‘Whitey on the Moon’ poem garners social media attention on anniversary of moon landing, Bezos’s spaceflight

Jeff Bezos space flight on Blue Origin rocket.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket takes off on July 20, 2021 with Jeff Bezos on board.

  • Billionaire Jeff Bezos launched into space on Tuesday, the anniversary of the 1969 moon landing.
  • Gil Scott-Heron, the revolutionary poet and soul artist, released “Whitey on the Moon” in 1970.
  • The poem resurfaced on social media in response to the billionaire space race.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Gil Scott-Heron’s poem “Whitey on the Moon” has been used in the past to critique the space race. And the 1970 poem resurfaced this week in response to the recent influx of billionaires launching into the lower regions of space.

On the anniversary of the 1969 moon landing on Tuesday, Jeff Bezos, former Amazon CEO, founder of space company Blue Origin, and wealthiest man in the world, spent a total of 10 minutes and 10 seconds in space alongside his brother, an 18-year-old, and an 82-year-old passenger, according to The Associated Press.

Billionaire Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic, took to the sky nine days prior with two pilots, Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci.

Scott-Heron, best known for his song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” released “Whitey on the Moon” in 1970 following the 1969 moon landing.

The People’s City Council in Los Angeles posted a video of the artist, who referred to himself as a “bluesologist,” reciting the poem on Tuesday in response to Bezos and Branson’s ventures into space. The tweet went viral, receiving more than 5,600 likes, and it was shared more than 2,400 times.

The 2-minute spoken-word piece references the financial struggles faced by Scott-Heron’s family, including their inability to afford medical bills for his sister as described in the lines:

A rat done bit my sister Nell

(With whitey on the moon)

Her face and arms began to swell

(And whitey’s on the moon)

I can’t pay no doctor bills

(But whitey’s on the moon)

Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still

(While whitey’s on the moon)

The poet also mentions his struggle to pay for basic necessities of survival such as food and rent amid rising prices, saying taxes are taking his “whole damn check.”

The piece became increasingly relevant to the modern-day, as social media users pointed out the ethical concerns of billionaires focusing their money on spaceflights – rather than helping those in need on earth.

“My first thought with all these space exploration by billionaires,” one user tweeted in response to the viral video.

Watch the spoken-word poem here:

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Jeff Bezos shares video of Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old who will fly with him and become the youngest person to go to space

oliver daemen
Oliver Daemen, 18, will fly to space with billionaire Jeff Bezos on Tuesday.

  • Jeff Bezos shared a video to Instagram on Sunday sharing more information about 18-year-old Oliver Daemen.
  • Daemen will join Bezos on Blue Origin’s New Shepard on Tuesday when it flys to the edge of space.
  • Daemen will be the youngest person to ever fly to space and says he feels a “responsibility” to get young people interested in space.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos on Sunday shared a short video to Instagram introducing his followers to 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who will join him on his voyage to the edge of space on Blue Origin’s New Shephard Tuesday.

Daemen was selected to join the space flight when the anonymous person who bid $28 million to take the flight pulled out due to “scheduling conflicts.” Daemen is Blue Origin’s first paying customer, having bid for the seat during the June auction.

“I think it’s the ultimate dream for so many people to go to space,” Daemen, who will become the youngest person to travel to space, said in the video.

He said his first memories of spaces were watching the TV show “Thunderbirds,” an apparent reference to a British sci-fi show from the 1960s.

A post shared by Jeff Bezos (@jeffbezos)

Daemen will travel to space with Bezos, Bezos’ brother Mark, famed aviator 82-year-old Wally Funk, and the New Shephard flight crew.

“It’s so cool to go to with this group because Wally’s one of the best pilots ever and has such an amazing life story,” Daemen said in the video.

He also called Bezos “one of the best businessmen ever and a great visionary.”

“I feel a responsibility because I’m the youngest in space,” he said. “And to get more people interested in space, and not even just space – but science -will be such an opportunity for me to do.

“When I touch down and get out of the vehicle. I think I’ll be just speechless,” he added.

Bezos and his fellow soon-to-be astronauts have begun training for their suborbital flight on Blue Origin’s New Shepard, Blue Origin officials said at a press conference Sunday. Officials said the New Shephard rocket showed “no issues” and is ready for the July 20 launch.

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Jeff Bezos and his fellow Blue Origin astronauts have started training for Tuesday’s space flight. ‘New Shepard is ready to fly,’ the company said.

A composite of jeff bezos and the new shepard rocket taking off.
Jeff Bezos (left) is set to launch aboard the New Shepard rocket (right) on July 20.

  • Jeff Bezos and his fellow soon-to-be astronauts have begun training for their suborbital flight on Blue Origin’s New Shepard.
  • Bezos will fly to the edge of space with his brother, Mark, 82-year-old Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Oliver Daeman.
  • The rocket has undergone necessary safety checks and is ready to go, Blue Origin officials said Sunday.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his fellow astronauts have started the training process ahead of their flight to the edge of space on Tuesday, Blue Origin officials announced at a press conference Sunday, two days ahead of the launch.

The process for Bezos, who founded Blue Origin in 2000, and the other astronauts involves two full days of “very concise training,” said Ariane Cornell, the director of astronaut and orbital sales at Blue Origin.

Bezos and his fellow soon-to-be space travelers all met each other in West Texas within the past 48 hours, Cornell said. They are currently staying at an astronaut village not far from the launch site, she added.

The anonymous person whose $28 million bid won a seat on what will be Blue Origin’s first manned flight had “scheduling conflicts” and will not be on the New Shepherd flight when it launches this week.

Instead, Bezos will travel to space with the ship’s crew, his brother, Mark Bezos, 84-year-old aviator Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who replaced the top bidder. The New Shepard flight will make history, bringing aboard the youngest and oldest-ever US astronauts.

The New Shepard will travel to the imaginary boundary 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level known as the Kármán line, where experts say space begins, as Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen previously reported. Passengers are expected to experience weightlessness and views of the Earth below them for about three minutes.

The flight will come less than two weeks after another billionaire founder of a space company, Richard Branson, flew to the edge of space with three crewmates. The Virgin Galactic space plane reached 55 miles above Earth then landed safely.

The ship rocket had undergone necessary safety checks and has “no issues,” Blue Origin officials said. New Shepard has flown successfully 15 times since 2015, but never with people onboard.

Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said Sunday the company hopes to reuse the New Shepherd rocket for a flight carrying paying passengers either in late September or early October.

The spacecraft is fully autonomous and has an escape system that is designed to jettison passengers away from the ship in case of emergency.

“We are not currently working on any open issues, and New Shepard is ready to fly,” said Steve Lanius, the flight director for the Tuesday voyage.

While rain and thunderstorms are predicted for the West Texas area where the rocket will launch, officials at the press conference Sunday said they expected the weather to be clear for the scheduled liftoff at 8 a.m. local time. They said they’d launch weather balloons Monday and again on Tuesday to ensure that conditions were ideal.

There will be no spectators permitted near the launch site Tuesday morning because the facility lacked the infrastructure to handle them, Cornell said. Instead, the best way to watch is through Blue Origin’s live stream of the launch, she said.

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