Tag Archives: Jeff Bezos

Are they astronauts? No!

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have flown to the edge of space.

I have heard a bit of chatter in recent days over whether these two zillionaire business moguls are astronauts now that they have “slipped the surly bonds of Earth,” if only for a few minutes.

I’ll go with “no.” They are not astronauts. They are rich guys who hired space professionals to do the heavy lifting. They were merely passengers aboard their respective ships.

The others? I’ll give Wally Funk — the 82-year-old female test pilot — a pass on the astronaut claim. She flew on Bezos’s mission alongside Bezos and two others. She had trained to fly as an astronaut in the early 1960s; then NASA killed the woman in space program, denying Funk the chance to actually fly into space.

I once got into a snit (one of many) with a critic of this blog, the late Andrew Ryan, over my dismissal of U.S. Sens. Jake Garn and Bill Nelson, who flew aboard two shuttle missions. I declined to consider them astronauts, even though they trained alongside the space pros with whom they flew. I’ll concede that Andy Ryan was right and I was wrong about Garn, a Utah Republican and Nelson, a Florida Democrat.

Oh, and what about the third U.S. senator to fly on a shuttle mission? You’ve heard of this guy: John Glenn, an Ohio Democrat. He flew as a Mercury astronaut in February 1962, the first American to orbit Earth. Thirty-six years later, he took part in a Discovery shuttle mission.

Two very cool things about Glenn’s shuttle flight need mentioning. One is that NASA’s other astronauts did not need to translate the language they spoke while training with Glenn; the great man was fluent in astronaut-speak. The second aspect of the launch was when the shuttle’s engines ignited and the ship lifted off, the public address announcer declared the launch of Discovery carrying “six astronaut heroes and one American legend.”

Bezos and Branson may be legends in their own minds. Neither of them is an astronaut.

We just didn’t know about this

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Mary Wallace Funk is my newest hero.

She goes these days by the name of Wally Funk. She became a household name this morning when she rocketed for a few moments into space aboard Jeff Bezos’s rocket that took off from the Trans-Pecos region Texas.

Why is she my hero? Because as a boy I was keenly interested in the space program created during the Eisenhower administration, developed later during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. However, there appears to have been huge gap in my knowledge of the early years.

I did not know a thing about the women who took part in those early developmental years. Wally Funk was one of them. She trained right along with the Mercury Seven astronauts selected to be the space pioneers. Then the National Aeronautics and Space Administration canceled the women’s program. So help me I do not recall ever hearing about this program as I was being taught in public school way back then in Portland, Ore.

Wally Funk becomes oldest person to fly to space 60 years after she was denied the opportunity (nbcnews.com)

Wally Funk never got to fly into space.

Until this morning a little after 8. She and Bezos and his brother Mark and Oliver Daemen, a teenager from The Netherlands rocketed off the desert floor near Van Horn. They zoomed to the edge of space. They were weightless for a few moments. Then they returned.

She trained right along with the Bezos brothers and Daemen. Jeff Bezos joked that just as Wally Funk outperformed her male colleagues in the late 1950s and early 1960s, she did the same while training for the rocket ride aboard the Blue Origin ship named New Shepard.

What’s important to note here is that Funk now is the oldest person to fly to space. She broke a 23-year-old record held by a fellow who flew as part of the Mercury program in 1962 and then took part in 1998 as a crew member aboard the shuttle Discovery. You’ve heard of this guy: the late John Glenn. As an aside, I still get chills when I watch the shuttle blast off with Sen. Glenn aboard and the NASA communicator announces the launch of the ship carrying “six astronaut heroes and one American legend.”

Well, Wally Funk likely won’t ascend to legendary status.

However, as of this morning this intrepid pioneer is my newest hero.

Well done, Wally Funk.

This is no ‘space race’

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This is what passes for a “space race” these days?

Two insanely rich business moguls — Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos — vying to see who between them can be the first to fly into the lower reaches of outer space?

Branson got there first. He did so today flying aboard his Virgin Galactic ship that he launched from an airborne vehicle that had taken off from a site near Truth or Consequences, N.M.

Branson and Bezos haven’t been calling it a “space race,” even though they both made a good bit out of the fact that Branson was going to get there first.

I damn near LOLed when I saw Branson chortling and chuckling about how the minutes-long suborbital flight was the greatest thrill of his life. It made me want to mutter: big fu***** deal!

I am still trying to fathom what tangible, meaningful use is going to come from the flight or the one that Bezos is going to take in just a few days. I hear things about development of a vehicle that could make space travel more, um, practical and affordable for the run-of-the-mill shmuck who wants to fly into space. As for the cost of flying aboard the Virgin Galactic vehicle or the Bezos rocket, if you have a spare quarter-million bucks laying around, then you can be among the first.

Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t always been this, um, cynical about shmucks in space. I applied to NASA to be the first “journalist in space.” That was in the 1980s. Then the Challenger exploded in January 1986 and all that went away as the nation grieved the loss of those seven astronauts — including the teacher picked to fly with them.

But this so-called “space race” bears no resemblance to the real space race that occurred after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957 and then sent Yuri Gagarin around the world in the first manned mission in 1961. The finish line for that race was the moon.

