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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 Spif221 on 3/19/2012 4:18:34 PM , Rating: 2
You're saying this via a device, the personal computer, that exists now, at this time, as opposed to some unknown point in the future, because of the work done creating the onboard computers for the Apollo project. Office work today is done through computers and printers and communication devices that are rooted in Apollo. You are communicating instantly today, instead of tapping out a message on a typewriter (with a file copy made with carbon paper) dropping it in the mail and waiting for it to arrive, through the same technology.

If you used your cellphone to place a long distance call today, it worked because of satellites launched as a result of the unmanned space program and computer technology developed for the manned space program. If you saw a news report from overseas today, in real time, it happened because of satellites and microcomputer. Ditto the GPS unit in your car and on your phone, the electronic color camera on your phone and the computer chips in your car, your refrigerator, every piece of audio and video gear in your house.

And that's just scratching the surface of thousands of things we take for granted today, things that created vastly more wealth and prosperity and opportunity than we spent on the program.

Solar power? Space program developed it before anyone conceived of the need for it on Earth.

And it is the fact that the government invested in things that "no sane person/company would have spent this kind of money [on] without tangible and specific returns" that got us all of these things. The mighty invisible free market, so beloved and revered by everyone with a case of Rand-induced arrested development does not believe in serendipity,cannot conceive that giving a bunch of top flight scientists and engineers an impossible, and not self-evidently profitable, task and the resources to accomplish it will bring quick returns.

The free market doesn't do "leap of faith."

RE: Priorities
By Quadrillity on 3/19/2012 4:40:08 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for patronizing me, but I work in the IT industry. Save your explanations of the origins of the computer. You can't know for certain that the computer wouldn't have been invented one year later at a MUCH lower cost by a single visionary. Thomas Jefferson, Graham Bell, Tesla, and the like didn't take billions to invent the world most useful devices.

If you used your cellphone to place a long distance call today, it worked because of satellites launched as a result of the unmanned space program

I have mentioned that orbital satellites are worth the research costs. Please pay attention.

Solar power? Space program developed it before anyone conceived of the need for it on Earth.

Oh really?

The free market doesn't do "leap of faith."

Tell that to the above mentioned, plus AMD, Intel, and every other free market innovation giant.

RE: Priorities
By SoCalBoomer on 3/19/2012 7:21:47 PM , Rating: 2
Thomas Jefferson's inventions - yeah, like Macaroni and Cheese (which, undeniably is one of history's best inventions); an improved dumbwaiter for wine bottles; a better swivel chair; revolving bookstand; a better plow. . . Yep - only a step away from a computer.

I can be certain that it would not have come from a single visionary. A computer is an amalgamation of far too many revolutionary technologies for a single visionary to come up with it.

You said you're in the IT industry - so you know that a computer is made up of not only MANY hardware inventions and revolutions, but of entire processes that came from military necessities that were used, refined, and adapted by NASA. Remember, the origins of the computer were for calculating ballistic trajectories (very similar to what NASA needed).

Barring this, it would very likely been a significant period of time before the pace of technological evolution made the strides needed to arrive at the transistor, the integrated circuit, the CPU, etc.

Large efforts like NASA and war, when everyone coordinates toward a specific goal, this is when things like the computer, which requires a synergy of inventions, actually come together.

after that initial synergy and the further development into something that could be commercialized (Job and Woz didn't actually INVENT anything, they brilliantly developed existing technology into something that could be commercialized and adopted by "normal" people - and yes, I'm skipping the mainframe stage for brevity's sake - yeah, ME, brevity. . . LOL)

On another note, don't assume that everyone reads all the threads and divergent threads that happen. . . :D I'm not sure where you mention that orbital satellites are worth the research costs. . . and it's not because I'm not paying attention. :D

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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