For an entrepreneurial CEO leaving behind an epoch-making company, coming up with a worthy second act isn’t easy work. Bill Gates, upon leaving Microsoft, set about saving the world with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – while Steve Jobs, upon his (first and forced) exit from Apple, co-founded Pixar. Jeff Bezos, now less than a month from leaving his post as Amazon’s CEO, will literally reach for the heavens with his post-retirement move.
Because he’s hopping aboard a rocket and shooting himself into orbit.
The rocket in question will be on Blue Origin’s (the space exploration company Bezos owns) New Shephard craft, a fully autonomous suborbital rocket and spacecraft system designed to take ticketholders on brief joyrides to outer space. Bezos, his brother Mark and the winner of an online auction (minimum buy-in price: $4.8 million) will be the inaugural passengers on the New Shephard’s first crewed mission to space. The flight will be short – about 11 minutes – but will include four minutes of zero gravity for passengers.
Bezos, a professed fanatical Star Trek fan, is literally living out his lifelong dream of exploring the final frontier. Though he’s owned Blue Origin since the early 2000s, as CEO of Amazon, he was almost certainly insured by the company as a high-value player, with limits on certain dangerous behavior – which likely would have included experimental space travel.
But a free agent as of July 5, Bezos will officially be able to make like Captain Kirk and start exploring the stars in his own rocket. One might assume that the richest man in the world setting off to do something unprecedented in a zero-gravity, no-oxygen environment still sounds dangerous enough to give an insurance agent horrible heartburn – but maybe not.
Because as a little bit of research quickly indicates, there is nothing too outlandish, unprecedented or unusual that an insurance agent can’t figure out a policy for it.
Insuring the Human Body
Most people have heard the story about Marilyn Monroe’s legs being so valuable that they were insured for thousands of dollars. What most don’t know, however, is that Marilyn Monroe is far from unique in this regard. Valuable body parts of famous people are often insured – and for a lot of money.
Heidi Klum’s legs, for example, are insured for $2.2 million, an absolute bargain next to J. Lo’s behind, which is insured for a whopping $27 million. And beautiful women aren’t the only ones getting in on the action – Gene Simmons’ tongue is insured for a million, Keith Richards’ middle finger is insured for $1.6 million, and Tom Jones’ chest hair is insured for $7 million (for real).
Some of those sound a bit silly – a $27 million posterior insurance policy, for example, seems a rather incredible price for something it would be almost impossible to misplace. But some of it makes sense. Keith Richards’ middle finger isn’t insured because he likes to gesture with it, but because he is the guitar player in a band and actually needs it to do his job.
That’s why people you’ve never heard of also have body part insurance: Food critic Egon Ronay insured his taste buds for roughly $400,000, while a Dutch sommelier and winemaker reportedly insured his nose for $8 million.
In fact, body part insurance is such a common practice among models, celebrities and those with specialized sensory-related jobs that it barely counts as exotic at this point.
If you want exotic, unsurprisingly, Florida is the place to look.
Insuring Against the Invasion
Ever watched a sci-fi movie and been so freaked out that you wished you could insure yourself against the possibility of attack by extraterrestrials? Good news: Not only can you purchase a policy to protect you against that unfortunate event, but you have your choice of providers, as there are multiple payers in the alien abduction insurance line.
Although the policies vary, Alien Abduction Insurance (AAI), also known as UFO insurance, is designed to protect people in the event that they are seized by a non-human lifeform from a different planet and are carried off into space against their will.
What do these policies cover? A lot of things you would expect: psychiatric care, compensation for lost wages, vehicle replacement (if the aliens took your car and didn’t return it) and compensation for wages lost while lost in space. There are also the more exotic parts of the coverage that include compensation for things like tractor beam burns, alien pregnancy (for both men and women), injuries from alien examinations, temporal anomaly injuries, transporter psychosis and thoron exposure.
The thing to watch out for with abduction insurance, however, is that the terms can be a little restrictive and tricky. The Saint Lawrence Agency promises to give you $10 million in insurance if you can prove you were indeed taken by aliens, but they only pay out $1 per year; meaning it would take 10 million years to pay out fully.
And the list of zany insurances goes on from there. Multiple births, career failure, vampire attack, cold feet at the altar? All of them already exist on an actuarial table with values attached and polices ready to go.
That means when the richest man in the world walks into an office with plans to launch himself into orbit, an insurance actuary will likely be unfazed – and might perhaps even ask if he’d consider adding alien abduction coverage to his plan.