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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: Priorities
By Reclaimer77 on 3/19/2012 2:40:00 PM , Rating: 3
I don't know how you can put a price tag on knowledge and advancing the human race.

RE: Priorities
By Quadrillity on 3/19/12, Rating: 0
RE: Priorities
By SoCalBoomer on 3/19/2012 3:32:41 PM , Rating: 5
Actually, NASA has helped in the fight against cancer.

True, it hasn't actually cured cancer - but then it's not what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration focuses on. However, the technologies that we USE to fight cancer have massively benefited from NASA's research.

Radiation - the control systems used to focus the radiation . . . many of those originate with NASA's research into using nuclear motors for spacecraft. Did you know that? Did you even know that NASA had researched that? Well, they're actually still doing that research and using smaller nuclear motors for deep space and research.

Fuel Cells - guess where much of this was pioneered? Satellites and the shuttle extensively used fuel cells. . . and they MUST be as light and compact as possible so they don't use as much fuel to lift them. . .

Water (and air) processing - guess what? they have to recycle EVERYTHING on a space station/shuttle/craft. That especially means water and air - and that technology does make its way down to us.

RE: Priorities
By Quadrillity on 3/19/2012 3:57:14 PM , Rating: 3
Valid arguments, thanks!

RE: Priorities
By sigmatau on 3/19/2012 10:09:20 PM , Rating: 1
NASA was also the first to implement human waste recycling into drinkable water on the space station. A few cities have already implemented this technology and are now recycling toilet waste into drinkable water.

I believe that 10 private space companies combined do not equal one NASA. The budget for NASA is peanuts when compared to things like the defense budget or "entitlement" programs. We can trim the defense budget by 5% and funnel that to NASA and that will be more than its current budget.

Why do people pick on a government organization that has a budget of under $19 billion before they pick on something like the $600 billion defense budget? We spend more on defense than all other countries combined. Now that's crazy.

RE: Priorities
By Paj on 3/20/2012 8:46:19 AM , Rating: 2
Good reply. I disagreed with your original points but its good to see you modify your position in the face of new evidence. Kinda like science itself :)

RE: Priorities
By Reclaimer77 on 3/19/2012 3:40:25 PM , Rating: 1
I would love to reply but I feel like trying to discuss this topic with someone who apparently lacks the mental ability to see further than what's on his nose would be a waste of time.

I'm not buying into the whole idea that cool space gadgets will somehow "advance" the human race.

They already have, 100% fact. Sorry.

But I'll be sure to send a memo to NASA telling them to get right on that "curing cancer" agenda...

RE: Priorities
By Quadrillity on 3/19/2012 4:16:28 PM , Rating: 2
I would love to reply but I feel like trying to discuss this topic with someone who apparently lacks the mental ability to see further than what's on his nose would be a waste of time.

Thanks for the helpful information.

They already have, 100% fact. Sorry. But I'll be sure to send a memo to NASA telling them to get right on that "curing cancer" agenda...

You missed my point because you were in too much of a rage to call me a retard. Almost all of the major breakthrough from NASA have been proxy results. The ultimate question is could we have brought the same findings without proxy? I have a valid point somewhere between the lines.

From the outside looking in, it doesn't look economical. But then again, it may be one of those type scenarios where you actualize a solution to a difficult problem just by doing something else unrelated.

RE: Priorities
By SoCalBoomer on 3/19/2012 5:43:22 PM , Rating: 2
re: Proxy results - the same could be said about warfare.

For some reason, we as a civilization and race seem to need some kind of spur to get us going in a direction. Otherwise we stagnate - our growth drops to next to nothing.

Look at the cycles we, as a nation, have gone through. We stagnate, then we get in a war or we find gold or we find something to kick ourselves in the arses and DO something. :D I'm not saying war is good, I'm not saying we all need gold (although it wouldn't hurt!) but what I'm saying is that we seem to need some spur.

One of those spurs has been exploration. It's been one of the most persistent and continuous spurs. We had the West, we had the farther West, we had the gold rushes (California, Montana, Alaska, etc.) all of which encouraged and pushed exploration (in addition to being spurs of their own).

Very few things can be seen as being direct findings. Very rarely is something directly looked for and found without having a large amount of "proxy" results that it is built upon.

Would we have progressed as far as we have without NASA's "proxy results" - I doubt it. In reality, NASA's contributions have been far more than "proxy" - a massive amount of what we know about the Earth has come from NASA's partnership with NOAA to give us vast amounts of satellite imagery. . . that's not proxy.

Quad - I appreciate your sentiment, but this stuff can easily be researched. NASA's (and the space research movement as a whole) contributions are really EASILY found. Just search things like "space return on investment" or "NASA contribution to science" - if you like, skip the "propoganda" of the .gov sites and look at other sources.

I won't call you a retard. You ask intelligent questions - but they're easily answered questions that you really can answer yourself. Please - go forth and inform! :D

RE: Priorities
By Reclaimer77 on 3/19/2012 6:51:57 PM , Rating: 1
I wasn't in a rage. I just pity you. Plus for an opinion you stand so firmly behind, you appear to have little or no knowledge of the actual specifics. How can you form an opinion without facts?

The ultimate question is could we have brought the same findings without proxy?

You mean WITHOUT using hindsight? No, probably not. Without a problem, nobody bothers coming up with solutions. Getting into orbit, flying around the moon and back, landing on the moon and back, was the problem. The CHALLENGES of doing these forced us to innovate and solve the many problems involved with human spaceflight.

If right now, today, we had to get to Mars, land, and come back...we would find a way to do it. And the lessons we learn, the technologies developed, the metallurgy and material advancements, all of that, would trickle down to all of us in one way or the other.

No, they might not all be amazing jaw-dropping revolutionary advancements. But why do you seem to only care about those? Is there no value in numerous smaller improvements to the human race? Saying crap like "When NASA finds a way to get us off oil, give me a call" makes you sound like an extremist loon.

RE: Priorities
By SPOOFE on 3/19/2012 3:48:59 PM , Rating: 1
NASA has done some great things, but they haven't cured cancer.

Which says a lot about cancer and very little about NASA.

[quote]I guess my ideal vision is that we split up money spent on taxpayer sponsored research to real world problems of the here and now[/quote]
Most "real world" problems are a matter of getting different human beings (or groups of human beings) to see eye-to-eye. Middle East peace conferences should tell you that it's not simply a matter of throwing money at the problem. How do you propose we solve starvation in Africa? Invade?

[quote]Like nuclear power, hydrogen fuel cells, clean water processing, cancer research. You know, the essentials.[/quote]
How about you start with "get people to stop slaughtering each other en masse"? O ye of fucked-up priorities.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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