Why Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are in an epic feud that's lasted years


  • Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have been in a feud for years, but it wasn’t always this way. 
  • Back in 2004, the two CEOs actually had dinner together and talked shop.
  • But as their space companies grew — Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon’s SpaceX — so did the tension between the tycoons.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories. 

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are in an epic feud that’s been raging for years. But it wasn’t always the case. In 2004, for example, the two titans had dinner together. Today, instead of passing ideas, they’re berating each other for the world to see. Here’s how things got so out of hand.

Following is a transcript of the video.

The 21st-century space race is here. And in the midst of it all is a battle of the billionaires. On one side you have Elon Musk, CEO and founder of SpaceX. On the other, Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Blue Origin. Both are in a race to make space travel more affordable. And as each company continues to grow and expand, that race is heating up.

Dave Mosher: Where did this all start? Why are these two titans of the new space industry clashing together? This goes way back many many years. In 2004, they had dinner together and they were not really enemies at all. They just sat down and talked shop.

But things were different in 2004. Both SpaceX and Blue Origin were relatively young companies. Neither had launched anything to space. And in fact, neither company even had a functioning rocket, yet.

Dave Mosher: But fast forward many years when their systems started coming together and what you start to see is some rivalry, some big rivalry.

One of the biggest flair ups started in 2013, over the historic launch complex 39A. After the Space Shuttles retired in 2011, NASA wasn’t using the launch pad…

Dave Mosher: So it opened it up for anyone who wanted to use it. SpaceX steps up to the plate and says we want that for our rockets. We’d like to use that as a point of operation. Right after that, Jeff Bezos steps in and says we want that pad too.

Bezos went so far as to file a complaint with the government to prevent SpaceX from getting the launch pad.

Dave Mosher: And Elon Musk gets really mad about this and says that’s a ‘phony, block tactic’ and that this is a bunch of BS.

The feud was officially in full swing. Ultimately, SpaceX won. Signing a 20-year lease for the pad 39A in 2014. Then, later that same year, the two billionaires were at it again. This time, over patents. Bezos had filed a patent for the technology to build reusable rockets. A tactic which could have earned him millions of dollars from competitors who aimed to use similar technology. But when Musk found out about it, he stepped in.

Dave Mosher: And as part of his fight against this patent -because Musk wanted to do the same thing and didn’t want to have to shell out gobs of money to use this concept- he summoned this very old sci-fi movies showing a rocket coming down and landing on a boat, and ultimately in 2015, spaceX prevailed and the patent was changed up a bit.

By the end of 2015, the feud had made it to the world stage: Twitter. In November, Blue Origin launched and landed its suborbital rocket for the first time.

Dave Mosher: Jeff Bezos is really excited. He goes on Twitter and says this is the rarest of beasts a used rocket back on the ground. To which Musk congratulates Bezos. But he also takes the opportunity to take a whack at this accomplishment by saying it takes about 100 times more energy to do what we’re trying to do which is launch a payload into space and bring a booster back, so great job, but we’re going to try this over here and that’s exactly what SpaceX did a month later in December. So this created some friction this is one of the first very public feuds between Musk and Bezos and it kept happening.

By 2019, the number of confrontations had reached a record high. At a private lecture in NYC, Bezos criticized Musk’s goal to colonize Mars. Saying that:

Jeff Bezos: My friends who want to move to Mars? I say do me a favor: Go live on the top of Mount Everest for a year first and see if you like it because it’s a garden paradise compared to Mars.

Shortly after that, Musk went after Bezos for announcing Blue Origin’s plan to launch thousands of satellites into space for faster, better internet worldwide.

Dave Mosher: The problem is Musk had previously announced that and so he called Jeff Bezos a copy cat in front of everybody and that was a big moment.

And not long after that, there was another tweet from Musk about Blue Origin’s latest announcement to return to the moon on its “Blue Moon” lander.

Dave Mosher: Musk couldn’t help himself. He chimed in with some childish humor by saying this is a terrible branding choice when you’re putting “blue” on a giant ball.

But in the end, it doesn’t really matter which of them is first to the moon or first to set up a colony beyond Earth.

Dave Mosher: Behind the scenes, their visions aren’t all that different. They both want to preserve the earth. They both want to move humanity out into space where we can have a bigger bolder future than we would otherwise by just sticking to the surface of a rock.

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