Trending: Bill Gates outlines 3 steps US government needs to take ‘to save lives and get the country back to work’
Blue Origin rocket landing
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (in hat and sunglasses) pops open a bottle of champagne after Blue Origin’s first New Shepard rocket landing in November 2015. (Blue Origin Photo)

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ vision for his Blue Origin rocket venture is to have millions of people living and working in space — but why?

During this month’s Summit Series invitation-only event in Los Angeles, Bezos explained that it’s not just because he’s a Star Trek fan — although he is that indeed. He sees going beyond Earth as a critical step toward preserving life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness on our home planet.

That’s not even considering fellow billionaire Elon Musk’s view that Mars and other planets would serve as a Plan B for humanity in the event of an Earth-killing catastrophe.

“I hate the ‘Plan B’ argument,” Bezos said during a fireside chat that featured his brother Mark as emcee.

Instead, Bezos extrapolates from current trends in population growth and energy use, just as British physicist Stephen Hawking did this month. If the lines on the chart creep up by just a few percent per year, eventually “you’d have to cover the entire Earth’s surface in solar cells,” he said.

“That’s not going to happen,” he continued. “So, we have two choices: We either go out into space, or we switch over to a civilization of stasis. Personally, I do not like the idea of stasis.”

Bezos went even further, saying that over the long run, freezing civilization in place might not be an option unless the world’s governments become much more authoritarian.

“In real stasis, somebody is going to have to tell you how many kids you can have, how much energy you can use,” he said. “There’ll be all kinds of things that just aren’t consistent with liberty and freedom.”

If humanity can harness space resources, not even the sky needs to be the limit.

“We could have a trillion humans in the solar system, and it still wouldn’t be crowded,” Bezos said. “Then, if you have a trillion humans, you’d have a thousand Einsteins, a thousand Mozarts, a thousand da Vincis — and how cool would that be?

More from Summit: From biscuits to ‘Buff Bezos’: Amazon CEO talks about shedding his poor eating habits

“But we have to go to space,” he said. “We have to go to space to save Earth. That’s why this work is so important. And we don’t have forever to do it. We’ve now gotten so big as a civilization on Earth that we kinda have to hurry.”

“Hurry” is a relative term: Bezos founded Blue Origin nearly 20 years ago, but the company is just now preparing to send humans on suborbital trips into space. If all goes as Bezos hopes, Blue Origin’s first spacefliers will go up on the New Shepard rocket ship in West Texas sometime next year.

Blue Origin is also getting ready to open a factory in Florida to build its orbital-class New Glenn rockets. Within a few years, Blue Origin could be delivering payloads to the moon, but Bezos acknowledges that it could take hundreds of years to have millions of people living and working in space.

So where will Bezos end up? Elon Musk has said he’d like to retire on Mars, but Bezos says “no thanks” to that idea.

“We have sent robotic probes to every planet in this solar system. Believe me, this is the best one,” Bezos said. “We know that. It’s not even close. My friends who say they want to move to Mars or something … I say, ‘Why don’t you live in Antarctica for a year first, because it’s a garden paradise compared to Mars.'”

Check out the full Summit Series chat between the two Bezoses in the video below:

Subscribe to GeekWire's Space & Science weekly newsletter


Job Listings on GeekWork

Executive AssistantRad Power Bikes
Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.