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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: direct video link
By drycrust3 on 3/19/2012 4:16:32 PM , Rating: 2
Totally agree. Musk has done a ton of work and the last thing he needs is nay-sayers discrediting his work without foundation. Feeling sad isn't a reason to discredit Musk's work.
The internet has lots of quotes attributed to various Astronauts along the lines of 'just remember that all the mechanical parts in the Saturn V were made by the lowest bidder’. That actual quote was attributed to Armstrong himself, but other famous astronauts have similar quotes attributed to them, so it sounds like it is true.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/5780287/Why-Neil-A...
The point being that while it is sad that NASA is no longer building rockets, the fact is if they built using a tender system, and it sounds like they did, then one could argue they never actually built the entire rocket, they just assembled it.
If you recall the Apollo 13 movie, remember how the Lunar Module scrubbers (the CO2 extractor) were different from the Command Module scrubbers, and how the astronauts had to very carefully get Command Module ones working in the Lunar module housing? This was because the Lunar Module was supplied as a complete and working unit by one "lowest bid" manufacturer while the Command Module was supplied as another complete and working unit from a different "lowest bid" manufacturer, and NASA had failed to specify a standard scrubber fitting, so each manufacturer had put the cheapest scrubber they could in the module they were responsible for.
I think it is great that an American has decided to build a rocket that keeps America in the space race.
What I think NASA should be doing is releasing some sort of "5 Star Safety rating" for space rockets, e.g. fire retardant electrical wiring, not use 100% oxygen atmosphere, not have lumps of ice form on one part of the rocket that can fall off and damage re-entry shielding during launch, making sure the rocket can be launched in the lowest known temperature at Florida (or wherever), making sure all interworking modules use the same units (e.g. all metric units), making sure oxygen tanks won't explode when the stirring motor is turned on, guarantees the fuel tanks will be filled to the brim at lift off, no re-entry shield failure during re-entry, etc.
I think they should do that, and then if Musk (or whoever) gets 5 stars, then it's pretty obvious his rocket is about as safe as it can get, but if he gets two, then the American public can understand why NASA won't commit themselves to using that rocket.


RE: direct video link
By Reclaimer77 on 3/19/2012 6:28:46 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
What I think NASA should be doing is releasing some sort of "5 Star Safety rating" for space rockets, e.g. fire retardant electrical wiring, not use 100% oxygen atmosphere, not have lumps of ice form on one part of the rocket that can fall off and damage re-entry shielding during launch, making sure the rocket can be launched in the lowest known temperature at Florida (or wherever), making sure all interworking modules use the same units (e.g. all metric units), making sure oxygen tanks won't explode when the stirring motor is turned on, guarantees the fuel tanks will be filled to the brim at lift off, no re-entry shield failure during re-entry, etc. I think they should do that, and then if Musk (or whoever) gets 5 stars, then it's pretty obvious his rocket is about as safe as it can get, but if he gets two, then the American public can understand why NASA won't commit themselves to using that rocket.


The problem with this is that nothing NASA's ever built would get 5 stars lol. So it seems kind of hypocritical.


RE: direct video link
By drycrust3 on 3/19/2012 7:44:25 PM , Rating: 2
Car crash testing agencies don't build cars, they just test them.


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