Blue Origin accused of toxic workplace by current and ex-employees

Nearly two dozen Blue Origin employees accuse Jeff Bezos of IGNORING safety concerns and fostering ‘toxic’ workplace so that he could win the billionaire space race

  • Blue Origin is accused of a toxic work environment and putting aside safety to win the space race for founder Jeff Bezos
  • 21 current and former employees say workforce gender gaps result in a ‘particular brand of sexism’ 
  • Sexual harassment, women referred to as ‘baby girl’ and questions about dating lives have occurred 
  • One former NASA astronaut and Blue Origin ‘senior leader’ told women he was working with they should ask his opinion ‘because I am a man’
  • The company did not consider environmental impacts of the its operations
  • ‘Making progress for Jeff’ took precedence over safety concerns

Blue Origin has been accused by current and former employees of creating a toxic work environment and putting aside employee safety to win the space race for founder Jeff Bezos.

In an essay, Alexandra Abrams, the former head of Blue Origin Employee Communications, along with 20 former and current employees working on different programs at the company, say they felt ‘unease’ when founder Jeff Bezos blasted into space this past July, with some unable to watch the event at all.  

A number of the essay’s authors also said they would not be comfortable riding in a Blue Origin vehicle, as a common question at ‘high-level meetings’ was ‘When will Elon [Musk] or [Richard] Branson fly?,’ citing the competition between the three men to win the space race at all costs. 

The group states that workforce gender gaps result in a ‘particular brand of sexism,’ with senior leaders, including one in CEO Bob Smith’s inner circle, are ‘consistently inappropriate with women.’

This person was reported to HR multiple times for sexual harassment, but Smith allegedly made this person a member of the hiring committee for filling a senior HR role in 2019.

Blue Origin has been accused by current and former employees of creating a toxic work environment and putting aside employee safety to win the space race for founder Jeff Bezos (pictured with CEO Bob Smith)

Another person called women ‘baby girl,’ ‘baby doll,’ or ‘sweetheart’ and asked about dating lives.

The essay also cites a former NASA astronaut and Blue Origin ‘senior leader’ who told women he was working with they should ask his opinion ‘because I am a man.’ 

‘We found many company leaders to be unapproachable and showing clear bias against women,’ the essay reads.  

‘Concerns related to flying were consistently shut down, and women were demeaned for raising them. 

‘When one man was let go for poor performance, he was allowed to leave with dignity, even a going-away party. Yet when a woman leader who had significantly improved her department’s performance was let go, she was ordered to leave immediately, with security hovering until she exited the building five minutes later.’ 

The essay notes that the toxic culture has taken a toll on the mental health of many employees, including some who have ‘experienced periods of suicidal thoughts.’

‘Former and current employees have had experiences they could only describe as dehumanizing, and are terrified of the potential consequences for speaking out against the wealthiest man on the planet,’ the essay reads.

‘One senior program leader with decades in the aerospace and defense industry said working at Blue Origin was the worst experience of her life.’ has reached out to Blue Origin with a request for comment. 

Many of the essay’s authors wrote the company never considered environmental impacts of the company’s operations until the last minute, citing the company’s headquarters in Kent, Washington that was ‘built on wetlands that were drained for construction.’

‘All of us joined Blue Origin eager to innovate and to open access to space for the benefit of humanity,’ the essay reads. ‘We believe exploring the possibilities for human civilization beyond Earth is a necessity. 

‘But if this company’s culture and work environment are a template for the future Jeff Bezos envisions, we are headed in a direction that reflects the worst of the world we live in now, and sorely needs to change.’ 

The question at the aforementioned meetings concerning Musk and Branson’s schedules highlight a supposed environment in which ‘making progress for Jeff’ took precedence over safety concerns that would have otherwise slowed progress on the schedule. 

‘Making progress for Jeff [Bezos]’ took precedence over safety concerns that would have otherwise slowed progress on the schedule

Branson flew to the edge of space on July 11, 9 days ahead of Bezos.

Branson and his firm, Virgin Galactic, were recently cleared to fly again after the Federal Aviation Administration halted future flights, pending an investigation into why the July 11 flight veered off course for 101 seconds. 

Musk, who leads SpaceX, has not flown into space himself, but his company sent four civilians into space on September 15, flying 360 miles above the Earth.   

On July 20, Bezos, along with his brother, Mark, Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen and test pilot, Wally Funk, headed into space

On July 20, Bezos, along with his brother, Mark, Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen and test pilot, Wally Funk, headed into space.

Funk became the oldest person to ever fly to space at 82 years old.

At 18 years old, Daemen became the youngest person, first teenager, and first person born in the 21st century to travel to space.

Earlier this week, Blue Origin announced its second space mission, scheduled for October 12.

Dr Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of Planet Labs and partner at venture capital firm DCVC and Medidata co-founder Glen de Vries into space on the New Shepard rocket.

In an email obtained by, the company said the other two astronauts would be announced ‘in the coming days,’ though speculation rose last week when legendary Star Trek actor William Shatner was reported to join the crew.


Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule

Dubbed the ‘NewSpace’ set, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and there is no doubt how much it would mean to each of them to win the ‘new space race’.

Amazon founder Bezos had looked set to be the first of the three to fly to space, having announced plans to launch aboard his space company Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20, but Branson beat him to the punch.

The British billionaire became Virgin Galactic Astronaut 001 when he made it to space on a suborbital flight nine days before Bezos – on July 11 in a test flight.

Bezos travelled to space on July 20 with his younger brother Mark, Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old physics student whose dad purchased his ticket, and pioneering female astronaut Wally Funk, 82.

Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even ‘die on Mars’, he has not said when he might blast into orbit – but has purchased a ticket with Virgin Galactic for a suborbital flight.

SpaceX became the first of the ‘space tourism’ operators to send a fully civilian crew into orbit, with the Inspiration4 mission funded by billionaire Jared Isaacman. 

His flight was on a Dragon capsule and SpaceX rocket built by space-obsessed billionaire, Elon Musk and took off for the three day orbital trip on September 16 – going higher than the International Space Station. 

SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the broader billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.  

On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away, with Musk’s own red Tesla roadster attached. 

Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule

SpaceX has also taken two groups of astronauts to the |International Space Station, with crew from NASA, ESA and JAXA, the Japanese space agency. 

SpaceX has been sending batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network, which is already in beta and providing fast internet to rural areas. 

Branson and Virgin Galactic are taking a different approach to conquering space. It has repeatedly, and successfully, conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity space plane. 

The first took place in December 2018 and the latest on May 22, with the flight accelerating to more than 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7). 

More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips. The final tickets are expected to cost $350,000.

Branson has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX. 

Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft

SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.

The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.

It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it has passed the 50-mile mark.

Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere.

The spaceship will then make a suborbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.

Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.

The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket.    

At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometres), just above the official threshold for space and landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff. 

Blue Origin are working on New Glenn, the next generation heavy lift rocket, that will compete with the SpaceX Falcon 9. 

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