KEY POINTS

  • Bezos had gone on a 10-minute trip to space orbit that cost $28 million per seat
  • A seat on Branson's VSS Unity was auctioned at $28 million
  • Musk launched the first all-civilian flight into space last week

A United Nations chief on Tuesday slammed Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson for "joyriding in space" amid the worsening hunger crisis across the world. 

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ripped into the billionaires’ race to space during his opening remarks at the UN General Assembly. In his speech, Guterres pointed out the huge gaps between the rich and poor, which he called "another disease" affecting society.

"Another disease is spreading in our world today: a malady of mistrust," he began. "When people see promises of progress denied by the realities of their harsh daily lives. When they see their fundamental rights and freedoms curtailed. When they see petty — as well as grand — corruption around them.

"When they see billionaires joyriding to space while millions go hungry on earth. When parents see a future for their children that looks even bleaker than the struggles of today."

Since March 2020, food banks in the U.S. have seen a surge in demand as a series of COVID-19 lockdowns left millions of Americans jobless. More than 820 million Americans, a majority of whom are children, are also experiencing malnutrition, forcing many to sell assets or go into debt to fend off starvation, a report by the Catholic Relief Services said.

Guterres’ comments come after Bezos and Branson flew to space in their private rockets this summer. 

Bezos, who was accompanied by his brother Mark, 82-year-old space race pioneer Wally Funk, and an unnamed 18-year-old student, spent a little bit over 10 minutes in space before touching down again on Earth.

Branson, who launched in a Virgin Galactic spacecraft, flew alongside chief astronaut trainer Beth Moses, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett, and VP of government affairs Sirisha Bandla on June 11. He spent about 15 minutes in space before descending back into Earth.

Despite spending only a moment in space, both flights cost billions of dollars. A seat on both Branson’s VSS Unity and Bezos’ New Shepard cost $28 million each, according to the Business Insider.

More recently, on Sept. 15, Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX successfully launched four amateur astronauts from the Kennedy Space Center on the Inspiration4, making it the first all-civilian crew to reach orbit. 

The mission lasted for three days and was sponsored by 38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman, the CEO of Shift4 Payments. He was accompanied by bone cancer survivor and physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux, college professor and licensed pilot Sian Proctor and former Air Force member Chris Sembroski. 

The mission featured a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which raised over $200 million—$50 million of which was donated by Musk.   

The first stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket in February 2021 in California The first stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket in February 2021 in California Photo: AFP / Patrick T. FALLON