A civilian who once flew on a SpaceX shuttle has switched sides in the ongoing “space race” between billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
Chris Sembroski, a data engineer who participated in SpaceX’s “Inspiration4” mission to low-Earth orbit last year, revealed on Twitter that he’s taken a job with Bezos’ rival firm, Blue Origin.
“Space beckons us. It taunts us. Images from Hubble and JWST pull on our desires to explore and to seek out new adventure. I am thrilled to be a part of our expansion out to the rest of the universe! Let’s go!” Sembroski tweeted.
Musk’s SpaceX and Bezos’ Blue Origin are locked in intense competition as leading firms in the burgeoning private space exploration industry. Both companies have conducted flights with civilian passengers and occasionally tangled in court while pursuing NASA contracts.
The post announcing Sembroski’s new gig included an image of Blue Origin’s “New Glenn” rocket on a launchpad. It also referenced “JWST” or the James Webb Space Telescope, the $10 billion NASA project that recently provided a never-been-seen glimpse at distant galaxies.
An Air Force veteran, Sembroski will be working as an avionics engineer for Blue Origin, according to an update on his LinkedIn page. Prior to his work at Bezos’ firm, he held roles at DB Engineering and Lockheed Martin.
The Post has reached out to Blue Origin and SpaceX for comment.
Last fall, a federal judge rejected Blue Origin’s effort to reverse NASA’s decision to award a key lunar lander contract to SpaceX. In March, NASA said it would reopen bidding for a second contract – with Blue Origin an early frontrunner to land the gig.
Aside from Blue Origin’s launch plans, Bezos-founded Amazon is pushing forward with plans to develop its own satellite internet service that will rival SpaceX’s “Starlink.”
In August 2021, Musk quipped that Bezos sued SpaceX so often that it was his “full-time job.” That dig came after Amazon asked the feds to block SpaceX’s plan for a second-generation Starlink satellite network.
Sembrowski was one of four civilians who participated in the “Inspiration4” mission. Shift4 Payment CEO Jared Isaacman paid a hefty sum for the privilege of joining the crew, while educator Sian Proctor secured her spot in an online competition and Hayley Arceneaux was picked as an employee of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The mission ultimately raised more than $240 million for research at St. Jude, with Isaacman contributing $100 million and Musk chipping in $50 million.
Upon returning, Sembroski told Florida Today in November 2021 that he would return to space “in a heartbeat” if the opportunity arose.
“I’ll be forever changed by this whole experience,” he said.