Space: it’s chic. Why? Well, it’s hard to pin down. It’s that je ne sais quoi, that sense of mystery that quickly segues into dread when you give it too much thought. Who is she? What is she up to? Like someone who only has two posts on their Instagram grid and updates their story once in a blue moon (geddit?), space keeps us guessing and that’s all part of her allure.
Or should I say: space was chic. Thanks to Elon Musk, Richard Branson and, most recently, Jeff Bezos, space is becoming the domain of the rich and uncool. Yesterday, the former Amazon CEO left the Earth’s atmosphere in his rocket ship New Shepard for a 10 minute trip through the stars. As writer Mollie Goodfellow tweeted, “Bezos was in space for how long????? I have had sandwiches that have lasted longer.”
Meanwhile, Tesla CEO Musk owns a private space flight company, SpaceX, which has announced that it plans to launch an all-civilian mission into orbit by the end of the year. Musk himself has yet to go into space, but he’s spoken about building a colony on Mars since 2016. Because if the entire sci-fi genre has taught us anything, it’s that humans attempting to force their way of life on other planets always ends really well for everyone involved.
As for Branson? The founder of the Virgin Group didn’t even make it to space, technically. His spaceplane, VSS Unity, flew up to an altitude of around 80km on a test flight earlier this month, allowing those on board to feel weightless and see the Earth’s curvature. This sounds impressive, but the World Air Sports Federation defines the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space as 100km above the Earth’s sea level. Better luck next time, Richard. Even his attitude to space travel is deeply cringe. “My mum taught me to never give up and to reach for the stars,” Branson said when he announced that he would be travelling on the VSS Unity, a phrase that can only be described as “live, laugh, love” for obscenely wealthy men.
It’s important to note that space travel is not inherently unchic – Sandra Bullock did it in the 2013 movie Gravity and Sandra Bullock is always chic. So, why have these men made space uncool? First of all, being a billionaire is extremely unchic – between them, Bezos, Musk and Branson are worth an estimated, eye-watering $370 billion. (Side note: a 2020 study found that it would cost $330 billion to end world hunger by 2030. But anyway.) Being the former CEO of a company that’s become known for poor working conditions and union busting? Very unchic. Naming your child X Æ A‑Xii? Not chic at all.
So it is with great sadness that I must announce that these billionaires’ unchicness therefore transcends our earthly plane. Their cringe contaminates their surroundings and everything – and everyone – they touch. For example, despite its crystal clear waters, Necker Island will never be a chic vacay spot thanks to the fact it’s owned by Richard Branson. Space, for her sins, is not exempt from this.
But still, all hope is not lost. Space should be able to come back from this and leave this embarrassing faux pas in her past. When you’re an infinite mass that’s capable of giving even the most level-headed person an existential crisis if they think about it for too long, this is merely a blip on your eternal timeline.