back to article No wonder Bezos wants to move industry into orbit: In space, no one can hear you* scream

Amazon, a gigantic cloud provider with a department store in the basement, is having a crazy news week. Here's a quick summary. Bezos goes full 'Outer Worlds' Amazon's zillionaire supremo Jeff Bezos says that the future of manufacturing and materials processing is in spaaaace. Speaking to a crowd at the San Diego Air and …

  1. IGotOut

    McAffe is in the office waiting for you Mr Bezos

    So the way to save the Earth is to move heavy industry to the moon?

    We ship about 500 tonnes of materials and parts every week. Remind me how that is going to be MORE environmental friendly by using bloody great rockets.

    I think he has the Moon mixed up with Cloud Cuckoo Land, which seems a lot closer to home.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Today that is perfectly true, and even reusable rockets will be a great burden on Earth ecology and economy.

      With some future technology available, Earth would likely benefit from having all heavy industry removed from its surface. Mining operations would take place in the asteroid belt anyway, processed minerals would be shipped to the Moon and used there, and needed items could then be deposited back on Earth.

      That is how it is going to have to be for Earth's climate to stop suffering. Well, that and shutting down most of the electricity generators based on coal and replacing them with generators based on thorium.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

        You'd have to get some kind of scifi anti-gravity device or engine to make moving heavy industry (and don't forget, moving the products of heavy industry back to Earth) into space workable. It would have to be something nearly on the scale of what you see in Star Wars, where you have hundreds or thousands of meters-long ships able to take off from an earth surface loading facility into orbit, seemingly without emitting huge amounts of exhaust or even heat. Even if you had chemical rockets that were 4X or 5X more efficient than the ones we have now, the cost of lifting a world-class steel mill, with all its furnaces, fuel, rolling machinery, controls, personnel, housing, food and air for the personnel, automation, emissions gear, raw materials, lubricants, the general structure the factory would sit in and so on would easily outweigh the entirety of everything mankind has ever sent into orbit, much less to the moon or some asteroid. And that is just for one steel mill.

        Space elevators are interesting, if they can be made to work. But considering that they rely on a tens-of-thousands mile long cable or ribbon of nearly unbreakable material for the elevator to climb up and down, you would need lots of landbased sites. Plus sabotage or failure of the cable would cause this cable to collapse and snake across the earths surface at hundreds of miles per hour, which could saw anyone or anything it hits in half in the process.

        1. cdegroot

          No Sci-Fi needed

          I am not a celestial mechanics specialist, but as far as I understand it, it'll work with little energy because you're going down, gravity-wise - first from the very low gravity of the asteroid field to the low gravity of the moon, and then all you need to do from there is to drop finished product down to earth.

          Compare the massive Saturn V rocket needed to get the Apollo capsule from Earth to Moon, and the tiny little rocket engine that got said capsule back again. I think that for a factory-style setup, you can just do some electromagnetic catapult on the moon and stuff will just drop to Earth for free.

          1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: No Sci-Fi needed

            Will it drop to Earth accurately? And without burning up? And at an impact speed less than 20K milles per hour?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: No Sci-Fi needed

              And without burning up? And at an impact speed less than 20K milles per hour?

              Meh, just use more bubble wrap. It'll still be better than DHL.

              1. halibut

                Re: No Sci-Fi needed

                The real question is. Will they still be able to launch the parcel through my second floor window?

                https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-49398068

            2. OssianScotland Silver badge
              Holmes

              Re: No Sci-Fi needed

              Heinlein had it sussed for the first two, although I think the last was probably somewhat higher than 20K (and what is that in proper units, please?)

              Icon - Mike, obviously (or his brother)

              1. Evil Scot
                Gimp

                Re: No Sci-Fi needed

                That other woman is strict.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: No Sci-Fi needed

              More importantly, what elevator music will they be playing?

              1. herman Silver badge

                Re: No Sci-Fi needed

                ...and will the elevator doors sigh contentedly when they open and close?

                1. OssianScotland Silver badge

                  Re: No Sci-Fi needed

                  Only when going sideways

                2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: No Sci-Fi needed

                  They'll just go and hide in the basement.

          2. Schultz
            Boffin

            "it'll work with little energy because you're going down, gravity-wise"

            Breaking an orbiting object (e.g., to bring an asteroid down towards the earth orbit around the sun) costs as much energy as accelerating it. We are spoiled on earth, because friction slows things down to quite reasonable velocities. In space, things move fast and you need lots of energy to change those velocities; it doesn't matter if you go up or down.

