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Musk said he's sad that American space heroes like Armstrong and Gene Cernan don't approve of his work

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has all the confidence in the world that his company will provide the first manned spaceflight for America since the retirement of NASA's space shuttle program, especially since the company's Dragon capsule just completed the first NASA Crew Trial. But he is faced with criticism from some of the country's largest space heroes like Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan.

Musk recently participated in a "60 Minutes" interview with correspondent Scott Pelley, where Pelley was escorted around the SpaceX factory near Los Angeles, California. Musk showed off SpaceX projects like the Falcon Nine rocket and the Dragon cargo capsule, explaining that SpaceX is ultimately working to make spaceflight cheap and available to anyone. He also mentioned that all projects are assembled right in the plant, where materials come in one end of the factory and a full spacecraft comes out the other.

After NASA retired its space shuttle program last year, U.S. astronauts have depended on Russia to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Sending a U.S. astronaut on a Russian Soyuz rocket costs about $60 million per seat, and this price is expected to rise. With that in mind, America is working to create its own spacecraft once again, and SpaceX is at the top of the list of private companies competing to send a U.S. astronaut into space after NASA.

Elon Musk and the Falcon 9 [Source: Discovery]

Last week, SpaceX announced that the Dragon completed the first NASA Crew Trial, which is one of two tests that will help SpaceX work to build a prototype Dragon crew cabin. This milestone allowed NASA astronauts to provide feedback to SpaceX for a new crew cabin design. The prototype features seven seats, cargo racks, life support systems, and displays.

Despite this milestone, Musk's company has received some criticism recently from American space heroes Neil Armstrong, who was the first astronaut to step foot upon the Moon on Apollo 11, and Gene Cernan, who was the last man to step foot upon the moon on Apollo 17. Armstrong and Cernan have both testified to Congress that commercializing space would lead to safety issues and cost the taxpayers at some point. Musk's inexperience with space also has some worried, since his degrees are in business and physics, not aerospace. Musk claims to be self-taught through reading books and talking to those who are experienced.

Neil Armstrong (L) and Gene Cernan (R) testify before before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee [Source: Zimbio]

Musk told Pelley that he looked up to Armstrong and Cernan, and that it was disappointing to hear that they disapprove of his work.

"I was very sad to see that because those guys are, you know, those guys are heroes of mine, so it's really tough," said Musk. "You know, I wish they would come and visit, and see the hard work that we're doing here. And I think that would change their mind.

"What I'm trying to do is to make a significant difference in space flight, and help make space flight accessible to almost anyone. And I would hope for as much support in that direction as we, as we can receive."

Despite criticism from his heroes, Musk isn't giving up. He has poured $100 million into SpaceX and received a contract worth up to $1.6 billion with NASA. Musk said he would have to die or become completely incapacitated to ever give up on commercializing space.

Musk was happy to show Pelley around the factory, where Pelley was able to see the Dragon cargo capsule up close. The Dragon is expected to conduct an unmanned demonstration flight to the ISS on April 30, and if it's successful, SpaceX will be the first private company to dock at the ISS. The flight was originally set for February, but with so much riding on this launch, SpaceX decided to take its time and make sure all would go well when the time came.

But unmanned cargo deliveries aren't the only plans SpaceX has for Dragon. Pelley noticed that there are windows in the Dragon, which Musk said was for astronauts to see through. He said the Dragon was intended for manned missions and expects SpaceX to be the first private company to launch an American astronaut into space.

SpaceX Dragon Crew Vehicle [Source: SpaceX]

Musk's vision even extends beyond that. He wants to help humans settle on other planets like Mars at some point.

"I think it's important that humanity become a multi-planet species," said Musk. "I think most people would agree that a future where we are a space-faring civilization is inspiring and exciting compared with one where we are forever confined to Earth until some eventual extinction event. That's really why I started SpaceX."

SpaceX seems to be on its way, and despite the stones thrown from his heroes and the fact that SpaceX seems to be the underdog, Musk fully believes his company will be the one to make spaceflight a reality for America again.

"It's like a little kid fighting a bunch of sumo wrestlers," said Musk. "Usually, the sumo wrestlers win. We're a little scrappy company. Every now and again, the little scrappy company wins. And I think this'll be one of those times."

