July 20, 2021


Sixty years ago, John F. Kennedy called it “the New Frontier.” Now the new frontier is being explored not only by governments but by wealthy explorers — people willing to put their fortunes (and, incidentally, their lives) on the line to expand the borders of human possibility.

The manned missions of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the more recent unmanned excursions to Mars and the discoveries of the Hubble telescope, have had the glorious effect of inspiring wealthy entrepreneurs like Bezos who are driven by an overwhelmingly optimistic sense of the transformative potential of human technological achievement.

The changes in human destiny these trips portend are astonishing.

And how was Bezos greeted by the cognoscenti? With dripping scorn and contempt, of course.

Here’s a headline on Rolling Stone’s website: “Jeff Bezos Uses Money to Spew Emissions Directly Into Upper Atmosphere During Space Trip.”

Rolling Stone, you say?

[Jann] Wenner’s Gulfstream II jet seated ten people and featured a dining table, four overstuffed couches, and a foldout bed. It cost $6 million. Wenner loved it so much he put the factory-issued model in his office on Fifth Avenue and dreamed of ways to take his Rolling Stone salon of celebrities and suitors to the air. “Then it became ‘What can we do to fly this thing? Where can we go? How can I take it in the air?’  ” recalled Wenner. “I would just circle over LaGuardia to have lunch.”

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[Wenner’s attorney Ben] Needell put the plane under a business subsidiary called Straight Arrow Transportation to write it off as a business expense, but Wenner said it was “90 percent personal.”

—Joe Hagan in the 2016 biography, Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine

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