It was a black tie evening of glamour, champagne toasts and lizard flesh at the annual Explorers Club dinner gala this weekend, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was one of the guests of honour.
The Explorers Club has been promoting scientific inquiry and adventure for over 100 years, and it regularly meets to hand out awards to astronauts, physicists, anthropologists and other pioneers. Bezos received the Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award for his work as the founder of Blue Origin, an aerospace company that hopes to lower the cost of space travel.
Bloomberg reports from the gala:
“The price of admission to space is very high,” Bezos said Saturday night in New York, accepting the Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award at the Explorers Club Annual Dinner. “I’m in the process of converting my Amazon lottery winnings into a much lower price of admission so we can go explore the solar system.”
Bezos previously said he’s funding rocket company Blue Origin LLC to the tune of $1 billion [$AU1.3 billion] a year through the sale of Amazon stock. His comments at the event suggest that may be only the start of his financial commitment to the project, which is developing reusable rockets.
Bezos tops Forbes’ annual World Billionaires list, and he set a record over the last 12 months, increasing his fortune by $US39.2 billion ($49.9 billion). With a $US130 billion ($165.1 billion) net worth, he now has quite a lead on Bill Gates, and what to do with all that money has become a more frequent topic of conversation. Will he spend some of it on a new Amazon headquarters? Nah, the US taxpayer’s going to take care of that. Will he follow in Gates’ footsteps and become a great philanthropist? Maybe, but according to one philanthropy researcher, he probably has that “save[d] for later“. So was he saying he’s going to sink his whole fortune into space travel? Bloomberg followed up later but Bezos declined to clarify his comments.
Of course, other attendees had their own ideas of what Bezos should do with his cash. Edith A. Widder, a veteran deep sea explorer, said he should explore the sea. Documentary team Gino Caspari and Trevor Wallace suggested that a couple of million dollars could help them recover some ancient artefacts in Siberia. And James Watson, one of the discoverers of structure of DNA, suggested he should “fix the potholes” here on Earth.
Fixing problems on our home planet has inspired one of the dinner’s most notable features. Each year, a master chef cooks up a menu comprised of invasive species to highlight ways in which our diets could be more sustainable. This go-round featured tarantula, cockroach and roasted iguana. And reader, Bezos was having the iguana.