Jeff Bezos is blasting off into space. In July 2021, Bezos will board the first crewed spaceflight launched by his Blue Origin company. The world’s richest people, including Elon Musk and Google’s Sergey Brin (an investor in the space tourism company Space Adventures), have joined the space race.

Where are all the European space billionaires? British billionaire Sir Richard Branson may be a committed pro-European, but his Virgin Galactic spaceflight company is based in the US. Should EU governments be doing more to encourage private sector investment and competition in the European space sector?

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in by Ariadne-Anne, who asks why we don’t we have more European billionaires investing in space.

We spoke to Josef Aschbacher, the Director General of the European Space Agency, and we asked him what he thought the role of the private sector could be in European space exploration:

[…] Let’s just take the US for a moment: the US created a Space Force at the end of 2019, the NASA budget has just been increased, and the Department of Defense is spending huge amounts of money in space. Plus, of course, in the US you have the commercial sector; Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are investing immensely in space, also Silicon Valley, creating a lot of companies in the space domain funded by venture capital first and forement…

[Private sector investment] also needs to happen in Europe. We have fantastic private operators in Europe, quite large in terms of turnover and customer reach and, yes, they are the best partners with whom this has to be built up. So, this is not something that is only a matter for the public sector.

For another perspective, we also spoke to Sue Nelson, an investor, entrepreneur, and presenter of the TechTalk Radio Show, which explores investment and innovation in new technologies. Why did she think there weren’t more European entrepreneurs investing in space?

It does seem to me like space is a sort of a billionaires’ playground at the moment. [In the UK] we could talk about Richard Branson, of course, but then we’ve got other billionaires around the world. I find it really interesting that they’re drawn to space and space projects.

I was born in 1961 and that was, as we all know, an incredible time when people were trying to get into space in what felt like tin cans. I mean, I don’t even know how they got there and how they came back. Yet there has been a lot said about the benefits of doing that, in terms of the inventions and the technologies, and how those were transferred into the broader economy afterwards.

So, I can see what these billionaires are thinking. If you’ve got billions of pounds, you know you can’t spend it all on yourself or your family in your lifetime. I think you have to decide what you believe in. I think the interesting things for me, in terms of space, are actually the technologies that you need to develop in order to overcome the challenges of space exploration, as well as the understanding and learning about Earth you can glean.

Personally, I’m not interested in somebody sitting on Jupiter or wherever, but I am interested in how it gives people a different mindset and spark their imagination, and the ways they combat problems that hopefully can then come into the mainstream on Earth, and that could be in any area or walk of life.

Why don’t we have more European billionaires investing in space? Should Europe be trying to encourage more private actors in the space sector? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

On 17 June 2021, Friends of Europe is holding an event on governing space as part of their Making Space Matter initiative, in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA).

IMAGE CREDITS: Creative Commons (BY-NC-2.0) – SpaceX

125 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    EU Reform Proactive

    Europe has ~500 USD billionaires. Quite a lot one could approach, not so?

    Please DE, why pose such a question to a historically 200-year young population that was only ‘recently liberated’ (around the 1800) from centuries of feudalism.

    As recorded, the majority were peasants who were socially & economically deprived and disadvantaged- similar to the fate of a lamenting third world today.

    It is ‘billions’ above my and most other folks pay grade.

    Why concoct such questions in the first instance, instead ‘proactively’ approaching a couple of these EU billionaires directly, interview them, then present the feedback. It may even yield results & help the DG of ESA? Too simple?

    Another complicated EU approach to chose the most indirect way to leave lots of space for the next round of questions which equally will never yield answers, except let everyone guessing and the eagerly sought $ billions deeply buried.

    It would be very easy to identify these EU & European billionaires by simply searching the web. Hint:

    Why not select the most charming & multilingual speaking investigative reporter and start with:

    Mr Bernaurd Arnault & family, followed by Amancio Ortega, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers and her family, Francois Pinault and his family, Beate Heister & Karl Albrecht Jr., Dieter Schwarz, Giovanni Ferrero- to name just a few- maybe not to forget Prince Albert II of Monaco?

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @ EU Reform Proactive

      I love this post. I knew as soon as I saw the sentiment it was your brilliant thinking.

