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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 Paj on 3/20/2012 8:30:03 AM , Rating: 1
People who believe Government action is inherently safer, more cost effective, or somehow preferable to the private sector are idiots. Plain and simple.

Greta idea! Lets trust the Fannie Maes and Freddy Macs of the world to run free, unfettered by regulation. They'll sort it out!

AT&T have the interests of the consumers at heart!

Any organisation whose aim is to generate a profit will always put it above all other concerns - performance, safety, infrastructure, environmental - unless regulated otherwise. This system needs to be kept in balance. Some service run better when theyre state owned, others run better privately, some even work best in a partnership.

For the record, I think space travel would benefit hugely from greater public sector involvement. I'm particularly excited by the development of Skylon, which looks to be the world's first SSTO spaceplane. If they can get this working, it will blow SpaceX out of the water.

RE: What?
By Ringold on 3/20/2012 1:17:49 PM , Rating: 2
Greta idea! Lets trust the Fannie Maes and Freddy Macs of the world to run free, unfettered by regulation. They'll sort it out!

Learn what you're talking about before you try witty sarcasm, only makes you look ignorant. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were always known as GSE's, Government Sponsored Enterprises, with the implicit backing of the Treasury -- in other words, debt issued by them implicitly had the full faith and credit of the United States behind it, making them pseudo-Treasury bonds. That supplied virtually unlimited borrowing capacity and instant-AAA status to its debt. Then they were tightly regulated and pushed in to markets that the private sector did not fund with mortgages and still does insure today. In other words, you seem to think they were profit-maximizing privately owned corporations, when the reality was that they were crony-capitalist or, technically, fascist extension of the government where insiders and shareholders profited while the "company" did as it was told as an unofficial branch of the federal government.

That's all a matter of established historical record, not just me saying so. Various Representatives and Senators over the years raised the alarm, but people like Barny Frank called them alarmist, fools and somehow against poor people owning homes. Many other countries have functioning mortgage debt markets with no such government entities interfering in their markets.

RE: What?
By Paj on 3/22/2012 8:24:09 AM , Rating: 2
debt issued by them implicitly had the full faith and credit of the United States behind it, making them pseudo-Treasury bonds.

The fact is, their own literature states that they have no backing of the US government:

Neither the certificates nor interest on the certificates are guaranteed by the United States, and they do not constitute a debt or obligation of the United States or any of its agencies of instrumentalities other than Fannie Mae."

And it would appear that they were not regulated enough. Previous attempts to increase regulation and oversight of the GSEs were repeatedly shot down in Congress - most likley due to the crony capitalism you describe.

Whatever the reason, I think we can both agree that GSE is a pretty flawed model.

It doesn't mean that there is no place for regulation. It also doesn't mean that private enterprise is more accountable or efficient, based on simplistic and outdated economic dogma that fails to take into account the huge number of variables that are required for an accurate analysis.

RE: What?
By Ringold on 3/23/2012 5:21:28 PM , Rating: 2
The fact is, their own literature states that they have no backing of the US government:

Ask anyone actually involved in such markets, or search Bloomberg news archives, CNBC, etc., and you'll know that it was an unofficial but well-known understanding that GSE's would, if trouble ever occurred, be fully backed by the government. It was implied, not explicit, but regulators have since acknowledged that their implied backing of the GSE's was effectively explicit in terms of the expectations it set in the market. It was no surprise at all when the government brought them in to receivership, where they remain, and no surprise that in the process no haircut was applied to any of its debt. (Except maybe preferred shares, those usually get nuked the first time someone sneezes)

Don't know that it's at all normal how they're being operated in receivership, either. I've heard north of 90% of new mortgages are owned or insured by the GSE's now, higher then even before the crisis. That's insane. If they werent obvious organs of the government, they'd be sold off, restructured, or slowly unwound as their portfolios matured.

As for regulation, I'd say they were doing exactly what the regulators wanted them to do. Don't personally think it was an issue of too much or too little regulation, I think it was regulators not understanding how markets work and the incredible asset bubble they were inflating by pimping mortgages to anyone and everyone. When we make the decision to put so much power in the hands of government, well, who watches the watchmen? Nobody.

RE: What?
By NobleKain on 3/20/2012 2:08:30 PM , Rating: 2
While I agree with Ringold's response to you, I even think it's beyond the actual point.

Jedi2155 never once stated he was against REGULATION. However, his post implicitly is referring to ADMINISTRATION.

Government, virtually by definition, EXISTS to regulate; so while there's often issue taken with becoming overzealous with their power, or creating frivolous, destructive regulation (there needs to be a balance and a light hand), the point remains that regulation - in its purest of intentions - is not an argument.

Administration, on the other hand, should not be in the hands of government. It's a perversion of what Government is intended to do. For starters, there's a complete and utter conflict of interest when the one's creating the rules are also direct benefactors of the rules they create. In short, a government that gets in the game for themselves is essentially a Free Enterprise, but with a stacked hand against the competition, and zero source of accountability.

The Private Sector as administrators will always win, because there's an innate source of accountability in the form of the consumers right to choose -- assuming that competition exists. Regulation is intended to protect the existence of competition, and shouldn't go beyond that.

Once the Government becomes competition, it destroys the Economic ecosystem.

But I digress... Jedi is right: there's an assumption that the Government, as administrators, will perform the job more efficiently, safely, and with more integrity than their Private Sector counterparts. It's simply foolish to think so. I think the assumption about government may stem from the fact that the government is created to protect our interests with regulation, and therefore will do so in the administration of our programs. Instead, all it does is create an environment for greedy/power-hungry people to exploit with no accountability. (Incidentally, this also gives a loop-hole to those that are greedy in the Private Sector to exploit as well, because now they can simply get an "inside-man" who's making the rules)

RE: What?
By Paj on 3/22/2012 8:38:34 AM , Rating: 2
The Private Sector as administrators will always win, because there's an innate source of accountability in the form of the consumers right to choose -- assuming that competition exists. Regulation is intended to protect the existence of competition, and shouldn't go beyond that. Once the Government becomes competition, it destroys the Economic ecosystem.

That's an amazingly simplistic viewpoint. Do you think the residents of Bhopal had the right to choose the loss of life and health that resulted from the union Carbide gas leak in 1984?

Guess why this happened? Amongst other things, the plant was subject to lax regulation, and critical systems were allowed to degenerate.

But of course, let's not forget the poor Union Carbide executives that would have had their annual profits curbed by the need to maintain their deadly chemical factory in some sort of viable state. Clearly this line of socialist thinking is dangerous - companies should be protected against such nonsense, and should be able to operate with as little regulation as possible so they can continue their Noble Work of making obscene amounts of money, no matter what the cost.

Regulation exists to protect people and society from the excesses of capitalism and greed. It creates and maintains standards for products and services, prevents monopolies, protects consumers from fraud, and protects excessive environmental degradation.

RE: What?
By Ringold on 3/23/2012 5:26:12 PM , Rating: 2
I'd argue that while that's valid, there's also valid reasons to try to stop perpetual growth in government. It's slow to evolve to new technology, market conditions, and dangers.

You mention Bhopal, in India. Good country to take as an example. It's "license Raj" strangled the country nearly to death, and still does. Why has IT taken a commanding lead in modernizing its economy? The government was too slow to regulate it, and it'd already taken off practically by the time the regulators understood what was going on. The rest of the economy, though, is still mired in red tape and corruption endemic in that way of doing business/government.

Then there's the other dark side of over-powering government: history seems to suggest its always a path to abuse and corruption. However many died in Bhopal, Bolshevik's killed more.

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