Sources: SpaceX, CBS News

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RE: What?
By Reclaimer77 on 3/19/2012 2:30:27 PM , Rating: 3
I'm in favor of commercializing space but I'm sure that governments will need to regulate safety and piloting just as they do with ships and aircraft.

People shouldn't talk about things they know nothing about.

If NASA's any indication of how our Government plans on regulating space "safety", we should all run and hide. After the second shuttle disaster NASA was investigated top to bottom, the results were shocking. NASA's safety measures were virtually non-existent. At every level, from top to bottom, NASA displayed the typical careless and incompetent day-to-day operation you'll find in every Government run agency.

NO private organization would be run this poorly. A commercial space enterprise at least understands that if they kill me, they can't profit from me.

RE: What?
By Gondor on 3/19/2012 2:59:33 PM , Rating: 1
I'm pretty sure they're going to charge the fare upfront and only send you up once you've paid it. Money still stays in their pockets if things go boom afterwards, it's just that some insurance company is going to regret the day they decided to expand their product portfolio.

RE: What?
By Reclaimer77 on 3/19/2012 3:05:22 PM , Rating: 4
LOL you haven't thought this through very well have you?

I wonder how the airlines would profit if they thought, hey, we got this guys money so we can kill him now. But hello? What about repeat business Gondor. Not to mention the cost of losing an aircraft, which no, insurance does not fully cover.

Compare this to anything Government run. They don't care. It's not their money on the line in the first place. They know that if they screw up, they won't even be fired. The Government has little to no incentives to be efficient, competent, or safer.

RE: What?
By Gondor on 3/22/2012 5:28:11 PM , Rating: 2
This is space travel, a 21st century equivalent of Columbus' and Magellan's expeditions or the 1910s air travel ... if things blow up, tough luck for those involved but everybody understands the risks involved and the magnitude of those risks.

They most certainly wouldn't want their rockets to explode but the likelihood of that happening is relatively large compare to other methods of transportation.

RE: What?
By retrospooty on 3/19/2012 3:52:33 PM , Rating: 3
"NO private organization would be run this poorly. A commercial space enterprise at least understands that if they kill me, they can't profit from me."

That, and the govt just has no accountability at all. Your department lost 80 billion dollars? No problem, we'll just give you more on next years budget. They just dont spend like a private company. They spend like they have an endless spicket of cash that will always flow

RE: What?
By Reclaimer77 on 3/19/2012 6:26:04 PM , Rating: 1
Exactly which makes it next to impossible for a business to compete with the Government; nearly unlimited budgets and no oversight. The only reason we're sitting here talking about this today, and why Musk is even in the picture, is that the Shuttle is retired. If we still had an up and running Shuttle fleet, Space-X wouldn't be pushed this hard. If at all.

Musk understands there's an opportunity here, a big one, and he's not going to sit around and wait for the Government to decide to muscle him out of space.

RE: What?
By Paj on 3/20/2012 8:41:05 AM , Rating: 2
NASA displayed the typical careless and incompetent day-to-day operation you'll find in every Government run agency. NO private organization would be run this poorly.

Perhaps your rants against government agencies apply to the US only, but I can tell you that they are run very effectively elsewhere in the world.

France, world leader in the much touted nuclear power this site loves to pontificate about, retains majority state ownership of Areva, the largest nuclear provider.

Similarly, the TGV, formerly Europe's fastest train, was developed jointly as a public-private partnership with the French state. Same with Concorde.

History is littered with examples of your argument being false, at least where the rest of the world is concerned.

RE: What?
By OneArmedScissorB on 3/20/2012 8:30:20 PM , Rating: 2
Apples and oranges.

France has a population of about 65 million people.

California alone has a population of about 38 million people - and then there are 49 other states.

Many people from the US who generalize about "government" waste and failures are referring specifically to the federal level, which is supposed to have a very limited role, as defined by our constitution.

We have states for quite literally everything else. It's called the United States of America, not Unitarian State of America, for a reason.

Most people do not oppose letting states just do what they want, as nearly all states have balanced budget requirements.

The federal level does not. NASA is a federal program, and difficult to impossible for an American citizen to hold accountable. The bar really is not that high to outdo it.

Nobody said no form of government program works at all.

What history is littered with examples of is every empire falling by stretching itself thin and spending itself to death.

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