      There is, of course, another path to try, it could be the rest of them with that amount of cash, are not a crazy as the guy who put his money where his mouth is on this occasion!

    • avatar
      EU Reform Proactive

      Hi Catherine,

      A glimpse behind ESA’s DG appointment scene 2014-2020.

      “Those who do not honour the small are not worth the big,” says an ancient peasant saying!

      Unfortunately, my humble offer- to donate an annual worth of a cinema ticket (remember?)- fell on deaf ears!

      There are anything between 25k- 50k active lobbyists ‘directly enhancing’ the EU voters indirect & minimalistic representative EU27 kind of Brussels democracy.

      A ‘lunatic’ idea like crowdfunding for a lunar project, or donations by ordinary taxpayers- with no strings attached- might be conceived as a danger to the EU supranational goals because both the thousands of corporate lobbyists in the corridors of Brussels and the EU negotiators are used to attach strings on each other’s generosities.

      But, besides Elon’s SpaceX Starship, there is ‘Dear’ Yusaku Maezawa, a willing Japanese billionaire helping out!

      Why not suggest a ‘role reversal’?:

      Dare all these pro-EU autocrats, bureaucrats & the 705 MEP’s to become temporary lobbyists (while being paid) and approach the 500-600 billionaires & other millionaires around Europe until an overwhelming, permanent and politically independent funding structure for ESA is secured? Maybe all pro-EU think tanks could chip in a bit as well?

      What could their responses be? Guess:

      It might be judged immoral, unethical, transgressing the EUHR Charter, the EU treaties & their EU employment contracts to expect such outrageous assignment? Many hidden dangers might be lurking in the dark streets in search of the richest in our societies while seeking to enter their secluded corridors- to solicit some donations?

      Our concern should be the many (secrete) strings both will attach.

      Not to forget that each ESA Member (total of 17 sovereign Nations) is funding ESA plus the EU funds ESA once more. Is it a coincidental oversight of double funding by all EU taxpayers + my- no-strings- rejected donation cinema ticket?

      As we know, the EU is eying (full) political control over ESA, while it could become an interesting, non-political CoE47 pure science project instead.

  2. avatar

    We don’t need any billionaires investing in space. Space research should be a right exclusively on a state level. Privatisation of space research as well as any other scientific research is bad.

  3. avatar

    Why do we have “European billionaires” at all? What kind of EU system breeds oligarchs?

    • avatar

      Debating Europe *check notes* …:”European countries”Here’s a good topic for debate for you:- “Does capitalism and feudalism have a place in Europe in 21st century?”

  4. avatar

    Europe has one who is living in the UK. U.S. doesn’t have that many billionaires investing in space, either.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @ Børge

      If it is Richard Branson you are speaking of he doesn’t live in the UK. He may have to pay tax if he did. Not something many billionaires are keen on.

  5. avatar

    Why not. Don t we believe in free enterprise. Are you not backing a free market..?

  6. avatar

    Shouldn’t the real question be: do we need billionaires?

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @ Tristan

      Actually you have something there. Free enterprise does not mean excessive liberty. For, it broaches restrictions leading to gross monopolies. Creating stagnation throughout the financial world markets. Billionaires are already disturbing democratic elected government control. Elected being the number one criteria here.

      Hence the worrisome move in G7 of Royals openly entering political debate forums. Which, will easily lead us back to absolute monarchy. Saudi Kings and Princes a prime example.

  7. avatar

    Why don’t we have more Europeans investing in future tech? That for me is the biggest issue, we always go for the low risk iterative innovation, whereas Americans have a tradition of being disruptive.

  8. avatar

    It’s your money. Use it when you need it.

  9. avatar

    Take care of the people and post-pandemic economic recovery before engaging in the space competition. Do not mix up the purpose of a democracy. It is the people come first and their well being is at top priority.

  10. avatar

    If European has prepared to invest more on the space technology, it is important to protect it against hostile acquisition taking the French Alstom as a classic case. How should Europe protect its technology and research being stolen by the US when Denmark had the history of cooperated with the US National Security Agency (NSA) to spying on important political leaders of European. We have reason to believe that technology and research are also targets as well.

  11. avatar

    The problem is not that there aren’t more European billionaires investing in space. It’s the privatisation of space research itself that is the problem. Space research as well as any other scientific research should be done only on international level.

