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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 JediJeb on 3/20/2012 1:52:47 PM , Rating: 2
I think I would rather spend my taxes on helping our nation become energy independent rather than building a new telescope to see extra-solar planets.

This is where we differ, in that I believe we should be doing both. My biggest quibble is that we allow the need to support those who will only ever leach off of those who achieve, to keep us from moving forward into greater things.

If you continue to hold the train for those who are slow to board, then the train may never leave the station. Sometimes you just have to set a schedule and stick to it and those who miss the train can either catch the next one or just sit in the station forever. It may sound heartless, but what is the more heartless act, leaving a few behind or sacrificing the many waiting for the few that will never come along?

RE: Priorities
By Quadrillity on 3/21/2012 8:38:28 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not so sure you fully understand my stance on this particular issue. We would have TONS more to spend on NASA if we would cut off the free handouts to the lazy degenerates. At that point, I would be glad to spend our extra money on research for deep space programs.

I think where most people don't understand my view on this is when they assume that I think NASA is a waste of resources. It absolutely is not a waste. If anything, it would be a step in the right direction, as I would much rather see my money go to overly expensive research then to someone who sits on their lazy ass all day to collect taxpayer checks.

To put it plainly: I have a problem with spending billions of dollars on things that don't immediately get us on a path towards financial and personal responsibility. We don't need to keep spending money that we don't have. Lets fix our major problems first, THEN come back and start investing more into these programs.

RE: Priorities
By maven81 on 3/21/2012 2:13:10 PM , Rating: 2
This is a very tired and very stupid argument. There will ALWAYS be problems here. And the problems we face are usually not economic but political in nature. Even if somehow tomorrow we magically got rid of all the debt and the budget was perfectly balanced and so on there would still be disease, poverty and crime. There would still be corruption, pollution, overpopulation, war, terrorism, and a million other issues. So when exactly is the right time then huh? There will never be a right time. But because of misguided fools like you the moon program was killed in the early 70s. After all there was a war going on, and all sorts of other issues. We could have had a base on the moon by now, learning how the human race can survive in space which will one day become a necessity. We could have been pushing our engineering to the limit of what is possible. But no... we have problems here...
Why is NASA your whipping boy anyway? What was the return to humanity or to this nation over the hundreds of billions spent in Iraq for example?
Quit while you're ahead. Return when you have something intelligent to say and don't misconstrue every reply to you as a personal attack on your "ideas".

RE: Priorities
By Quadrillity on 3/21/2012 5:06:46 PM , Rating: 2
How is asking to spend only what we actually have a "very tire and stupid" argument? What's the point of the science fictional plan of finding, reaching, and populating a new world if we can't manage to live properly on the one we have now? I'd say that IF our civilization is to advance that far, then we will already have the tools necessary. But it's people like you who think we can just throw money at NASA and ... POOF! We all of a sudden will invent a wormhole device to explore the universe.

You take your ideal and stick with them all you want; but I want to fix the problems of the real world (here and now) before we even think about dreams to explore and spread our human race elsewhere.

RE: Priorities
By maven81 on 3/21/2012 6:23:19 PM , Rating: 2
Again, your reasoning is a dead end. At every stage of our evolution as a species we had a choice to either focus on the "here and now" or to aspire to something bigger. We didn't have to leave the safety of our caves either, or build fleets of ships, or establish new colonies, etc. There were always problems to be fixed here and now. You would have Spain turn down funding Columbus' expedition because they had huge problems to deal with at the time.

And if that wasn't bad enough, your entire premise is wrong. Giving money to NASA doesn't make it disappear... we aren't literally stuffing it into ships and launching it into space. That money funds research, creates hardware and pays people's salaries, it returns right back into the economy. And you're the one implying that we'll somehow magically have all the right tools when the time is right. Who's going to develop those tools? There needs to be basic research even if it has no immediately obvious applications. That's how most of our technology has been developed, from the transistor, to lasers, to carbon nanotubes. All research projects where someone just gave someone else some money and said here, see what you can figure out. Hell, the very internet you are using right now is a government sponsored research project. I suppose you think that was a waste of money and resources too right?

RE: Priorities
By Quadrillity on 3/21/2012 8:32:15 PM , Rating: 2
I can tell you haven't bothered to read the thread of posts here. You don't understand my stance on this subject if you claim that I believe NASA "a waste of money and resources". I never said, nor implied that it was. I was merely point out that we have larger priorities right now that will get in the way of future funding for projects like this.

What's more important to you, food? Or cool telescopes and probes? The way this nation is going, we are going to spend our way right into starvation before we know it. All I'm saying is that we need to focus MORE on important things FIRST. Secondary stuff can come later.

RE: Priorities
By maven81 on 3/22/2012 12:14:24 PM , Rating: 2
"You don't understand my stance on this subject if you claim that I believe NASA "a waste of money and resources". I never said, nor implied that it was."

That is EXACTLY what you said. And I quote: "I just refuse to believe that billions spent on a deep space probe satellite will somehow magically cure the looming food and clean water shortage problems." Meaning you feel money spent on a deep space probe could be better spent on other things. Sure, you tried to backtrack after that, but that was your position.

"What's more important to you, food? Or cool telescopes and probes? The way this nation is going, we are going to spend our way right into starvation before we know it. All I'm saying is that we need to focus MORE on important things FIRST. Secondary stuff can come later."

You haven't listened to anything I said. There will always be important stuff and research is not a secondary need. It's exactly what separates us humans from animals... we aren't just worried about a roof over our head and food on the table. We are also explorers. And cool telescopes do not result in there not being food on your table. it costs each tax payer a couple of dollars to fund them. Far more money is lost on much more dubious things. The government has spent more money on air conditioning in afghanistan then they have on those telescopes.

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