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‘Space? We have a lot to do here’: Bill Gates explains why he is not ‘trying to escape planet earth in a spaceship’

“I have become obsessed with things like Malaria and HIV and getting rid of those diseases and I would probably bore people at cocktail parties talking about diseases. Space? You know, we have a lot to do here on earth,” Bill Gates said.
American billionaire Bill Gates.(AFP)
Published on Sep 25, 2021 05:48 PM IST
Written by Srivatsan K C | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Bill Gates, during his recent appearance in an American late night talk show, was asked about his thoughts on billionaires investing in space travel and in response, he said that he has become obsessed with eradicating diseases here on earth rather than with space.

James Corden, the host of the Late Late Show with James Corden, hosted Gates in his show earlier on September 23 to talk about the climate crisis. However, what started as a casual joke, ended with a response from Gates, which the host called the “classiest burn.”

Corden opened the talk by thanking Gates for being the “one billionaire who is not trying to escape planet earth on a spaceship at the moment.” When asked about why billionaires were “obsessed with” space travel at the moment, Gates’ reply was “I don’t know. I have become obsessed with things like Malaria and HIV and getting rid of those diseases and I would probably bore people at cocktail parties talking about diseases. Space? You know, we have a lot to do here on earth.” During the remainder of the interview, Gates called upon being optimistic and the combined efforts of all people to tackle the climate crisis.

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The reference by Corden in his question to Gates is apparently to the recent space flights by billionaires Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and Richard Branson, Virgin group’s founder back in July. Also another billionaire Jared Issacman led the Inspiration4 mission, which has been described as “world’s first all-civilian orbital mission to space.” The flight was on a Dragon capsule and a SpaceX rocket built by another billionaire Elon Musk. While the contributions of these missions to space exploration has been largely appreciated, it has also received some criticism.

Earlier in the week, United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres during his opening speech at the UN general assembly called out the gap between the rich and the poor with “billionaires joyriding to space while millions go hungry on Earth.”

However, Bezos and Musk have both defended their decisions and acknowledged the criticism at them. Bezos said that his critics were “largely right” and said “We have to do both. We have lots of problems here and now on Earth and we need to work on those and we also need to look to the future, we’ve always done that as a species and as a civilization. We have to do both,” the Guardian quoted him as saying earlier in July.

Meanwhile, Musk, who is yet to go into space, has said, “I think we should spend the vast majority of our resources solving problems on Earth. Like, 99% plus of our economy should be dedicated to solving problems on earth,” in a Netflix documentary about Inspiration4. “But I think maybe something like 1%, or less than 1%, could be applied to extending life beyond earth,” he added.

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