort of the revolution that happened with the Soviet Union and U.S. fighting for space supremacy …”
What I could’ve said in 2 sentences but instead said in 2 pages:
Companies in emerging industries often build on each other’s successes and can be harmed by each other’s failures. The outcome of these launches will inform the trajectory of the entire space economy.
For better or worse, I will be watching, Kit Kat in hand, eating it the only way I know how – like it’s surgery.
Thank you, Kourtney, for your reassurance and your work.