Musk and Jeff Bezos, who both run rocket companies, have been rivals for years – and more recently Musk has booted the Amazon founder off top spot as the world’s richest person.
Five years after launching Amazon, Bezos created Blue Origin in 2000.
But Musk was hot on his heels, launching SpaceX in 2002.
Over the years, the two have clashed over lawsuits, patents, and rocket launches.
In 2013, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance filed a formal protest after SpaceX tried to get exclusive use of a NASA launchpad.
Musk said the move was a “phony blocking tactic” and told Space News that Blue Origin had “not yet succeeded in creating a reliable suborbital spacecraft, despite spending over 10 years in development.” NASA ultimately sided with SpaceX.
The next year, Blue Origin was granted a patent for drone ships, which are used to land rocket boosters. SpaceX petitioned to invalidate the patent, which would have meant that SpaceX would have to pay to use the technology. A judge sided with SpaceX and Blue Origin with draw most of the patent’s claims.
In 2015, Bezos uploaded a video to Twitter of a reusable rocket landing, calling it “the rarest of bears.” In a scathing response, Musk said that a SpaceX rocket had done six suborbital flights three years prior and was “still around.”
Musk had also trolled Bezos for allegedly copying some of his ideas, such as when Amazon announced plans to launch more than 3,000 internet satellites and when it acquired self-driving-car startup Zoox. Musk’s electric car company, Tesla, is also working on self-driving technology, though its vehicles are not yet fully autonomous.
Bezos, for his part, has poked fun at Musk’s ambitions of populating Mars. People who want to live on the red planet should “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,” he said at a lecture in early 2019.
In an interview with The New York Times in 2020, Musk complimented his rival but appeared to imply that Bezos was too old to make progress on space travel, even though there’s only a seven-year age gap between the two tech moguls.
Speaking about Blue Origin, Musk said that “the rate of progress is too slow and the amount of years he has left is not enough, but I’m still glad he’s doing what he’s doing with Blue Origin.”
In April 2021, NASA named SpaceX the sole recipient of a $2.9 billion contract to make lunar landers for humans to return to the moon for the first time in more than 50 years. Blue Origin filed a 50-page protest, calling the decision “flawed,” and later filed a lawsuit against NASA, but the court ultimately ruled against Blue Origin.
Musk later quipped on Twitter that Bezos had stepped down as Amazon CEO in July 2021 “to pursue a full-time job filing lawsuits against SpaceX.”
Since the start of 2021, Bezos and Musk have been sparring to claim the top spot as the world’s richest person. Bezos had held the title since late 2017, but Musk overtook him for the first time in January 2021. The two have swapped places a few times, but Musk is now firmly in the top spot, with a fortune of around $195 billion, per estimates by Bloomberg.
Bezos sits in fourth place with around $112 billion, behind LVMH’s Bernard Arnault and the Adani Group’s Gautam Adani.