  12. avatar

    Branson is an European. Bezos lives in the U.S.

    • avatar
      catherine benning


      Richard Branson was born in the UK, but is a non resident and pays no UK tax. He sold his house in Oxfordshire to his children. Probably at a £1.00 each. His homes are in South Africa, Kenya, Switzerland an Necker Island. He pays no tax in any of them. He has, so far, accumulated 6 Billion dollars, probably partly because he pays no tax. So, he is not a European. Unless his house in Switzerland is regarded as him being European. The UK is not part of the EU. Which, for some unknown reason frightens the sh– out of him. I wonder if it’s anything to do with tax paying?

  13. avatar

    We shouldn’t have any billionaire at all running to space. If this was a movie, Bezos and Branson would be the villains, not the superheroes. With the money they have they could solve climate change and end world hunger, so why don’t they? Because they are preparing their escape. Praising this crime on Humanity and calling for European billionaires to do the same is absolutely dumb.

  14. avatar

    How bout instead of vanity projects to space you end world hunger or pay your staff a wage they can actually exist off…Disgusting

  15. avatar

    I think commercialisation of space and privatisation of space sciences are bad ideas which will eventually give their bad fruits. They probably already do. If you are going to talk about Jeff Bezos you can tell us something more interesting about him. Like how his workers have to urinate in water bottles to deliver the Amazon products on time.

  16. avatar

    I think it would be better if we could send all the billionaires to space, and let them stay there.

  17. avatar

    A rich man’s vanity… there are people on this planet who can’t afford to travel in their own country!! Never mind travel abroad or “see the world”….

  18. avatar

    We could send them all to space with one-way ticket if they don’t start paying fare taxes.

  19. avatar

    This guy(most of the years) pays zero incomes taxes btw

  20. avatar

    Billionaires would not exist in a moral society

  21. avatar

    I ricchi mercanti del passato ci hanno lasciato Venezia Firenze Praga Vienna Parigi San Pietroburgo che ancora oggi l’umanità può ammirare. Oggi questo idiota spreca risorse inquina per fare un giro su una giostra. Meritiamo l’estinzione

  22. avatar

    No different to the commercialisation of resources here on earth..of airspace…of the seas….they will always operate within the boundaries of laws…so up to lawmakers to ensure they’re fit for purpose.

  23. avatar

    Torn between disgust and indifference …

  24. avatar

    Expensive habits always made me sick This is far more than than just expensive.

    • avatar

      Amalia Decca άφησε τον , καλύτερα μήπως εξαφανιστεί στο διάστημα .

    • avatar

      Nina Grigoriou δεν το είχα σκεφτεί

    • avatar

      Amalia Decca

  25. avatar

    That’s just what the world needs now, ultra billionaires fantasizing with rockets and who has the bigger one… The eternal game.

  26. avatar

    I guess it’s the same as the commercialisation of anything, it would be ok if the true costs of sending off tourists for a 10s ride in near space would be factored in. It’s good to be spearheading new things, I just wish the superrich would spearhead solving bigger problems here down on earth.

  27. avatar

    It is a hype 100%, the SOLE purpose of which is to boost the public image of these guys. 10 minutes flight (of which 4 minutes in 0 gravity) CAN NOT be considered space flight. It is what is called a “sub orbital” flight, ie a ballistic path that does not have enough speed to get the craft into orbit around the Earth, and thus drops back to Earth. Yuri Gagarin, the 1st man to go into space some 60 years ago, had an ORBITAL flight, that lasted 105 minutes. So stop pulling our legs!

    • avatar

      Harilaos N. Psaraftis please don’t give them ideas!

  28. avatar

    I find it somewhat appalling. Difficult to imagine anytime less sustainable than space tourisme. At the same time we leave it to the poorest to pay the bill for climate change. These rich guys should feel ashamed and start paying their taxes.

  29. avatar
    EU Reform Proactive

    Last, but not least:

    While the DE & others narrowly focus on billionaires per se (why?) and their perceived private extravaganzas in outdoing each other in space- little attention is drawn to some well-known private European companies like Porsche /Volkswagen or the Airbus Company.

    All are serious & very competent players in the aviation industry and proudly follow in the footsteps of past European achievers and innovators in pioneering new technologies.

