Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will be an astronaut after his July 20th launch aboard the Blue Origin rocket New Shepard, alongside his brother Mark Bezos, 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen. The flight will last only 11 minutes, but Daemen’s seat sold at auction for $28 million.
With that kind of money in play, Bezos’s $200 million donation to the Smithsonian is clearly no sweat off his brow. But the donation is the largest the Institution has been given since its founding in 1846. The money will go specifically to the National Air and Space Museum.
Seventy million of the donation will support much-needed museum renovations, including a touch-up of several building facades, new waterworks, a new audiovisual system, and its current re-imagining of many displays. The $130 million remaining balance is meant to build an entirely new education center in the museum. The Bezos Learning Center is intended to promote a love of innovation in children, allowing them to explore a variety of STEM careers.
“This historic gift will help the Smithsonian achieve its goal of reaching every classroom in America by creating a world-class learning center with access and inspiration at its heart,” said Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch.
“At this moment, the first human to set foot on Mars might be in elementary school,” said Ellen Stofan, the Smithsonian’s undersecretary for science and research and former director of the National Air and Space Museum. “As the largest and most visited aerospace museum in the world, the museum wants to spark that passion and enrich the imagination and ingenuity of every student who visits the Smithsonian.”
This is not Jeff Bezos’s first donation to the Smithsonian. He calls the Institution vital “in igniting the imaginations of our future builders and dreamers.”
“Every child is born with great potential, and it’s inspiration that unlocks that potential,” he said in a statement about his donation. “My love affair with science, invention, and space did that for me, and I hope this gift does that for others.”
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