Fly On the Wall: Billionaires in Space!

(Editor’s Note: We’ve come into possession of a transcript from a call between Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, made just hours after Branson returned to Earth from a groundbreaking suborbital flight on the Virgin Galactic space plane. Audio quality was poor due to the noise from the Virgin celebration going on in the background, so complete accuracy of this transcript cannot be guaranteed.)


Branson: Dude! One word — it was totally, off-the-rails, fricking awesome! The ride up was smooth and powerful, zero gravity was totally cool and way better than the simulations, and when I looked out the window and saw the big curve of the earth! Let’s just say there was some tumescence occurring at that point! You’re going to love it!

Bezos: Congrats, bro! I watched some of the clips. You looked so happy, like a 10-year-old kid. I can’t wait to take New Shepard up next week. For the record, we’re going above the Karman Line — you didn’t quite get there.

Branson: Whatever, dude. I was first, you’re second. I’m not even counting that Dennis Tito dude back in 2001, he was just a hitchhiker. Anyway, it’s so cool you’re taking Wally Funk, an 82-year-old woman, with you. Wish I’d thought of something like that. I should’ve taken Dua Lipa or Olivia Rodrigo up with me. Or Helen Mirren! No, wait, Amanda Gorman. Yeah, I should’ve taken Amanda. Counteract some of the billionaires-in-space blowback we’re getting. She could’ve read the first poem in space!

Bezos: So many haters! Change.org has that petition going around called “Do Not Let Jeff Bezos Return to Earth” and they’ve got 150,000 signatures! So many people just trying to kill our buzz. I mean, you work hard, make some money, and then open up a whole new market — space! — and people immediately start complaining. Do you want to leave space up to a bunch of bureaucrats or to some people who know how to make a buck and have fun at the same time?

Branson: Tell me about it. I can’t believe there’s a protest going on outside right now. Some group called Space Lives Matter? They say if the Founding Fathers had known what we know, they would have included it in the Declaration of Independence as one of the inalienable rights: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and space travel.

Bezos: Dude, you earned it! We earned it! I know, I know, the space program under NASA was built with billions of taxpayer dollars, but the way I see it we just make NASA a minority partner going forward. Look, this is way more than space tourism. We need to think of space as a platform! There are so many extensions we can build . . .

Branson: Wait — we, ki-mo sah-be? Two billionaires colluding to carve up space rights doesn’t have very good optics, bro.

Bezos: Hey, just spitballing here. But think about it. There could be merchandising rights — tokenized photos, bottled space dust, space t-shirts. Branding rights could be huge — Disney will want to be there, for sure! Also, there’s a lot of unused spectrum up there for advertising. On the commercial side, I’m still sizing up the R&D potential for drug and technology development. And the moon? Dude, I have two words for you: server farm. We can make the cloud literally be in the clouds. Oh, and we’ve already applied for an insurance charter. Space insurance could be a trillion-dollar business line.

Branson: Don’t forget optics. We’ve got to build public support. That means a diversity-equity-inclusion platform. And reaching out to neutralize the Luddites. I’m thinking early flights ought to include senior people from think tanks like Brookings and the Center for America Progress. Get them on board right away. Then Oprah. And let’s think about the whole crew from The View doing the first commercial broadcast from space. How about Bernie and AOC, do you think we could get them up there?

Bezos: Yeah, and those Big Tech haters from the other side — Josh Hawley, Rubio, those guys.

Branson: Next up should be a social media flight: Taylor Swift, Kylie Jenner, Rinaldo, Vlad and Niki — dude, Vlad and Niki have almost 75 million YouTube subscribers!

Bezos: Why do you think I’m trying to buy MGM Studios? Space is nothing but a huge content platform! We’re skunkworking a whole bunch of space programming. “Survivor” in space? Think about it. And “Space Bachelorette?” Babes in zero gravity? Think about it.

Branson: Are you even gonna be able to do that deal? Isn’t the FTC throwing up a red flag? Lina Kahn’s coming for you!

Bezos: We’re on it! We’re just gonna wrap the American flag around our space program to make it bullet proof. What about a cost-plus offer, say cost plus 3 percent, to take over the whole Space Force program that Trump launched? Do they even have any staff yet? I like that angle, it’s pure apple pie. Plus, we’ll get Lina up there, I guarantee it.

Branson: There’s got to be a philanthropic component too. Free Space College?

Bezos: Wow, we’re covering a lot of ground and I haven’t even gone up yet. Good ideas, but we can’t forget the basics. Look at Elon, just hanging around, making big plans. We’re charging $300,000 a pop and he’s going to rake in $55 million a head for a few days on the International Space Station! Those are some prodigious margins! On the other hand, we need to be aware of low-cost competitors like Costco breaking in. So we need barriers to entry. I’ve already sent feelers out to Google, Apple and Facebook to see what we can do. This is just between you and me, I don’t want Lina getting wind of this.

Branson: Uh-oh, you’re breaking up . . . Somebody here wants us to do tequila shooters . . . Have a nice liftoff Jeff . . .

(Call ends)

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