    How misguided, misinformed and narrow-minded can one be to believe that only state-owned entities (“ex. USSR mindsets”) should exclusively be entitled to enter space research & development.

    Best wishes to all these entrepreneurs who not only believe in the benefit to spearhead new technologies, but in turn create a new range of high-end jobs!

  30. avatar

    The EU has no clout and it should stay out

  31. avatar

    Passive? An ant does more to protect European interests and borders…

  32. avatar

    PASSIVE?? lol its ZERO!! it does not even exist!

  33. avatar

    you should do more to stop mass migration to europe i dont care about Kabul honestly

    • avatar

      Tiago Costa They won’t. Instead they will speed it up. Self-islamization is good for the elite as Muslims are uneducated and only obsessed with their religion. That’s easier to mold and control.

  34. avatar

    Yes.There’s simply no firm hand in anything, and it feels like politicians are frequently shouting empty words rather than backing up anything with meaningful action.

  35. avatar

    The power of Europe should be soft. The world does not need yet another army. The best defended door is the door you can leave open.

    • avatar

      Nicola Piazzalunga so you keep your doors unlocked and your windows open in your own home I presume? Surely you aren’t a hypocrite or anything?

  36. avatar

    I don’t give a s h I t about some cave savages in Kabul to be honest. I do care about closing the borders so aforementioned savages can’t make Brussels into Kabul 2.0. Ah well, too late I guess. In any case stop trying to make the United States of Europe a thing , it’s not going to work.

    • avatar

      Stijn Cleemput so true! european union for europeans!!

  37. avatar

    No army,no defence policy,only debating and diving our tax money away

    • avatar

      Stijn De Bondt they love bla bla bla

  38. avatar

    Viva Brexit, poland, Hungary. And first of all organise one big referendum in Europe : in or out ? That is the true democracy

    • avatar

      Giu Sodano Referenda are indeed true democracy but they should be obligated to everyone. If not there is also no democracy. Knowing that only 26% of all the Brits voted to leave.

    • avatar

      Wouter van Mol Those who don’t vote, don’t give a sh*t…. So it’s still democratic, even then.

    • avatar

      Giu Sodano in your opinion how is 37% voted for Brexit “democracy”?

    • avatar

      Richie Holland in your opinion you believe that 63% of citizens of the 27 countries would vote to stay in Europe ?

  39. avatar

    Only Things EU is not Passive on, To Milk, Neglect and Ignore their Own Citizens !

    • avatar

      Marc Timmermans so so true

  40. avatar

    I don t see my country here…i want out of ue

  41. avatar

    Que l’ue devienne une démocratie , que la justice ,l’immigration , la santé redevienne un competence nationale,

  42. avatar


  43. avatar

    No one super powers OF THE WORLD…..only….God is super power and la of God

    • avatar

      Ch Ansar the one who print money is the ruler. before it was the one with the biggest army of soldiers and horses.

    • avatar

      Ch Ansar Yeah another Allah’u Akbar! fanatic. Islamic clerics ruling the world in the name of a fictitious skydaddy. That’s the same kind of power that kings had here in the Dark Ages: “Royal absolution by devine right.” Answering only to “God” they have total power like a dictator, since said God doesn’t ever appear. Convenient, eh?

  44. avatar

    Pour nous entuber avec les injections, là l’UE n’est pas passive du tout !

  45. avatar

    What right does the EU has to interfere with other countries? Try focusing on the problems in the EU before you try solving someone elses!

  46. avatar

    The EU is one of the weakest institutions to ever exist. Time we end that circus once and for all.

  47. avatar

    There is no EU army, no EU police, no EU educational system, no EU health system, no equal rights as some countries citizens are considered unjustly low-quality and practically they are treated as lower-race, there is no practical EU solidarity and everything about EU is theoretic, except practically paying membership fees and governmental taxes! So I think the article is only a “Halloween joke” made by the same “kids of EU familly” who are exercising in real & big their public policy internship in order to get their “elitist diploma”.And BTW: what do you exactly want to suggest with the countries and their presidents represented in the article-cover illustration????

  48. avatar

    Leave the people in the Middle East alone, we do not have to intervene in there doings and belongings…..It’s because the whole world wants there raw materials that there is so much war and there are the so called “climate refugees”…. but it’s just the people who run from the wars, the obamawars.