Spoiler alert: We got there first … in July 1969!

I suppose the next real space race will commence once we get serious about sending human beings to Mars. I want to be around to watch that one unfold.

Trump vs. Bezos; Fake News vs. Real News

I am trying to wrap my arms around what I believe is one of the richest ironies I can find in today’s political discourse. Follow me for a moment.

Donald Trump despises Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon and the Washington Post. He has denigrated Bezos, bastardizing the mega-billionaire’s name by referring to him via Twitter as “Jeff Bozo.” He hates the reporting that comes from the Post, which to many of us is one of the premier newspapers in the world.

Bezos — reportedly the world’s richest human being — has filed a complaint against the National Enquirer, the world’s pre-eminent supermarket tabloid and purveyor of tawdry, juicy and occasionally defamatory gossip. The owner of the Enquirer also is a big-time friend and ally of Donald J. Trump. Bezos alleges that the Enquirer is blackmailing him by threatening to publish salacious pictures of the Amazon/media magnate with a woman who is not his wife.

The irony? Try this on for size: Trump hates what he calls “fake news,” which in reality is merely news that casts him and the presidency in a negative light. Donald Trump’s supporters stand with him, yet many of them — I will presume — continue to support the world’s No. 1 platform for “fake news” by purchasing the Enquirer from supermarket shelves while they are buying their groceries.

Donald Trump’s friendship with David Pecker — whose company AMI purchased the Enquirer in 1999 — has been in the news of late, given the tabloid’s involvement with the Stormy Daniels (the adult film actress) and Karen McDougal (the former Playboy model) stories involving the women’s alleged relationships with the future president of the United States . . . yep, Donald John Trump Sr.

“Fake news” or real news? Salacious gossip or quality journalism? Donald Trump or Jeff Bezos?

I believe the juxtaposition of it all is, well, more than just a little weird, don’t you think?

A real-life ‘Bozo’ hurls another epithet

I suppose this was to be expected. Donald J. Trump would use Twitter to poke fun at another man’s name, which where I come from is one of those off-limits targets, right along with poking fun at someone’s appearance or their ethnic background.

The president has referred to Washington Post/Amazon owner Jeff Bezos as “Bozo.” He chides the zillionaire media mogul for being challenged by other media outlets and then, quite naturally, mentions Bezos’s divorce from his wife — and his relationship with another woman.

Wow! Kettle, meet pot . . . and vice versa!

Yep, he went there

Trump vowed he would become more “presidential” once he took office. He hasn’t. I’m going to remain silent on that aspect of this individual’s presidency.

However, for this serial philanderer whose own name has been butchered and bastardized by critics to say anything critical of another man, well, it’s the kind of thing only a Bozo would do.

Bezos loses $9.1 billion … cry me a river

The stock market plunged into the crapper today, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping more than 800 points.

Who were the big “losers”? Try this on for size: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos dropped a cool $9.1 billion from his portfolio today.

Is the dude going broke? Uh, no. He’s still got about $145 billion, although admittedly it’s not a cash amount laying around the house or in his back yard.

This kind of reminds me of how ridiculous it has become to try to measure the wealth of the world’s richest individuals.

“A billion here and billion there and soon we’re talking about real money.” So said the late, great Republican U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen in the old days when a billion bucks really mattered.

Aristotle Onassis, the late Greek shipping tycoon — and the husband of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy — died in 1975 as the world’s second-richest human being. His net worth at the time of his death? About $500 million.

These days, when we’re talking about individuals’ worth running into the tens of billions, Ol’ Ari’s estate looks downright pauper-ish.

Trump vs. Bezos, er … Amazon

Gosh, do you suppose just possibly the president of the United States is angry with Amazon.com because its owner, a guy named Jeff Bezos, happens to also own one of the nation’s leading newspapers — which has written deemed to be critical articles of the same president?

Let’s try to assess the real reason for Donald J. Trump’s anger.

He contends that Amazon is undercutting the U.S. Postal Service. He’s been tweeting his brains out over Amazon. It’s been Amazon this and Amazon that. He’s been browbeating and berating the company via Twitter.

I have to wonder out loud: Why hasn’t he gone after Facebook with equal ferocity, given that medium’s relationship with a company, Cambridge Analytica, that used Facebook customers’ individual data for political purposes — which allegedly sought to benefit the Trump presidential campaign?

Not a peep from POTUS on that one.

Amazon? That’s a different story.

Bezos’s newspaper, The Washigton Post, has been dogged in its reporting of matters affecting, let’s see, “the Russia thing,” Trump finances, the Cabinet shuffle, the chaos and confusion within the West Wing, Jared Kushner’s role as a Middle East peace broker … that kind of thing.

Trump keeps yapping that The Post is reporting “fake news,” which in itself is the height of irony, given that the president is the “purveyor in chief” of fake news. But … I digress.

Trump’s so-called anger with Amazon looks to be nothing more than a case of cyberbullying by the leader of the free world against an Internet mogul who moonlights as the owner of a first-class newspaper that doesn’t slobber all over the president to his liking.