Science

Why Does Jeff Bezos’ Rocket Look So Much Like a Penis? We Asked a Rocket Scientist.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard lifts-off from the launch pad, looking a great deal like a penis.
Hmmm. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos blasted himself into the lower reaches of outer space on Tuesday morning, in a rocket that looks an awful lot like a penis. It’s not the first time the union-busting, urine-bottling billionaire has drawn comparisons to Dr. Evil, but this time there’s video evidence:

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The resemblance between the rocket that carried Jeff Bezos into space and male genitalia was so striking it inspired Jon Stewart to post a high-production value sketch promoting his upcoming Apple TV+ show, The Problem With Jon Stewart:

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To find out why Jeff Bezos’ rocket ship looks so much like a gigantic, erect penis, we spoke with Daniel Ramspacher, a propulsion engineer at NASA Goddard Space Center, who requested that we clearly state upfront that he was not speaking on behalf of his employer. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Matthew Dessem: Let’s get right to it. Why is Jeff Bezos’ rocket shaped so much like a penis?

Daniel Ramspacher: Well, for lots of reasons, honestly. I mean, obviously most rockets are quite phallic. This one specifically, they took the approach of pretty much all the commercial space programs, where they go suborbital. So they don’t go fully into orbit, similar to what we at NASA back in the sixties. So the rocket’s relatively small. Everything in our industry is more or less based on heritage. It’s like, “Well, what have we used in the past? What can we leverage? How can we reduce risk or reduce cost?” So the rocket is—

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Would you say there’s a heritage of shapes in rocketry leading towards Bezos’ rocket? It seems to me like this one’s kind of a leap forward.

No. Well, specifically for this, the unusual rocket was the New Shepard. The New Glenn is their next launch vehicle, which is much larger and is designed specifically for the capsule that sits on top of the New Shepard.

The glans.

So the reason why it’s a little bit larger is because the launch vehicle, the rocket, the next version is wider. What you’re looking at in the rocket is basically a bunch of tanks linearly stacked onto one another. That’s all that basically is. That and some computers and the rocket engines at the base. They knew they weren’t going into orbit, so they sized the tanks appropriately, and it’s a relatively small diameter. They designed the capsule for the next series of rockets. They didn’t want to make the tanks too large.

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So they reduced the girth of the shaft, but kept the capsule at the top the same size, which gave it that distinctive shape.

Yep, unfortunately.

What advice would you give Bezos if he wanted make the next stage of this project, the New Glenn or whatever, even more phallic?

I would not do that. I think it’s going to end up making it worse for him.

What’s next for the future of rocketry? Are there any new developments that are going to make rockets look more like penises?

No, I would say they’re going to be more and more like just long slender tubes. This is probably the most phallic-looking spacecraft you’re going to see, if I had to guess.

Do you think that will be Bezos’ lasting legacy in space, that he built the rocket that looked the most like a dick?

I don’t think so. Hopefully he’ll make it a little bit easier and cheaper to get into space.

Well, competing visions, I guess, for the future there.

Yeah.

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