  49. avatar

    Eu should become the greatest millatry power on the face of the plannet, we must because of are geographic location And then we can try to free other poeple in other countries…

  50. avatar

    EU politicians are only interested in their own concerns: their bank account, their EU seat, if millions of europeans die in poverty, they don’t care. They weren’t even elected, so why should they care? Torch those EU buildings, preferably with all ‘concerned’ ppl inside, so we can start a union of ppl insteand of a union of corrupt politicians

  51. avatar

    If we are active, it’s called neo-colonialism. If we are passive, the USA uses it as a reason to invade. We can’t win.

  52. avatar

    No billionaire, European or non-European should be allowed to privatize space research and sciences. This should be a right exclusively to the sovereign nations and their scientific institutions.

    • avatar


  53. avatar

    why dont we have billionaires investing in people and not in space??? Do you really think that europeans are worried about space?? i mean… the more i read your posts the more i belive that you live in other europe far far way from the one i live.

  54. avatar

    I believe in a strong Europe!Yes, not like that …

  55. avatar

    113 million European citizens are living in (or risk) poverty and your social media team believes space travelling is important? Ivory tower mentality…

  56. avatar

    Quiet and respectful, I hope, of the environmental catastrophy that is this frikkin space tourism.

  57. avatar

    The EU closely follows the globalists’ agenda and does not care one bit about the opinions of their citizens, initiatives like this only exist to corral the narratives.

  58. avatar

    The EU, so desperately trying to reform it’s entire area into an Islamic Caliphate, with an ‘army’ that has no teeth. The laughing stock of China, Russia and even the US.

  59. avatar

    Where I live in Europe Antwerp Belgium is almos Kabul afganistan and Syria now , kabul tee bar ,kabul barber, kabul syrian restaurant and kabul shop

  60. avatar

    Soon they gonna ask Afghanistan and Pakistan to be a member of Europe may be first to clean up “staff” in Europe ? Who cares about Afghanistan and the rest of”stans” ? Those people are made their chose ..

  61. avatar

    Europa has enough work enslaving it’s own people.

  62. avatar

    Its time to get out of the circus! Nuff said

  63. avatar

    There shouldn’t be billionaires.

  64. avatar

    All countries should exist EUROPE right now, with no conditions whatsoever

  65. avatar

    You are the Taliban… Wankers you sold Europe

  66. avatar

    EU likes to steal from it’s citizens so no.

  67. avatar

    talking about pollution, climate,… hypocrisy

  68. avatar

    When a plane full of people was shot down over the Ukraine did any eu country do anything about it other then talk? Europe is weak, Russia would take over Europe in 3 weeks if america wasn’t around.

  69. avatar

    Send all those dictators from EU into Deep space!!!!

  70. avatar

    Because Europe is overregulated and lacks pro-activity .. Ivory tower policies.

  71. avatar

    I hope they put their money in saving the earth instead of fleeing and leaving us here!

    • avatar

      Mathieu Dierckx this is fiction. Besides there is NO place in the universe like Earth. One can die by multiple reasons most of the time

  72. avatar

    And me I can’t ride with my car Euro 3.

  73. avatar

    Because we are taxing them properly.

  74. avatar

    Saving this plannet and space is the solution peaple . read about it plze.

  75. avatar

    What do i care about space , why dont we have more elite billionares and eu politicians that should pay taxes like all normal people do ?

  76. avatar

    Shooting millions in thin air

  77. avatar

    Yeah…i can t wait to pay more create few mora billionares to invest in space…

  78. avatar

    why are we investing in space when there’s apparently not enough capacity on intensive care in hospitals? Now there’s another question. All this money thrown to creating a totalitarian big brother control system, and then we are being made to feel guilty about not getting an experimental jab. Crazy times!

  79. avatar

    Et on nous casse encore les bonbons car nos petites voitures pollue … quand tu es riches tu ne pollue plus … c’est nouveau ça … …. Politicien de

  80. avatar

    Een democratisch Europa houdt rekening met mijn moedertaal. En dat is NIET het Engels.

  81. avatar

    Because Europe is a sad relic of another age, doomed to trail America and Asia.

  82. avatar

    They started right after Columbus

  83. avatar

    And then government speak about ecology and global warming lollll

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