If “number of Twitter followers” is our only metric, SpaceX founder Elon Musk is about 39 times more popular than Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos. Bezos, however, is doing his best to change that: On Monday, the same day that Musk bragged about his and SpaceX’s interplanetary rocket’s test-fire, Bezos shared images of his and Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket acing wind tunnel tests.
Both Bezos and Musk hope to get humans into space, but have different goals and strategies. SpaceX was founded with the grand idea of getting people to Mars. Blue Origin takes a more methodical approach and is more secretive about its long-term goals, and is seen as trailing in technological progress. SpaceX’s latest setback shifted the balance. Bezos, no doubt detecting an opportunity, has since been stepping up his PR game, touting the strength and beauty of his New Glenn rocket.
On Monday morning, Bezos tweeted: “Exciting results from 3 weeks of wind tunnel testing of #NewGlenn at transonic & supersonic speeds. Validated our CFD.” (CFD stands for computational fluid dynamics, which means that the wind tunnel tests confirmed Blue Origin’s predictions about its new rocket’s aerodynamics.)
The accompanying image predictably showed the New Glenn in a wind tunnel, and the next image showed the New Glenn descent configuration in the same tunnel.
Bezos’s tweet came just five hours after Musk’s tweet:
But New Glenn — that which Blue Origin is testing in the wind tunnel — is not the rocket that will get humans to Mars. And it may not launch until 2019. The Blue Origin rocket that could get humans to Mars will be its next project, the New Armstrong. Musk’s rocket, the Raptor, is designed to take humans beyond orbit — beyond the Moon — and all the way to Mars. And SpaceX is already doing test-fires. Once there, Musk hopes to colonize the red planet. So, despite Bezos’s best efforts, he’s losing the race.
Whether Bezos will pull a tortoise — an animal that means a lot to Blue Origin — against Musk, the obvious hare, remains to be seen.