That Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk aren’t the best of friends is common knowledge now. Their dislike for each other is evident on social media. But the last few weeks have been especially choppy as the billionaires freely traded barbs, lawsuits and lots more.
Frustrated over lawsuits against his space venture SpaceX, Musk recently tweeted that "filing legal actions against SpaceX is *actually* his (Jeff Bezos) full-time job."
When a Twitter user posted that Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos has reportedly invested in anti-aging startup Labs, Musk was ready with a quip. “And if it doesn’t work, he’s gonna sue death!” he tweeted.
In a slightly older rant, the SpaceX CEO said "if lobbying & lawyers could get u to orbit, Bezos would be on Pluto rn.”
The two tycoons, now in a race for the position of the world’s richest man, along with Frenchman luxury mogul Bernard Arnault, had set their sights on space independently in the early days of their entrepreneurial journeys.
Bezos’ Blue Origin was established in 2000, while SpaceX was launched in 2002, with the same general goals of private space exploration. The duo met in 2004 for the first time, and discussed their space ambitions. But the animosity was there from that first meeting, at least that’s what Musk believes.
"I actually did my best to give good advice, which he largely ignored," Musk said after the meeting, according to Christian Davenport's book, The Space Barons.
Things began to heat up in 2013 when SpaceX managed to earn the exclusive usage right for NASA launchpad 39A ahead of Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance. Blue Origin, instead, proposed to turn the launchpad into a commercial spaceport that would be accessible to all space companies.
"Blue Origin has not yet succeeded in creating a reliable suborbital spacecraft, despite spending over 10 years in development," Musk told Space News at the time. "If they do somehow show up in the next five years with a vehicle qualified to NASA's human rating standards that can dock with the Space Station, which is what Pad 39A is meant to do, we will gladly accommodate their needs."
And so the war of words picked up pace. Musk, famous for his outbursts on Twitter, has often landed himself in trouble with the authorities and fellow billionaires. Over the years, Musk has made fun of Bezos’ age, the Blue Origin design, Blue Origin’s naming choices, Amazon’s monopoly, Blue Origin’s technological capabilities etc.
Bezos retaliated with legal action. The lawsuits from Amazon and Blue Origin against SpaceX triggered more barbs from Musk. Blue Origin has moved against NASA’s award of the lucrative $2.9 billion-lunar lander contract to SpaceX, and Amazon has moved the US Federal Communications Commission to dismiss the proposed changes by SpaceX to its Starlink satellite network.
Their difficult relationship may bring to mind the well-documented rivalry between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, the head honchos of the then two biggest companies on the planet -- Microsoft and Apple. While many believe that their rivalry pushed both companies to constantly innovate, it remains to be seen whether Bezos and Musk can goad each other beyond the stratosphere.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)