SpaceX’s Elon Musk and Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos do not like each other. That fact was demonstrated once again, as Business Insider noted on Wednesday, by a series of tweets Musk sent concerning the successful launch and landing of Blue Origin’s New Shepard, a suborbital rocket intended to take paying passengers on jaunts into space. The flight was the first time a rocket reached space, albeit barely, and then landed on Earth under its own power. Musk has been trying to land the first stage of his Falcon 9 on a barge in the middle of the ocean, thus far unsuccessfully.
At first Musk offered his congratulations to Blue Origin on its feat. But, not being able to leave well enough alone, he also sent a series of tweets attempting to downplay his rival’s accomplishment. Falcon 9 is designed to go to orbit, a more difficult thing to do than a suborbital hop. A SpaceX rocket called Grasshopper has already done a vertical takeoff and landing maneuver, albeit without having gone into space. And so on.
Blue Origin finally had enough and released the following statement:
“SpaceX is only trying to recover their first stage booster, which is, of course, suborbital. The SpaceX first stage does an in-space deceleration burn to make their re-entry more benign. If anything, the Blue Origin booster may be the one that flies through the harsher re-entry environment. Finally, the hardest part is probably the final landing segment which is the same for both boosters.”
This game of one-upmanship with two men engaged in a fight over which one of their rockets is better is not the first time the two companies have clashed. As the Washington Post reported last March, Blue Origin engaged SpaceX in a patent dispute over the technique of landing rockets on a floating barge. Before that, they squabbled over which company would get to use the shuttle era NASA launch complex 39A.
Musk won that battle, but not before exercising considerable snark.
“If they do somehow show up in the next five years with a vehicle qualified to NASA’s human rating standards that can dock with the Space Station, which is what Pad 39A is meant to do, we will gladly accommodate their needs…Frankly, I think we are more likely to discover unicorns dancing in the flame duct.”
In other words, a new space race has developed between two companies that is driven by personal animosity as much as it is the desire for profit. The only thing left for observers of the space scene is to make some popcorn and watch as Musk and Bezos battle it out, driven to accomplish great things by their dislike of one another. It is the stuff of high drama.