            Like so many science fiction ideas, Bezo's idea makes perfect sense if you assume infinite available energy that can be flexibly deployed. Just build things in space, why not? But earth is quite unique in offering a few billion years of stored photosynthetic (fossil) energy up for grabs -- plus that fossil fuel is a great resource to make stuff (look up how we make our metal alloys, cement, plastics -- it all involves coal, oil, and natural gas). Also we have that nice incremental yearly photosynthesis we use to grow our food. Take all that away and things get quite difficult.

            1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: "it'll work with little energy because you're going down, gravity-wise"

              Breaking an orbiting (or arriving) object costs very little.

              Braking it, on the other hand, yes that needs as much energy as getting the thing up to speed in the first place.

            2. Luke McCarthy

              Re: "it'll work with little energy because you're going down, gravity-wise"

              At least in space you have uninterrupted (and unfiltered by atmosphere) solar power, assuming you keep out of the shadow of a planet or other large object.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "it'll work with little energy because you're going down, gravity-wise"

                In orbit you could have uninterrupted solar... but is that even worth it? Someone did the math on orbital microwave emitted power (beam it back down to earth), and turns out, it's kinda pointless.

            3. Brangdon

              Re: Breaking an orbiting object

              > Breaking an orbiting object (e.g., to bring an asteroid down towards the earth orbit around the sun) costs as much energy as accelerating it.

              You can use Earth's atmosphere to slow it down. Or Mars', if you are shipping there. SpaceX Starship plans to lose 99% of its delta-v by aerobraking during Mars descent.

              > infinite available energy

              That's pretty much the case in space. Vast energy from the sun, with no clouds or night time to interrupt it. Either use directly with mirrors to concentrate it, or else create electricity via solar panels. Either way, in space you can build fast structures without them needing to support their own weight against gravity. Transport is cheap because there is no friction in vacuum.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Breaking an orbiting object

                "or else create electricity via solar panels"

                You might be able to do this for "stationary" sites but it's less viable at mars orbit and virtually unusable at the asteroid belt - which is where all the raw materials are.

                Transport might well be cheap and easy for robots but moving people around in reasonable time is going to require something between 2-20TW of _continuous_ thrust systems (this was calculated by various folks analysing "The Expanse") or the life support load is going to overwhelm your other requirements. People are fragile.

          3. Trollslayer Silver badge

            Re: No Sci-Fi needed

            You need to get materials and other things up there.

            1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

              Re: No Sci-Fi needed

              @Trollslayer

              Get the materials and other things "up there"? Let's look at what that really involves.

              Let's consider my hypothetical space-based steel mill. OK, we locate the mill on the Moon or an asteroid with a large iron deposit nearby. So the immense amount of iron ore a large steel mill requires over its lifetime is taken out of the equation. A steel mill that size requires millions, maybe tens of millions of tons of coking coal over its lifespan, and there are no dead dinosaurs and forests in space, so all that coal needs to be lifted off the earth and delivered to this mill. The mill will require smaller amounts of other metals to make various purpose-specific steel alloys that the market will require, so those other metals have to be sent up or found and processed at other sites in space and sent to this mill. A large steel mill requires hundreds of thousands of tons of various lubricants to protect the steel during the rolling and pressing processes, protect the rolling and pressing machinery and protect the steel after production and during distribution from the mill. Again, no dead dinosaurs in space, so all those lubricants have to be lifted off the Earth. You'll also need mining machinery and all the associated structure and specific equipment for the iron mine you are running next to the steel mill. You'll need a large energy source for the mill, so a very large solar farm with all the equipment and controls that requires.

              The mill will be located in space, so it will require durable, precision-built, vacuum and radiation-proof structures for the mill and worker housing that needs to hold up for lets say the 40 or 50 year lifespan of the plant. Can all that be built in space? The plant will require electronics for controls and automation, so you unless you have a multipurpose microprocessor foundry, general electronics manufacturing and assembly, and purpose-specific industrial automation and controls factories in space, that has to be lifted off the Earth. Modern smelting furnaces and steel rolling and pressing equipment are fairly fine-tolerance equipment these days, so they can't be built by some mechanical generalist in orbit, so much of that machinery that is vital to the mill will need to be lifted off the Earth. Food and oxygen for the workers and their families can be grown or chemically extracted in space, but then you need more durable, precision built structures to protect the farms over their lifespan and specialized mineral processing/separating equipment that might need to be lifted off the Earth in large part.

              You can do what some people in this thread have suggested. Grab some mineral-rich asteroids and then build a combination of a few rather small space-based machine shops along with bus-sized robotic extraction and processing units. Then those facilities are used to build a second generation of larger, more specialized robots and manufacturing facilities. Then the second generation builds an even larger third generation and so on, until you do have a lot of the myriad space-based specialized production plants that can make a lot of the equipment and materials that our space-based steel mill and its workforce and supply chain will require. However, that progression will take generations to achieve if we have to use chemical rockets to get everything required to this asteroid parking area/industrial park in space.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: No Sci-Fi needed

                "A steel mill that size requires millions, maybe tens of millions of tons of coking coal over its lifespan,"

                I take your point and wholeheartedly agree, but do you really think a space based steel refinery will be using coke? I'd have though solar or nuclear would make way more sense. I'm sure cleverer people than me will be able to come up with new ways to process ores in space, possibly in vacuum conditions and little or no gravity. Unless someone invents the Spindizzy and just ships the whole of Pittsburgh up there!

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: No Sci-Fi needed

                  "Steel". Still need a BIG carbon source for the metal... not just the energy.

                  1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                    Re: No Sci-Fi needed

                    Just grab a carbonaceous asteroid and break it up, energy is free for the taking from the sun.

                2. Marketing Hack Silver badge

                  Re: No Sci-Fi needed

                  @John Brown

                  The coking coal is not to fuel the smelting process, but to provide carbon to bond with the iron to make the steel.

          4. macjules Silver badge

            Re: No Sci-Fi needed

            DPD:”Sorry you weren’t in. We left your package at your nearest Amazon collection point on Tranquillity”

            1. LDS Silver badge

              Re: No Sci-Fi needed

              Don't tell me they repurposed the LM descent stage as an Amazon Locker!

          5. TechnicalBen Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: No Sci-Fi needed

            "I am not a celestial mechanics specialist"

            "[then goes on to spout magic and dreams]".

            Well, yes, you proved that point.

            On a side note, the "smaller" return craft, was because *they dumped the Saturn V before getting to the moon!* If you are returning from the moon only, then yes, it's a smaller craft, that's *one way*. Likewise, a one way to the moon is smaller than the Saturn V, possibly Space X could do it with their current Falcon in a single config for landing only. Yes, the gravity from on the moon is less. But you are not saving enough to make it economical to get it off the planet in the first place, unless you have fusion engines, etc, at which point, most "polluting" industry could be cleaned up for close to free.

          6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: No Sci-Fi needed

            "...and then all you need to do from there is to drop finished product down to earth."

            It all sounds so simple. Should we start with a few tons of Unobtanium and see how that goes?

            1. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge

              Re: No Sci-Fi needed

              Dropping things down to the surface would be a perfect job for something a la the space shuttle(or rather one of the few jobs that makes sense for it). Modern materials would reduce the dry mass, so a much smaller(and safer) rocket setup could do the job of getting it back up for another round.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: No Sci-Fi needed

                "Dropping things down to the surface would be a perfect job for something a la the space shuttle"

                If you're only going one way, then an inflatable shield makes things easier. This was posited as a astronaut rescue pods back in Dyna-Soar days and NASA's been playing with it again more recently.

                https://www.nasa.gov/centers/wallops/irve.html - there's another link showing the test but the youtube video of the rentry has gone away. - that test had a 3 metre inflatable for a 25cm lump of concrete test article. and it worked perfectly.

                By making the shield a LOT larger than the object that's returning the thermal loading can be reduced so much that ablative or other special stuff isn't needed.

                https://newatlas.com/nasa-irve-3-inflatable-reentry-system/22974/ - You can see the conceptual size of the shield here compared to the capsule in the middle

        2. Filippo

          The way to do this would be to start by lifting some small-scale multi-purpose manufacturing capability equivalent to a small workshop, as well as dragging a suitable small asteroid into orbit. Mine it and use the output to make larger machinery. Eventually, you'll have enough output to start making stuff for Earth; dropping it down the well is vastly cheaper than lifting, energetically speaking. Yes, the time-scale is in the order of decades; that's fine. We'd start on this now if we had the ability to make plans further in the future than one election cycle.

          Directly lifting industrial-scale structures is nuts, nobody is proposing that.

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Starting small and incrementing is certainly the way to do it.

            the problem is when you need to deliver anything to earth, because it will take a lot of energy to decelerate to a velocity low enough to not destroy the goods.

            Of course you could move large portions of industry-to-industry bits to space, for example all server chips, memory, bits-and-bobs could be manufactured in space for datacenters in LEO and transmitting data wirelessly. The whole cloud, so to speak, being actually in (above) the clouds.

            But user terminals would still need to be either made on earth or landed gently from space. Same for cars, trains / ships and rail / harbour infrastructure, buildings and roads etc.

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              the problem is when you need to deliver anything to earth, because it will take a lot of energy to decelerate to a velocity low enough to not destroy the goods.

              You don't need to add energy to decelerate, subtracting the energy by aerobraking in the atmosphere will do very nicely.

          2. herman Silver badge

            So, how do you propose to make steel in a vacuum and without anthracite?

            1. Filippo

              I have no idea, but that's not really the point. You don't have to move *the entirety* of heavy industry in order for this to make sense.

              If there are some industries that just don't work in space, then keep them on Earth and/or only move to space the bare minimum you need to build and service machinery.

              Ultimately, you just need to move enough to make the off-planet system economically workable. After that, there will be a very strong incentive to figure out how to make more stuff in a vacuum (because, barring sci-fi new tech, shipping stuff upwell is never going to be really cheap), so chances are that the system will grow by itself, and relieve pressure on Earth by doing so.

            2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              So, how do you propose to make steel in a vacuum and without anthracite?

              Does it really have to be anthracite or will any other form of more or less pure carbon also suffice?

              Don't bother replying, that was a rhetorical question, breaking up a couple of carbonaceous asteroids will provide sufficient pure carbon to make as much steel as you wish.

        3. SundogUK Bronze badge

          Obviously you don't ship the steel mill off Earth. You build it in space to begin with.

        4. Mog_X

          If Amazon are involved, I guess that food and air for the personnel would be the least of their concerns....

        5. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Space launch technologies

          If you have electricity being generated via MSRs (Thorium fuelled - probably LTFR) then you have enough energy to make rocket fuel from water and atmospheric carbon.

          The good thing about this notion is that LFTR technology is more than hot enough to use the Haber process to produce hydrogen from water rather than relying on inefficient low temperature electrolysis and the same heat makes it easy to tack on carbon atoms to make methane or longer chain molecules.

          If you don't want to use rockets, the most viable of the "we can do it now" technologies is a Lofstrom Loop, but it'd still be a massive engineering undertaking and you'd need to ensure a MASSIVE body of water to act as heat dump if things went wrong.

      2. AndrueC Silver badge
        Happy

        Or we could do the even more sensible thing and migrate human civilisation into space. Earth could then become a leisure world or perhaps allowed to lie fallow and recover, perhaps one day in the distant future spawning another intelligence.

        1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

          just ship out the poor people, everything will be wonderful then...

          .. might need to let some back in to mix drinks and mow lawns - robots just cant get them quite right.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I read a statistic somewhere that suggested you could fit the world's population in the grand canyon.

            Why not ship them there? It's cheaper.

            If we only have to put the poor there it won't be cramped...will it?

            The least we can do is stay away to give them more room.

        2. Mike 137 Bronze badge

          Not a new idea

          Larry Niven's 1974 essay "Bigger than worlds" postulates various (albeit essentially impractical) options for this with the tacit assumption that alternative planets will not serve the purpose. In the intervening years we've essentially confirmed this as they're all either inhospitable (Mars) or much too far away.

          There are also two big problems about the whole idea. One - the cost of setting up a robust sustainable ecosystem in space would be so great we'd probably deplete the Earth's resources just doing it (and you do need an ecosystem - domes and an Earth to space supply chain alone are not enough), and two - in the words of Niven "The more thoroughly we control our environment, the more dangerous it is to forget it".

          Quite apart from which, moving like locusts to another place because we're wrecking Earth will likely result in us wrecking that as well, as it's the attitude that needs changing, not the place.

          1. Patrician

            Re: Not a new idea

            "Quite apart from which, moving like locusts to another place because we're wrecking Earth will likely result in us wrecking that as well, as it's the attitude that needs changing, not the place".

            You can't really wreck space, it's a little too big .....

            1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: Not a new idea

              Von Neumann and his machines will disagree with you there (do the math. ;) ).

              1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                Re: Not a new idea

                Von Neumann and his machines will disagree with you there (do the math. ;) ).

                And for a demonstration, you can go make some paperclilps ;)

          2. Filippo

            Re: Not a new idea

            "Quite apart from which, moving like locusts to another place because we're wrecking Earth will likely result in us wrecking that as well, as it's the attitude that needs changing, not the place."

            You say that as if anyone anywhere had any idea on how to actually accomplish that.

            I 100% believe that colonizing the Solar System is going to be easier than changing humanity's attitude towards sustainable usage of resources.

            Actually, I could easily be convinced that colonizing *other star systems* would be easier than that.

            If anyone comes up with a non-dystopic way to reliably get people to start behaving responsibly, by all means implement it. In the mean time, though, exploiting space will at least buy us time.

            Yeah, my support of space exploration is driven by pessimism, not by optimism.

          3. AndrueC Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Not a new idea

            One - the cost of setting up a robust sustainable ecosystem in space would be so great we'd probably deplete the Earth's resources just doing it.

            Why would we deplete the Earth's resources? There are far more resources in space and once you've established your basic mining technology it's easy to get them. You don't mine Earth to build space colonies. You mine space to build space colonies and eventually you'll be sending stuff back down to the poor saps still stuck at the bottom of a gravity well.

            Consider the term gravity well. We're currently stuck down here, with the whole universe out there. Sure it makes for a great nursery for primitive lifeforms but we are rapidly outgrowing it.

            "The more thoroughly we control our environment, the more dangerous it is to forget it".

            That I agree with. Probably that'll be the biggest long term risks. Human civilisations have collapsed in the past and will do so again. The one advantage a natural biosphere has is that a civilisation that collapses can still normally breath and grow food even if it forgets how to generate electricity.

            One of my favourite science-fiction stories is The Outcasts of Heaven's Belt which covers this scenario. It's a short read but atmospheric and thought provoking.

        3. VinceH
          Coat

          "perhaps one day in the distant future spawning another intelligence"

          Fixed it!

      3. phuzz Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Industry only makes up ~20% of CO2 emissions. Electricity/heat and agriculture both make up about 25% each, transportation makes up another ~15%.

        Possibly space based solar power could help with our power generation, but shifting industry isn't going to help much, especially as everyone else has pointed out, you still have to transport the parts and the results.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          See above. IIRC land based solar works out slightly cheaper/more reliable and less energy loss than orbital solar.

          Replacing everything with ground solar is a logistical problem, but (again IIRC) is "enough" power, as the sun's output and reach to the earth is astronomical (huh, see what I did there).

          Granted, I've not checked recently what that does to landscapes though. But as with all things, no magic bullet, just comprises.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Tigra 07 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: McAffe is in the office waiting for you Mr Bezos

      We should be all for this. We can make the moon a penal colony and exile Bezos to it.

    4. HamsterNet

      Re: McAffe is in the office waiting for you Mr Bezos

      Challenge accepted.

      Use Methane Oxygen fuel on a fully reusable rocket. As the Methane has to be Made and not from any natural as source (due to purity requirements). The methane is made using the Sabatier process from CO2, and Hydrogen from hydrolysis of Water. Which also generate the O2 needed.

      Powering this by solar panels and sourcing the CO2 from the air makes launches carbon neutral.

      Thus you can launch a rocket into space polluting less than the truck used to move the payload to the rocket.

  2. Christoph Silver badge
    Mushroom

    It makes delivery easier

    Your Amazon delivery will now arrive by re-entry capsule and parachute.

    Unless there's a slight error due to the workers having to pack the parachutes too quickly and your package arrives as a meteorite, leaving a crater where your house was.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: It makes delivery easier

      The cartoon series Questionable Content had the idea of pizzas from a space station being cooked by reentry heat. [The linked page and the next one.]

  3. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    Reminds me of Star Trek - Deep Space 9. I always wondered by they send rocks up to the space station to be processed by belligerent rebels when they could do it on the planet. Obviously the Cardassians were so eco-friendly (back in the early 90's) they just wanted to save Bajor.

    And yes, I'm also wondering if Jeff has been watching DS9 thinking it's a documentary.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      "I always wondered by they send rocks up to the space station to be processed by belligerent rebels"

      +1 for a DS 9 reference. But I doubt the ore came from Bajor, or the finished product went to Bajor. Most likely the rocks\ore came elsewhere and impulse engines seem to work for free...

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      On the other hand

      "Space: 1999", currently re-running, has a radioactive industrial accident on the Moon leading to it being flung off into space to have many rather grim adventures. The Earth is portrayed as having a grim time of it as well.

  4. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    FAIL

    Rocketry

    While we remain dependent on chemical rockets to escape Earth's (or any other body's) gravity, we will never be a space-faring civilization in any meaningful way. Unfortunately, there is nothing better yet, and even after 50+ years of sending humans into space, rockets are still temperamental and extremely expensive to launch.

    Until we focus more on the long game for humanity and less on petty disputes, we will be a home-planet bound race. And I really think that for a sentient species to truly evolve, it must at least partially leave the nest. (but it may just be all the science fiction I've read since I was a young teen talking)

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Rocketry

      I think the sci fi you have read is probably several magnitudes better than anything Bezos has been reading.

      I think on his part it is just wishful thinking to ship all the workers off planet and then build an Earth wide park serviced by Alexa and a few slave/servants.

      1. Mike 137 Bronze badge

        Re: Rocketry

        Actually it's probably just another plug to raise the stock price. None of this actually has to happen. By the time the idea's been scrapped, the majority shareholders will have made their killing and gone laughing to the bank.

      2. Uplink

        Re: Rocketry

        Reminds me of Manna by Marshall Brain https://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm so maybe Bezos read that and thought "what a wonderful idea"

    2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: "Nothing better".

      Different forms of fusion/fission are great for on planet... well, for definitions of "great".

      Ion/VASMIR and similar are great for in space... but you'd need said fusion/fission power sources.

      So, yeah, all in all, not really good for the environment. :P

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: "Nothing better".

        I favour some kind of launch loop. There's a few materials issues to resolve but it seems a clean and (as long as it doesn't fail) fairly safe way of doing it.

  5. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    G-whiz

    > move all of its heavy industry to ... the Moon

    But then it will be light industry, too!!

  6. chivo243 Silver badge

    100 full-time workers and x amount of y centers reporting

    There is the rub! If Amazon is like UPS, part-timers far out number full-timers(think full time benefits costs savings), so I doubt this stat is even close to being right. I'm sure the number of injuries\fatalities from the automated warehouses is much, much higher. Now I picture the dream Reece had in Terminator when he's sleeping in the stolen car by the construction site, human skulls being crushed by a track driven vehicle... I wonder if Jeff has trademarked the name SkyNet yet?

  7. JimPoak
    IT Angle

    Madness

    I know this this a bit of topic but could this be about tax. Amazon is not a manufacture of goods it's more like business that sells tat at a local market. Quotes from Apollo 13 "Jack, you'll be glad to hear that we've contacted President Nixon, and he's going to grant you an extension on your income taxes, since you are most decidedly out of the country". Is there is method in this madness?

  8. TonyJ Silver badge

    The space talk is interesting, but...

    ...what about the fact of almost 1 in 10 workers suffering serious injuries whilst working for this outfit and the apparent eagerness to cover up at least one death?

    We have sleep-walked into a society where we are accepting that our lives are meaningless to our corporate masters to the point it's amost like we've gone back to pre-Victorian times, and that is without the shitty tracking and selling of personal data:

    Zero hours contracts that amount to not much more than slavery

    Practices by various large companies that mean their staff actually end up on less than the minimum wage (bag searches, not being paid to drive between sites etc)

    Workers rights being eroded on a global basis - over xx? Time to go. What's that? No that isn't actually a contract you signed, so no commission for you, sorry-not-sorry. Being fired because you want to look at being in a union etc

    Losing your life whilst working for a company and it being actively covered up

    It's shocking in so many ways and you only have to look at the comments here to see it's become a side note - we'd rather discuss space elevators and mining asteroids.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: The space talk is interesting, but...

      US has always been against workers' rights. The Supreme Court often ruled against workers, and there are not strong laws protecting workers' basic rights. Companies can actively try to hinder unions. It's a not a surprise the new overlords are taking full advantage of it.

      In Germany, Amazon wasn't so lucky.

    2. batfink Silver badge

      Re: The space talk is interesting, but...

      I'm not sure what's worse here: ~10% of Amazon workers suffering serious injuries in a year, or the fact that the average rate seems to be 5%.

      I'm becoming gladder that I work in IT.

    3. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: The space talk is interesting, but...

      "what about the fact of almost 1 in 10 workers suffering serious injuries whilst working for this outfit"

      While Amazon look pretty bad based on that, I'm more surprised that the industry average still involves 4% of workers being seriously injured every year. I work at a facility with hundreds of employees, and thousands of visitors, containing all kinds of heavy machinery, high voltage equipment, biological and chemical hazards, radiation, and pretty much any kind of danger you can think of short of wild bears*. We get maybe one or two serious injuries per year, almost always things like heart attacks or people tripping over their laces; actual work-related injuries are rarely anything more than the odd cut finger.

      What the hell is going on in those warehouses to injure a significant proportion of their workforce every year? This doesn't sound like a problem with Amazon, it sounds like the entire industry is a complete mess in desperate need of proper regulation. People love to complain about health and safety going overboard, but this is exactly why it's needed.

      *A similar facility in Sweden does have potential bears as well.

      1. Krassi

        Re: The space talk is interesting, but...

        As comparison, for the UK, the "transport / storage" sector has 2.99 % reported work related illness and 1.86% reported injury rate. Like "Cuddles", my experience of working in a hazardous industry was that the vast majority of accidents by number were everyday hazards, not from the hazardous activities . Nr 1 in our case being homeward bound folk getting in their cars and crashing before even getting off site.

        http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/industry/

      2. herman Silver badge

        Re: The space talk is interesting, but...

        I looked at the stats and thought someone likely failed his first grade math.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The space talk is interesting, but...

        I used to work for an electric utility in <mumble> which had the following major hazards:

        12, 24, 69, and 138 thousand volt high tension lines

        Multiple very large steam turbogenerators, all of them built by British manufacturers which meant that most of them were no longer supported as the vendors no longer existed

        Crocodiles. Yes, seriously, crocodiles. Two major power stations were built in swamps because the land was cheap. The crocs liked the outflow from the cooling towers for the steam turbogenerators and were under the impression that they owned the place.

        Multiple gas turbine generators, used to get emergency power if a steam unit had an oopsie.

        Several hydro units.

        In 30 years there were four major accidents, one fatal. Someone did something silly with a 69 kilovolt line and burned his arms off but survived, someone annoyed one of the crocs and had parts of a leg removed, someone got in the way of a GT exhaust and had major burns plus broken bones when he got thrown 20 metres by the blast, and someone else did something else silly with a 24 kilovolt line and got very dead. There were a few near accidents with live steam from the steam units, particularly from the older steam units which were running only because the company workshop built parts for them, but no-one got seriously hurt. And one bright lad managed to nearly drown himself at a hydro station.

        What in Christ’s name is happing at Amazon that they have multiple serious accidents in a year?

        Of course I’m only counting company employees, not including people like the bright lad who attempted to put up a tv antenna right under a 69 kilovolt line. The burn mark left by vaporized copper was still visible on the building 20 years later, despite at least two repainting jobs. Or the gentlemen who threw some wires over a 24 kilovolt line to get power to play their radio while they fixed a truck. It turns out that steel burns nicely when hit by 24,000 volts at 50 amps.

        1. quxinot Silver badge

          Re: The space talk is interesting, but...

          I suspect they're substituting 'serious accidents' for 'lost time accidents'. If the doc says to take a day off, or says to wait to see a specialist (common for back injuries, for example), that's a lost time accident. If it's serious or not is entirely a different matter, but that's how the reporting structure is configured.

          When I worked in a warehouse for <various-non-Bezos-owned-companies> and had a minor tweak, I was very happy to have a day off. Thankfully I moved into a different field! Though I do wonder sometimes if I just traded physical stress for mental stress, and what damage that is slowly doing to my health.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re. the future of manufacturing is in space

    presumably, because

    1) no taxes

    2) cheap transport via uber "partnership"

    3) no taxes AND cheap transport via uber "partnership"

    4) no taxes, cheap transport to earth AND no friction, no gravity = less energy used to lift and drop pallets

    5) no no taxes, cheap transport to earth, no friction, no gravity and FREE SOLAR ENERGY

    6) now, if we could come up with a new and disruptive, cost-effective way to remove that friction on re-entry...

    1. Mike 137 Bronze badge

      Re: re. the future of manufacturing is in space

      "5) no no taxes, cheap transport to earth, no friction, no gravity and FREE SOLAR ENERGY"

      and worker disablement and death through bone mass degeneration and radiation exposure.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: re. the future of manufacturing is in space

        "workers"? what workers? I bet there'll be MILLIONS of people willing to actually pay HIM to get to work in space :(

    2. druck Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: re. the future of manufacturing is in space

      Forget workers in space, the cost of keeping air breathing meat bags alive causes even the lowliest minimum wage employee cost more than a C suite exec on earth. If anyone is going to be working in space factories, it will be robots.

    3. Roger Kynaston

      Re: re. the future of manufacturing is in space

      Uber!!!???

      2) cheap transport via uber "partnership"

      3) no taxes AND cheap transport via uber "partnership"

      I can just see Uber rockets - you hail them on an app and some clapped out repurposed SpaceX job arrives that has been fetched off the bottom of the seabed. Then the operator gives you a one star review because your payload was half a kilo more than you originally specified.

  10. jimmy-o

    What to do with all of last-year's iPhone 50s?

    It's $3 per kilo in electricity prices to get a kilo into orbit - that's very expensive garbage disposal. Or will the earth become an ever-growing pile of junk?

    Creating a circular economy sounds like a more viable focus.

    https://space.stackexchange.com/questions/4330/how-much-energy-is-required-to-put-1-kg-in-leo

    1. holmegm Bronze badge

      Re: What to do with all of last-year's iPhone 50s?

      "Or will the earth become an ever-growing pile of junk?"

      Like Deponia?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    50 years from now...

    ...at a garden party in a crater in someone's backyard.

    Guest: I see you use Amazon a lot. This is a big hole.

    Host: Not really. Sat nav sends the deliveries for the whole street to us for some reason. The black Friday deal on large fridges took its toll.

    ...meanwhile a few streets away...

    Postman: *whistling as he walks up the path to someone's front door*

    *a blazing pack of tampons hits him at terminal velocity in the back of the head, exploding his skull and knocks his corpse onto the doorbell*

    Tenant: *opens the door and walks onto the corpse to pick up the package* Honey your tampons have arrived...ouch it's hot, jesus...and the post is here! Jesus, more bills... *slams the door shut*

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: 50 years from now...

      That's either a massive pack of tampons, some very heavy tampons or an overuse of packaging material (since I'm pretty sure a standard box of tampons wouldn't have enough mass at terminal velocity to cause more damage than a mild concussion or possibly taking an eye out with the corner of the box.).

      The latest Amazon fire... Something though....

      1. quxinot Silver badge

        Re: 50 years from now...

        The tampons will be packaged in a durable, aerodynamic casing. The effect I'd imagine would be similar to what Parisians experienced in the early '40s....

        (Hopefully the tampons aren't the exploding prank style?)

        (Further, that's an example of an item that really, really does require waterproof packaging. )

  12. dnicholas Bronze badge

    In space, nobody can hear

    you pee your space pants

  13. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    "That’s the only way, really, to save this planet."

    What goes up, must come down. Or we put it on the moon. At which point, we've past "heavy industry", and already have fusion, and thus no need to "pollute".

    Tail wagging the dog. A lot of our problems are perspective, and if we change that, we realise the angle to succeed.

    See for example mobile phones and the internet, it was not making a larger suit case to carry a library, or putting more libraries everywhere, it was shrinking the library to a phone or using wireless communication.

    Likewise, pollution is generally an economical problem, not a technological one. It's nearly always more economical (in the short run, cutting costs) to "dump" any "waste", even if you had magic technology or were in space... it would still be cheaper to not go to space, and thus the "solution" would not be adopted. :(

  14. imanidiot Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Pull the other one...

    No light industry (or residential buildings) without the output of heavy industry. How the heck are you going to bring all that stuff to the surface? Millions of tons of steel and other products?

  15. JClouseau
    Facepalm

    Yay ! Let's use more resources !

    “You want a dynamic civilization that continues to use more and more energy and more and more resources and build amazing things"

    Sorry, no. Please call Greta for further details.

    While I kind of admire this guy for his achievements as an entrepreneur and did my share of shopping on Amazon in the past, I really don't like what he's become. Looks more and more like Brain from "Pinky and the Brain".

    No, no, it's my kids who watch that. Not me. I swear.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yay ! Let's use more resources !

      I think I understand, but where else but Amazon will we find rubber trousers in our size, Brain?

  16. jmch Silver badge

    Accidents

    "those lunar factories would be some 238,000 miles outside the jurisdiction of Earth's workers' compensation rules…"

    They would also be operating in a sixth of Earth's gravity, surely that would mimimise the accidents (or results thereof) greatly

    1. JClouseau

      Re: Accidents

      Yes, I thought about that too, but it would be just accidents of a different nature.

      I wouldn't like to be hit on the head by a 65" TV (curved or not) traveling at high velocity because an overly zealous colleague in the same warehouse alley wants to win the "fastest employee of the month" award.

    2. HamsterNet

      Re: Accidents

      Yes weight is less in lower gravity. Momentium is Exactly the same.

      But on the moon you can throw 100KG of mass at sombody accorss the room, whilst that woulnt pin them to the floor like on earth, it will hurt the same when it crashes into them.

  17. Flywheel Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Fantastic idea!

    If that means that we can get all the cheap Chinese crap that Amazon sells now made on the moon, or preferably some asteroid that has an orbit time of 25 years, we can get back to buying quality goods. All the crap can be blasted off to Uranus. Either that, or just drop it back to earth where it can thankfully burn up in reentry.

  18. Bunker_MonkeyUK
    Alien

    Everyone appears to have forgotten about one thing....

    Our alien friends who already have eco-friendly anti-gravity engines and such......

  19. Torchy

    Think: Gold Foundries.

    Yes, I agree Jeff.

    The gold foundries that you rely upon and all the pollution that goes with them would be best off on the Moon.

  20. Aussie Doc
    Coat

    Yeah, sure.

    Bet my product would still be late and there'll be a ticket in the letterbox saying it has to be picked up from the Post Office.

    Looking for the ticket ------->

  21. Paul 195
    WTF?

    What about the workers?

    99 comments on Bezos' implausible ideas about space, and nothing about his appalling attitudes toward worker safety. Or the fact that Amazon is apparently big enough to suborn the inspectorates meant to keep them safe. You don't need a good day to bury bad news, just a shiny object.

  22. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    Quite right, Earth is for billionaires only

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