Rocket launches can sometimes turn into flame wars, as shown by last year’s Twitter tug of war between space-minded billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
The rivalry behind Bezos’ Blue Origin and Musk’s SpaceX has been going on for years, flaring up over issues ranging from control of Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to the patent rights for rocket landings at sea. In both those cases, SpaceX prevailed at Blue Origin’s expense.
That rivalry crossed over into the Twittersphere in November, when the Amazon founder used his first tweet to tout the landing of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spacecraft after its first test flight to an outer-space altitude:
The rarest of beasts – a used rocket. Controlled landing not easy, but done right, can look easy. Check out video: https://t.co/9OypFoxZk3
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) November 24, 2015
Musk tweeted his congratulations, but followed up with a series of tweets debating Bezos’ use of the word “rarest.”
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 24, 2015
Bezos returned the snark a month later, when SpaceX landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a Florida pad after launching a cluster of telecom satellites:
Congrats @SpaceX on landing Falcon's suborbital booster stage. Welcome to the club!
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) December 22, 2015
Musk’s fans were quick to question Bezos’ reference to a “suborbital booster stage” as well as his definition of the “club” for spaceflight:
So what did Bezos do when SpaceX came close to pulling off the first landing of a used rocket booster on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean? He tweeted again, but this time sans snark:
Impressive launch and @SpaceX will soon make Falcon 9 landings routine – so good for space! Kudos SpaceX!
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) January 17, 2016
Musk and the Twitterverse noticed:
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 18, 2016
— Jesse Learmonth (@jesselearmonth) January 17, 2016
— Fred Goff (@fredgoff) January 17, 2016
Amen to that!
By the way, Bezos also sent out a trio of tweets on a different topic today: Iran’s release of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian and two other Americans. The tweets make sense, considering that Bezos owns the Post.
Bezos’ Twitter habits are also making sense: His 10 tweets to date have to do with his interests outside Amazon, including the Post, Blue Origin and commercial spaceflight, plus his investment in the Grail biotech spin-out and his philanthropic interest in energy innovation.
Unlike Musk, Bezos hasn’t used Twitter for replies or retweets, and his updates haven’t delved into the detailed ups and downs of his enterprises. But give the newbie some time: After all, he’s been tweeting for less than two months.