Why Jeff Bezos spends so much money on space tech

Even after his well-publicized $35 billion divorce, Jeff Bezos remains the richest man on the planet. Now he wants to be the richest man on all the planets.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, the Amazon founder and CEO's net worth is approximately $125 billion. As a point reference, that's more money than the GDP of 129 different sovereign nations. So what's a guy from Seattle to do with all that spare change? Other than running for president, the fashionable hobby for billionaires these days is apparently space travel. And you thought yachting was an activity for the elites.

So what sparked the interest? Was Bezos a Trekkie as a kid? Did he fantasize about fighting off evil empires in a galaxy far far away? Both may be true, but the primary reason behind Bezos' pivot to the stars is somewhat more ... terrestrial.

Blue Origin is Bezos' response to climate change

The online retail magnate recently sat down with CBS Evening News' Norah O'Donnell to discuss his desire to boldly go where no man has gone before. When asked why he spent so much time and money on outer space instead of, say, donating to earthbound charities like fellow uber-billionaire Bill Gates, Bezos offered a simple answer: "I think it's important. I think it is important for this planet. I think it's important for the dynamism of future generations. It is something I care deeply about. And it is something I have been thinking about all my life. You don't choose your passions, your passions choose you."

Over the last few years, Bezos has been investing a sizable portion of his Amazon fortune in his aerospace startup Blue Origin. He cites climate change as the leading reason he has chosen to focus his investments on the final frontier. "We humans have to go to space if we are going to continue to have a thriving civilization ... People are going to want to live on Earth, and they are going to want to live off Earth. There are going to be very nice places to live off Earth as well. People will make that choice."

Despite his optimism and ample bankroll, Bezos acknowledges that he may not live to see the fruits of his labor. Making humanity an interplanetary species is going to be a generational effort, he concedes. Blue Origin is just a down payment on that future.