Elon Musk is a hard guy to categorize. Perhaps the easiest thing for me to say is that he is his own worst enemy. He creates companies that are revolutionary and worthy of great praise, but he also goes around posting idiotic memes like a sulky teen to unwittingly draw attention to the worst parts of himself.
Like the man himself, his SpaceX technology is a mixed bag. While it is great that he does this, Elon Musk activates Starlink in Ukraine, the technology itself is going to be damaging to astronomy if not space itself, as this shows: SpaceX’s Starlink Satellites Leave Streaks in Asteroid-Hunting Telescopes.
I have mixed thoughts on the Tesla too. Great car in many ways, though this review is tough: 2021 Tesla Model Y review: Nearly great critically flawed. I also think this feature calls into question “do you really own your Tesla?”: Tesla now monitors how often you adjust your seat position and will disable controls for certain drivers. Finally, I don’t think this is a good development: Tesla opens showroom in region of China associated with genocide allegations.
However problematic Musk seems to me, he is head and shoulders better than other plutocrats, like Peter Thiel. Could he be better still? Sure, he could emulate billionaires like Mark Cuban, who is opening an Online Pharmacy to provide affordable generic drugs.
I know there are plenty of fans of Musk, and I can see why they are. I also know many loathe him, and I get that too. I remain in the middle for now, and I hope he improves over time and I get to be more of a fan.
July 1st update: As his companies continue to sink, he threatens to fire remote workers. So they all come in and there is not enough space for them. Amazing.
I’m not a fan of SpaceX’s Starlink technology. It’s ruining space in a number of ways, like this. I thought its one saving grace would be that it at least provides great Internet service. Yet according to this review in The Verge, it doesn’t even do that! Sad. Garbage in the sky, garbage on the ground.
Here’s hoping it gets better. And that someone finds a way to collect all the garbage circling the earth and do something with it.
Jeff Bezos blasted into space today with three other people. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has an opinion about it. Even Variety magazine did. (That’s worth a read BTW). So fwiw, here’s 1o things I thought about it:
- It’s good to see more interest in space in general. NASA and other space agencies do plenty in terms of space exploration, but often it is overlooked by people. Suddenly — for better or worse — people are talking about space again.
- It’s good to see money being spent on space travel. NASA has suffered for years with cutbacks. Decades. Here’s to more money being effectively used in space.
- These flights of Branson and Bezos are small steps in terms of space travel. They are miles behind SpaceX even, never mind NASA or other space agencies. As we like to say in business: it’s a good start (implying there is a long way to go).
- Small steps can lead to big steps if they continue to pursue this and pour money into it. That’s a big if. Like any space exploration, it is hard to continue to make people interested in it after it starts to seem repetitive. They might find it much harder to get space tourists to pay a small fortune their 10th or 15th flight. Never mind after the first person dies (and someone will).
- Even if everything goes well, it could still fail in the longer run. The Concorde failed and it was much simpler technology than this stuff. Not everything that is the best and fastest gets to succeed.
- I can’t see the ROI on space travel. Musk and SpaceX can get away with it because they have a client with the money to spend on it (i.e. NASA). Not sure if Bezos can wrestle some of that business away. Then again, perhaps there’s a global market for these services.
- I think there would have been a much more positive reaction if it wasn’t Bezos or Branson leading these endeavours. Give Musk credit: he lets the real astronauts do the work. Plus none of these men are inspiring to most people. They aren’t John Glenn or Neil Armstrong: they are billionaires. Bezos was at least smart enough to Wally Funk with him: that was a good distraction from the other members on his team.
- It will remain to be seen if they can catch up to Musk, or if they are even interested. Musk can act the fool, but he seems driven to push private space exploration to the limits. I can see Branson dropping out soon once some other thing comes along. Bezos is a bit of a mystery to me.
- People are criticizing them for spending money on space rather than here on earth, but Bill Gates spends his fortune on such things and he is criticized mightly for it. It’s a no win in terms of spending your money. They all should pay more taxes. (Although a lot of tax money in the US goes into the military budget. That’s a different but related issue.)
- Here’s to more inspiring people going to space soon, and to more inspiring space travel. Let’s hope this leads to that.
(Image: link from the Variety article)
It’s not explicitly stated, but if you read this: If you think NASA is frustrated with SpaceX, you’re probably right in Ars Technica, then you may draw the same conclusion. It seems SpaceX is taking advantage of its partnership with NASA to position itself to get the point where it can get by without it and eventually compete with the space agency.
If that was not the case, then I would expect SpaceX to stick to missions that were separate from NASA and supportive of NASA. Instead they seem to be trying to compete with NASA for the same missions.
It’s a tricky call for SpaceX: if they are not careful, they could ruin their partnership and find themselves without a steady source of income to fund their ambitions. I’m all for both NASA and SpaceX both being viable for the long term. Let’s hope that happens.
It’s great that SpaceX has put travel posters to Mars among their other photos on flickr (SpaceX Photos | Flickr). Of the three I saw, the one above was the one I liked the best. Head over to Flickr and check out the others.
It’s fun now, but perhaps such advertisements will be less fantastical before the 22nd century.