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In a longstanding rivalry between two of the world’s richest men, one has finally triumphed – or hasn’t? On January 7th, 2021, SpaceX Founder and CEO, Elon Musk, toppled eCommerce magnate, Jeff Bezos, as top dog by a shy USD4 billion.

A few days later, however, the two behemoths traded places once again as Bezos reclaimed the number one spot when Musk’s fortune dropped nearly USD14 billion in just one day. This time, Amazon’s founder has once again secured the title he has enjoyed since 2017. 

In a whirlwind of events, it is announced on Tuesday morning, January 12th, that the South African space tech mogul recovered by 5.66% letting him relinquish the crown from only a few days, earning him the title of the world’s wealthiest at the latest.

While dramatic as it may seem, this ping-pong of events is just a minuscule detail in the enduring rivalry between two giants that the whole world has fervently followed with bated breath. From the subtle shades they’ve thrown each other in public up to their respective space ambitions, it seems that there is no stopping with these two.

How It All Started

Back in the early 2000s when Amazon hadn’t become the e-commerce icon that it is today, Bezos had already expressed his interest in space exploration. He was once noted saying that this passion was rooted since high school in which he was heard mentioning his intention of creating outer space colonies for millions of people

Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos. Photo: Geekwire

Around this time, another man is realizing similar dreams of his own. Elon Musk, already a millionaire several times over during this time, has made USD160 million off his sale of the online payment platform, PayPal. Using this fund, he then launched SpaceX in 2002. 

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX. Photo: Elon Musk Official Instagram

In 2004, a couple of years later, the two CEOs met for dinner. However, things went south as the two had a heated discussion over their own reusable rocket goals. Since then, the two kept to themselves with their rivalry continuing. 

It was in 2013 when everything took a turn for the worse over the leasing of a NASA launchpad.

The “Space Battle” Begins

Tension is continuously building around 2013 when Musk’s SpaceX applied for the exclusive use of a NASA launchpad, which was later contested by Blue Origin, founded by Bezos, together with its rival United Launch Alliance. Bezos proposed to have the pad transformed “into a commercial spaceport available to all launch companies.”

This prompted Musk to call the move a “phony blocking tactic” taking a jab at Bezos. In an interview with Space News, Musk mentions that “[Blue Origin] has not yet succeeded in creating a reliable suborbital spacecraft, despite spending over 10 years in development.” He later adds, “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 The Patent Saga Continues

Bezos visits the Blue Origin launch facility in West Texas before a test flight. Photo: Blue Origin

2014 saw another developing arc between the two tech monoliths as they both dragged themselves into a patent battle. This happened when Blue Origin was approved for a patent for drone ships used for landing rocket boosters. SpaceX later countered this with a move to nullify the patent contesting that the science used on the patent was outdated given that the concept had been existing for some time now.

Musk, unveiling the Dragon V2 capsule in 2014. Photo: Screen grab from SpaceX Dragon V2 Unveil Event via YouTube

The Feud Going “Public”

With everything that has transpired between the two rivals, both executives seized every opportunity to take digs with each other at the social media platform, with Twitter as their battleground of choice. Musk has famously trolled Bezos calling him a “copycat” when Amazon announced its internet-beaming satellites and the acquisition of self-driving taxi, Zoox.

In 2019, Musk delivered another punch when Bezos unveiled Blue Origin’s concept for a lunar-landing vehicle called “Blue Moon.” Adding insult to injury, Musk mocked up a screenshot of a New York Times article that changed “Blue Moon” to “Blue Balls.” Bezos, however, has been less vocal with his aversion towards Musk but has left veiled comments on the SpaceX founder’s dream to colonize Mars.

The salty exchange of tweets from the two doesn’t end with their pursuits of space exploration. Musk nudged Bezos and called Amazon a “monopoly.” He asks for the company to break up after rejecting to publish an author who was a coronavirus skeptic.

Continuing the Race to the Stars 

Despite the two rivals’ differences, they continued to work on their space tech projects. May 2020 was historic for SpaceX as they successfully launched two astronauts in space. They later collaborated with NASA in sending four astronauts to the International Space Station, marking the company’s first “operational” human spaceflight. With these exciting developments happening in space exploration, both companies are busy at work in drafting their lunar lander designs for NASA for a mission to return humans to the moon by 2024. 

But amidst the drama involving two of the world’s most brilliant CEOs, sportsmanship still seems to exist. SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft launch test garnered praise from Musk’s rival, Bezos, as seen on his Instagram post accompanying a photo of the said rocket. 


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A post shared by Jeff Bezos (@jeffbezos)

Only time will tell how things will turn out between this ongoing saga between the two tech powerhouses as they venture to greater things in the future. For now, we can just enjoy their amusing interactions as they battle it out in vying for the top spot.


Featured photo credits: Wired


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