(Bloomberg) — Jeff Bezos will give $200 million to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum — one of his largest ever philanthropic commitments — days before the billionaire launches himself into space.
The bulk of the gift — $130 million — will go to create the Bezos Learning Center and the rest will go to the Washington-based museum’s renovation. The Smithsonian said it was its largest single donation since the original founding gift from James Smithson in 1846.
“Every child is born with great potential, and it’s inspiration that unlocks that potential,” Bezos said in a statement. “My love affair with science, invention and space did that for me, and I hope this gift does that for others.”
Bezos, who has long been fascinated by space, in 2000 founded Blue Origin, his first significant non-Amazon venture. He’ll be on the company’s first crewed suborbital space flight next week, alongside his brother, Mark, an as-yet unnamed auction winner, and Wally Funk, an aviator who was among the women who went through the same type of astronaut training as the men ultimately selected for the first crewed NASA missions.
Bezos is the world’s richest man with a $211 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. In recent years he’s increased his philanthropy, committing $10 billion in 2020 to fight climate change via his Bezos Earth Fund. In 2018, he launched a $2 billion commitment called the Day One Fund to fight family homelessness and to create a Montessori school system.