GROWING up, if I had been told that ordinary people would be going into space as tourists by the time I was an adult, I’d have thought I was having my leg pulled.
But this week, Star Trek actor William Shatner, who is impressively fit and healthy at the age of 90, was blasted into space aboard the Blue Origin suborbital capsule which was developed by Amazon billionaire owner Jeff Bezos.
Shatner had a free ride but others paid and Bezos has reportedly sold $100million in passes for future rides.
The prices hint at just how much money Bezos is blowing by firing rockets into the sky, basically for an ego-boosting laugh.
But back on planet Earth, you can bet one group of people not watching, mainly because they were working so hard, were the many thousands of people he employs at his Amazon warehouses.
I can’t imagine the bosses on high would have given them the chance to sit down for the full ten minutes the trip took, to actually watch it.
Imagine being an Amazon employee on Thursday. They slog away in vast warehouses, driving vans around delivering packages for people who want things RIGHT NOW and have probably never been busier. And they know their boss has chosen so casually to blow vast sums on sending William Shatner into space for what is essentially a vanity project.
What other purpose can there be for sending an elderly Captain Kirk into space?
They are probably painfully aware that money could, and would, have changed their lives.
It could have been used to up some of their £10-an-hour wages or improve their working conditions. It must have felt like a very expensive kick in the teeth.
A shocking report in 2017 found that Amazon workers had to process a package every nine seconds from 7.30am to 6pm. That’s 300 items an hour.
Some who struggled to keep up this crazy target claimed they suffered panic attacks. Some drivers said they were so under the cosh with their targets, they resorted to peeing in bottles as they shot around streets delivering all our stuff.
Workers complained of “timed toilet breaks, impossible targets and exhausting, intolerable working conditions”.
Of course, Jeff Bezos can spend his $196billion fortune on what he likes, including his $5.5billion on Blue Origin.
But there is an argument that with great wealth comes great responsibility and instead of using his many, many, many millions to look after his staff, he uses it to send a 90-year-old actor into space.
The truth is that people have not been this hard up for a long time, yet Bezos seems completely out of touch.
While most people are getting ready for what looks like being a winter of discontent, he is flashing his wealth around on rather pointless things. Even Prince William gave Jeff Bezos a rocket this week, saying billionaires like Bezos should focus on saving Earth, instead of the space race.
He’s right. But Bezos should also think about saving some of his hard-up employees.
It is not just the Amazon boss who is keen on spending his millions cultivating an elite form of space tourism.
Sir Richard Branson is offering rides in his Virgin Galactic rocket plane for $450,000, or £330,000.
And then there’s Elon Musk, whose Dragon capsule will be sending people to circle the Earth for several days, as it did for the privately funded Inspiration4 crew last month.
On the one hand, there will be those who argue this is one giant step for mankind.
Me? I just think it is a giant waste of money that could be spent so much better elsewhere.
I wouldn’t get in that rocket if you paid me $28million — the huge sum paid at a charity auction for the fourth seat on Blue Origin’s July trip.
The space experience left Shatner in tears. He said to Bezos: “What you have given me is the most profound experience.
“Everybody in the world needs to do this.”
Do they, though, William? Do they really?
I think they would much rather have a pay rise and improved working conditions than ten minutes in a questionably shaped rocket.
Meghan’s bother from big brother
MEGHAN’s estranged half-brother has said Prince Harry’s days as her husband are numbered, as his younger sister’s last marriage only lasted two years.
Thomas Markle Jr, a 55-year-old window fitter from Oregon, who is trading on his sister’s name by getting a place on Australia’s Big Brother VIP, has claimed his insider knowledge gives him the insight that Meghan’s marriage to Harry is doomed.
He says that Meghan “walked all over” her first husband, US film producer Trevor Engelson.
In a show trailer, Thomas Jr says: “Harry’s on the chopping block next.”
Harry and Meghan have made a lot of mistakes. But for the estranged stepbrother to say these things is just plain wrong.
He states he is “not bitter” about not being invited to their wedding, but clearly he is.
Thomas sent Harry a letter telling him it was not “too late” to back out of marrying her, saying his sister was “not the right woman for you”.
With a half-brother like that, it’s easy to see why they are estranged.
Stu’s a credit to cops
THE police are under a lot of scrutiny at the moment.
But let’s take a minute to remember that a few bad apples do not speak for the whole force.
Take the police officer dubbed “Britain’s hardest cop”, who has rightly received a national bravery award after single-handedly fighting off a machete attacker.
PC Stuart Outten was repeatedly struck over the head with a 2ft blade after stopping Muhammad Rodwan’s white van for having no insurance in Leyton, East London, in August 2019.
On Tuesday, he received the national Police Federation bravery award for his actions in disarming Rodwan. This man is a great reminder that thousands of police officers up and down the country are putting themselves in harm’s way daily to protect us.
This man’s a hero and I hope he got a bonus as well as a medal.
Alarm bells ringing
ANYONE worried about their smart doorbell?
A plumber may have to pay a neighbour £100,000 because a judge ruled his bell’s camera breached her privacy?
The court ruled in favour of Dr Mary Fairhurst, who claimed she was forced to move out of her home because the web-connected gadget was “intrusive”.
But owner Jon Woodard, 45, of Thame, Oxfordshire, said it would ruin his life, and he will lose his £275,000 home.
I am one of thousands of people who have this kind of doorbell.
They are good for security when you are out – and for seeing if anyone has pinched a package left on your doorstep.
They are a good deterrent as potential burglars know it will record their face, even if they destroy the camera.
And they are good for knowing who is at the door before you answer it, and speaking to the postman when you are out. The last thing I have ever used ours for is spying on neighbours.
It’s clear this poor chap wasn’t trying to watch his neighbour, just his own house (and there is a house between hers and his anyway).
It’s also clear that he, and thousands of others, didn’t know it may breach data protection laws.
More worryingly, where does this ruling end?
Is the judge saying that any CCTV cameras used by homeowners, police, councils, Google Maps or even dashcams – all of which play a part in catching criminals – are unlawful too?
Steaks are high
IT’S sickening that a customer spent £37,000 at celebrity restaurant Nusr-Et Steakhouse in Knightsbridge, London.
If you ever needed proof that a fool and his money are easily parted, here it is.
When a meal costs more than a wedding or even a deposit on a house, you know something is seriously wrong.
And £11 for a Red Bull . . . you must be mad or a complete berk to eat here.