Industry

Even Jeff Bezos' Employees Wouldn't Ride His Rocket

New details are coming out about the safety of Jeff Bezos’ commercial space venture. 
IMAGE BLUE ORIGIN, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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Space tourism is all the rage nowadays, but it looks like one billionaire in the space race is willing to forgo anything for results—even work culture… and rocket safety. 

A whistleblower who used to work at Blue Origin has stepped forward as the face of a group of 20 current and former Blue Origin employees who are calling out Blue Origin’s toxic environment and disregard for safety. In a shocking open letter published on Lioness, a site known as a whistleblower platform, the group of Blue Origin staff criticized Jeff Bezos for promoting a toxic and sexist work culture and demanding results and met deadlines, sacrificing quality—and safety—along the way. For a company that deals with rockets, that’s the worst accusation they can face. 

The scathing letter claims that the company’s upper management ignored concerns about safety and that there have been over 1,000 problem reports related to the rocker engines. 

"In the opinion of an engineer who has signed on to this essay, 'Blue Origin has been lucky that nothing has happened so far.' Many of this essay's authors say they would not fly on a Blue Origin vehicle,” says the letter.

The authors of the letter also accused the company of exhausting its employees and denying requests for more engineers, staff, and spending, something similar to the complaints posed by Bezos’ employees at his other company, Amazon. The authors went on to accuse management of enabling sexism and harassment against women. 

This damning whistleblower letter comes just weeks after Blue Origin experienced a mass resignation of key executives, some of whom moved to Bezos’ rival, Elon Musk’s, SpaceX. Business Insider and CBS News confirmed the whistleblower letter with its still-anonymous authors. 

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News of Blue Origin’s bad management is not new. One look at the company’s Glassdoor will show you that only 19 percent of employees approve of its CEO, Bob Smith. Meanwhile, Elon Musk enjoys a 92 percent approval rate among SpaceX employees. 

Blue Origin responded to the letter, saying “We stand by our safety record and believe that New Shepard is the safest space vehicle ever designed or built."

Meanwhile, the American Federal Aviation Administration is looking into investigating the accusations. 

This is no doubt a PR disaster for Blue Origin, which is already struggling to catch up to SpaceX. But when rocket safety is on the line, this might be a PR nightmare they won’t recover from. 

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Anri Ichimura
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