The excess of space tourism

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

The Blogs in Space post earlier this week clearly begged for a humorous Pigs in Space reference but it would have been a forced. Leave it to the opinionated writers at the oldest continuously running magazine in the United States to put it out there – and not in a nice way.

The writers at the Nation pull no punches. In a post to the magazine's blog, Richard Kim figuratively tears a strip from billionaire space tourist Charles Simonyi, mocking his extravagant lifestyle and lambasting him – and others like him – for failing to use their wealth in loftier pursuits.

Simonyi … paid $20 million to be escorted to the Kazakh steppes, packed into a Russian Soyuz rocket and blasted towards the international space station. En route, he'll enjoy a meal of roasted quail, duck breast confit with capers, shredded chicken parmentier and rice pudding with candied fruit -- all carefully selected by his girlfriend, Martha Stewart. (Martha, whatever happened to astronaut ice cream and Tang?) No word yet on the threadcount of his sheets or if there's 24-hour concierge service in orbit.

He continues:

Simonyi's spending habits are a window into how the world's wealthiest citizens consume and contribute.…For each act of noblesse oblige, there's an extravagance. In Simonyi's case, not only is he the 5th space tourist ever, he also owns the world's 39th largest yacht, which is so big that one could, as Power and Motoryacht Magazine tell us, "easily mistake her for a military vessel."

If the rich and superrich gave away at morally responsible and entirely reasonable rates …wealthy Americans could generate $808 billion [US] annually for global development -- six times more than what the UN estimates it needs to meet its Millennium Development Goals and 16 times more than the shortfall between what's needed and what donor nations currently contribute.

But that might mean giving up duck confit in outer space.

Ouch. Maybe someone should tell Bill Gates and Richard Branson about this.