Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Each Friday, we bring you an article from our archives to propel you into the weekend.

Earlier this week, Jeff Bezos, the soon-to-be-ex-CEO of Amazon and the richest man in the world, said he would be blasting himself into space. Okay! Sure. Also, why? But mainly: Go for it. The new, brawny Bezos will be on board the inaugural flight of his space company: Blue Origin. He will spend three minutes in outer space without a pilot.

Bezos is not alone in being into space. Other ultrawealthy tech folk like it too. Elon Musk is trying to make rockets. Richard Branson is into private space rockets. And the new king of SPACS, Chamath Palihapitiya, convinced people to buy into Branson’s Virgin Galactic space tourism business with a bravado pitch about the stars. (Branson is reportedly fighting Bezos to get to space faster.)

This might lead you to a simple question: What’s up with these dudes and space?

I think Fred Turner, a professor at Stanford and the author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, carves a helpful path to perhaps understand the space-obsessed tech rich. In his essay “Machine Politics” for Harper’s (and, yeah, in that mouthful of a book title, too), Turner shows the unique blend of Bay Area aesthetics and Silicon Valley money. The acid and hippies found capitalism and started Apple, in a way.

For techies, this gives a conscious capitalism sheen—an against-the-grain edge—to the big money. That’s been hard to grasp in recent years as it’s become more obvious that tech is just money stacking itself up in a new way. Still, the ethos is important. If you’re a tech lord, and you buy the narrative—disruptor!—you can see how space travel and using your massive wealth do it would be a fixation.

Because you know who loved space too? Timothy Leary.

In a fascinating piece from one of our 1976 issues, writer Don Goldsmith follows Leary as the acid-making man talks about blasting himself up into the stars for space colonization. Here’s how Leary is introduced:

The man’s name is Timothy Leary. Berkeley made him a Ph.D., Harvard a professor, LSD an ex-professor, the media a devil, the government a convict, prison a space-oriented philosopher.

This piece is sort of Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test as Apollo 11 and then devolves into listing why people want to go to space. It’s cool. It also offers a dive into the hippie culture that would come to affect the tech folk directly. Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog—a text that would underpin the fantasy of scientific utopianism that fueled Silicon Valley’s mythos—is mentioned as one of the people pushing for space colonization along with Leary.

Go read the whole piece about Goldsmith attending a meeting in Berkeley for the Network, Leary’s space mission—named “Starseed Seminar #1: S.M.I.2L.E. (S.M.I.2L.E. = Space Migration+ Intelligence Increase+Life Extension)”—here.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate