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Who paid $28 million for 11 minutes in heaven with Jeff Bezos?

June 14, 2021, 10:44 PM UTC

Jeff Bezos’s rocket company, Blue Origin, this weekend auctioned off a spot on its first manned spaceflight. For $28 million, the big spender will have the distinct pleasure of blasting off this planet with its sometime-richest human. (Bezos’s brother and a fourth unnamed astronaut will also be aboard.)

Last week we speculated about what the psychological effect of that experience might be on Bezos—outgoing Amazon CEO, Washington Post owner, and recent subject of a hilarious electronic ode by comedian Bo Burnham. Now we at Data Sheet are wondering about the answer to a different question: Who on Earth won 11 minutes in heaven with Bezos?

Here is my shortlist of possibilities. (I have zero inside knowledge of the matter.)

1. Justin Sun, founder of crypto project Tron

Over the past year, many fortunes have been made on the rocket-like rise of Bitcoin. So, my money is on Justin Sun, a Chinese crypto entrepreneur known for flashy marketing stunts, being the secret bidder. He earlier shelled out $4.6 million to share a meal with the famously crypto-averse, all-time-great investor Warren Buffett. Earlier this year, he also bid a couple million on Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first-ever tweet. Why not bid on a date with Bezos too?

2. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

Okay, allow me to explain: In the bizarre world of cryptocurrency riches, there’s this concept of a DAO—a so-called decentralized autonomous organization—which is basically a group of crypto token-holders who hang out online. Recently, people have been pooling capital together through DAOs to snatch up pricey NFT artworks, like this $5.4 million piece proffered by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. If I were part of a DAO, you can be sure as heck I would have lobbied to secure a seat on the Blue Origin’s New Shepherd crew capsule so that my friends and I could offer it to someone like antitrust hellfire preacher Sen. Elizabeth Warren, just for kicks. (Sure, I might have a little bit of troll in me.)

3. Neil de Grasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History

I don’t really have a plausible reason about how Neil de Grasse Tyson, the intellectual successor to the late astronomer Carl Sagan, would fund this spacefaring venture. But can you think of a more appropriate person than the host of the Cosmos reboot? I cannot. Maybe use a DAO to get him there too. I don’t know.

4. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft

Poor Gates has been on a downswing recently. Despite publishing a well-received book this year—How to Avoid a Climate Disaster—the man is now undergoing a divorce from his longtime wife and philanthropy partner, Melinda Gates, while catching flack for his relationship with the late sex offender Jeff Epstein. Rocket fuel isn’t very good for the environment, sorry to say. But it would be a once in a lifetime experience for a billionaire who must be doing a bit of soul-searching these days.

5. …Elon Musk?

I thought about proposing Bezos’s rival space racer Elon Musk as the big bidder. He’s a total wild card, after all. But it’s hard to believe the Tesla CEO and SNL guest host would ever favor Blue Origin over his own rocket biz SpaceX—let alone put himself in harm’s way, given how intertwined his personal brand is to his companies. A real power move would be, instead, to claim the seat and then say you’re going to fill it with something jokey, like a Shiba Inu dog, the mascot of Dogecoin, Musk’s favorite cryptocurrency. Why let a good marketing opportunity go to waste? The man already sent a Tesla Roadster to space.

Blue Origin said it would announce the name of the winner in the coming weeks. Who would you send for the ride along? To sweeten the pot on this fantasy draft, I will feature your name and highlight your psychic abilities in a future newsletter if you guess the right person (or DAO or dog).

Robert Hackett

@rhhackett

robert.hackett@fortune.com

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Hi, I'd like you to join my professional lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court has passed on a case involving Microsoft's LinkedIn and the so-called anti-hacking law—also known as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. LinkedIn is trying to stop hiQ Labs, an HR tech company, from using bots to scrape people's public profiles. A lower court had previously ruled that LinkedIn can't stop hiQ since people made the information public. But in light of another recent decision (See: Van Buren v. U.S.), which limits the applicability of the CFAA law, the lower appeals court has been asked to reconsider the case. 

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, is calling for new federal laws that would restrict the U.S. government's use of secret subpoenas and gag orders. It has become too easy—and too commonplace—for officials to quietly demand people's data from tech companies. (See: This.) He writes for the Washington Post, "While there are times when secrecy is needed, prosecutors too often are exploiting technology to abuse our fundamental freedoms."

The government cannot justify secrecy in such probes. The abuse of secrecy orders is neither new nor confined to a single administration, and certainly not limited to investigations involving members of Congress or the news media. Democracy rests on a fundamental principle of government transparency. Secrecy should be the rare exception — not the rule.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

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BEFORE YOU GO

Elon Musk is joining the housing mania madness. "Decided to sell my last remaining house," he recently tweeted, likely referring to this historic mansion south of San Francisco, as sleuthed by SFGate. The decision comes soon after a ProPublica published an exposé of the relatively paltry taxes paid by America's billionaires.

Musk earlier said he would sell off most material possessions to prove he's serious about starting a colony on Mars. He now rents a place in Boca Chica, Tex., home to his space-faring venture, SpaceX, and he says he will pay taxes in California proportional to the time he spends there. Of his old events-venue and abode, he said, "Just needs to go to a large family who will live there. It’s a special place."

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