Rick Tumlinson presents Jeff Bezos with Prestigious Space Cowboy Award in a Surprise Appearance at the Austin, Texas Space Cowboy Ball Gala & Fundraiser
Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon, and space company Blue Origin, received the Space Cowboy Award at the Space Cowboy Ball in Austin, Texas. The prestigious award was presented by Rick Tumlinson, founder of the non-profit EarthLight Foundation, founding partner of SpaceFund, and longtime leader of the space settlement community. The award, sponsored by SpaceFund and presented by the non-profit EarthLight Foundation, was given to Bezos for his pioneering work and commitment to opening the frontier of space.
“Jeff Bezos doesn’t just talk the talk about expanding life and humanity into space, he walks the walk, putting money, and his own creative leadership where his dreams are,” said Tumlinson, as he presented the award. “We are at the beginning of the greatest revolution in human history, and it is people like Jeff who will help us make it happen.”
The Space Cowboy Award is given each year to a person who has demonstrated leadership, commitment and vision in the quest to open space. In past years it has been presented to Dr. Pete Worden of the Breakthrough Foundation for his decades of work supporting frontier technologies – including his current project to send a probe to another solar system, and to Etienne Schneider of Luxembourg, who led his nation to found a $200M initiative to fund space resources projects and created legislation in support of developing space resources.
In a 30-minute fireside chat with Cas Anvar, star of Amazon’s hit sci fi show “The Expanse”, Bezos confirmed his commitment to developing the in-space infrastructure needed to support human settlements. He repeatedly mentioned plans to build O’Neil colonies, rotating habitats first envisioned by Princeton professor Gerard K. O’Neil in the 1970s, whom Bezos considers one of his guiding lights. He also re-iterated his plan to spend a minimum of $1 billion a year to help the human breakout occur, saying he believed humanity needs to relieve some of the pressure on the Earth, and called for an early return to the Moon.
“We weren’t allowed to tell anyone he was coming,” said Haroon Oqab, EarthLight Executive Director. “So it was a complete surprise for everyone in attendance at the Space Cowboy Ball. The audience was blown away. Mr. Bezos seemed to really enjoy himself, after all, he is a space geek who was raised in Texas.”
Bezos received a massive 20-pound carving by Austin artist Stuart Simpson, based on a painting by famed space artist Pat Rawlings. The award shows an astronaut in a space suit riding a bucking bronco – also in a space suit – leaping into space in front of another planet.
In true Austin form, the Space Cowboy Ball is an eccentric fundraising celebration and costume ball that asks guest to dress as if they were going to a formal party in space, 100 years in the future. The results ranged from western, steam punk, spacesuits, tuxedos, and elaborate costumes right out of movies like Dune or Star Wars, and shows like the Expanse, which Bezos’ Amazon recently acquired. The audience also included Austin and space notables such as citizen astronaut Richard Garriott and city Mayor Steve Adler and featured live art, acrobats, robots, and music by Austin musical star Emily Grace Clark, concluding in a high energy dance party.
About the Earthlight Foundation
EarthLight Foundation is a 501c3 charitable/education and research organization, founded to support and enable those who will open space to humanity. The Space Cowboy Ball was the culmination of the organizations’ New Worlds 2018 conference and symposium, which featured dozens of talks and papers on space settlement technologies, audience participation events including a ‘Sharks in Space’ business plan competition, and an academic paper session judged by the attendees. New Worlds is held in conjunction with the Cities In Space STEAM Space Education design contest, attended by over 500 school children, designing their own space settlements.
About the Space Cowboy Award
The Space Cowboy Award is presented to a person who has ridden out ahead of their field or community and made significant contributions to the opening of the Frontier, and then helped guide humanity towards a better future in space. Their work, spirit and legacy have helped blaze the trail of technologies, broken down the risks or driven forward the culture or community in the name of human settlement beyond the borders of Earth. They are an individual, sometimes a loner, always a leader, always ranging far ahead of their peers, calling out challenges and drawing on their imaginations, talent and grit to blaze a trail into the future for all humankind.
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