Blue Origin flight one small step for Jeff Bezos, one giant leap for memekind

Jeff Bezos’s suborbital joy ride lasted less than 11 minutes on Tuesday, but it launched dozens upon dozens of memes — and some pointed criticism. 

The former Amazon
CEO and five passengers made history by crewing the first manned flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft, which rocketed about 65 miles above the surface of the Earth — the highest that a commercial space flight has flown — before landing back at Blue Origin’s West Texas facility. 

“It’s amazing! You know, there are no words,” Bezos, 57, said on MSNBC afterward. “It was a perfect mission.” 

It was also a perfect opportunity for the Twitterverse to engage in some lighthearted teasing — as well as some more biting critiques about the billionaire space race, and the quality of life for Amazon workers. 

While Bezos’s name, Blue Origin, and passenger Wally Funk — a trailblazing aviator who became the oldest person to reach space at the age of 82 — all trended on Google
and Twitter
throughout Tuesday morning, a few other related terms began popping up, as well.

Wealthy “Austin Powers” supervillain Dr. Evil also trended on Twitter with more than 2,000 tweets, with some users likening Bezos’s appearance to that of the bald baddie played by Mike Myers in the spy spoof franchise. So there were plenty of memes and screen grabs of Dr. Evil being passed around. 

Some also referred to the “Austin Powers” films to comment on the suggestive shape of the New Shepard. 

Bezos’s ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, was also trending with around 2,000 tweets as some viewers either amused themselves with what she was feeling about her former spouse leaving the planet — or, comparing the billions she has donated to charity since the divorce with Bezos’s investments into his space project or the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. 

Others took the opportunity to take shots at the backlash Amazon has received about the treatment of its warehouse workers and delivery drivers, such as reports that they are not allowed to take bathroom breaks and have been forced to pee in bottles. Amazon has also been accused of mistreating workers by forcing them to work long hours below a living wage to fulfill all of those Amazon orders, as well as union busting. Indeed, Amazon workers in Germany went on strike last month — on the beginning of Amazon Prime Day — to demand a wage increase.

Opinion: Dear Amazon: We love you, but you’ve got a problem

From the archives: Amazon warehouse workers, fearful of wasting time, relieved themselves in bottles: undercover investigator

Meanwhile, a couple of irreverent petitions calling for Bezos to stay in space had collected more than 186,000 signatures in total as of Tuesday morning. 

Regardless of what Twitter had to say about Blue Origin’s historic trip, Bezos was ecstatic throughout the roughly 11-minute flight and after touching back down to Earth. He also expressed a renewed commitment to addressing climate change and protecting the planet now that he’s seen it from space. 

“You can’t imagine how thin the atmosphere is when you see it from space,” he told MSNBC. “For me, it reinforces my commitment to climate change, to the environment.” 

And one of his biggest space tourism competitors also shared his congratulations on Tuesday. Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin Galactic
who made his own trip to suborbital space just last week, tweeted, “Well done,” and called the launch “Impressive!”  

Curious about how the Branson and Bezos flights compare? Here’s how the Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin launches match up.

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