An Open Letter To Elon Musk
In response to his recent interview with CBS News
Please understand that the only reason you are able to do what you are doing is because the public space program has paved the way for you to do so. You didn’t invent the technology in your Merlin engine you’re so proud of. A company that gained that understanding from years of working with NASA built that for you. And did you ever mention that? No you didn’t.
I can understand that the world is enamored with you and your bright ideas, your willingness to put your own money into high-tech projects that are changing the world, but did you forget somewhere along the lines that the vast majority of the technology you now use was birthed in the space program you seem so eager to forget?
Here’s How Elon Musk Planned To Revive NASA [Business Insider]
I get asked all of the time, Elon, "well, why do we need NASA if the commercial companies are doing all of this stuff in space now?" And I have to explain to them, one-by-one, exactly why we need the space program. Because, in your moment of grandeur, you have conveniently forgotten where that tech came from. It came from NASA projects.
While you’re busy making grand statements about your plans for SpaceX and how you’re going to change the world, don’t forget to thank the mother that brought you into this world. You wouldn’t have the engine, or the launch pad, or the contract to resupply the International Space Station, or the lineage of understanding that has been brought to us all by the space program without its existence. In short, Mr. Musk, you would have PayPal. And maybe an electric car company. Both are cool, by the way, and I congratulate you on their success.
On NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS)
and Orion Spacecraft Programs [Overview By David Brandt-Erichsen]
The next time you do an interview that points out the inherent problems with depending on the Russians to fly our astronauts into space…before you herald your great plans to have a manned vehicle ready in the next few years…before you set sail on a voyage to Mars or the Moon, or wherever…don’t forget where that mere possibility was enabled. And maybe, just maybe, take a moment to connect the dots between what you are doing and how the public space program (NASA) allowed you to get there.
At the rate you’re going, I get the feeling you’d be really happy if the Space Launch System (SLS - our nations new deep space rocket) was cancelled like so many other projects when they are halfway through because people like you - in a unique position to do so - have failed to educate the public, Congress, and the people of this country that are paying for your rockets to go into space, that NASA DOES THINGS YOU CAN’T DO YET, and NASA WILL DO THINGS THAT YOU’LL DO LATER because that’s where the public space program has taken us. It’s where it’s taken you, Mr. Musk.
Visualization of the SLS [Animation/Overview]
Icarus flew too high and his wings melted. Are you off to do the same? Because you won’t get very far without the public space program paving the way with the scientific and technological understanding that private companies simply cannot afford to undertake as our public space program can when it’s supported by the tax dollar investment.
You are off to do great things, Mr. Musk. Just don’t bite the hand that feeds you or give too much credit to yourself. I own NASA, Mr. Musk. I don’t own you. But what you own was given to you in large part by the space program. Do some good and mention that from time to time.
David Ruck | Director, "I want to be an Astronaut"
'Sagan Sense' Sidebar: Although I endorse private industry and commercial spaceflight, the above perspective is understandably permissible regarding the slight disdain for the way Elon Musk is communicating his efforts and goals to the world. Although I don’t expect Musk to take on the role of NASA’s cheerleader, I’m equally as dissatisfied with the lack of mention or support toward the current state of America’s space program which, well….to be quite honest, provides Space X with somewhere to go, the means by which to do so, and the original inspiration behind his own dreams.
I expect the same from Richard Branson as he pushes forward with Virgin Galactic, Bas Lansdorp regarding Mars-One…the list goes on. The only private company I’ve seen giving major kudos to NASA is Planetary Resources, because the team is comprised of the engineers responsible for the creation, implementation, operation, and successful landing of the Mars rovers. NASA is (as described by Neil deGrasse Tyson) "a force of nature like none other…" and should be communicated to the public as such. After all, David is right. He owns NASA, as a tax-paying American. And so do I. The American public owns NASA and we need to be reminded of what it is we’re paying for.
Crowds gathered in NYC’s Times Square to watch the live broadcast of the MSL ‘Curiosity’ rover land on Mars. Image above via Penny4NASA.org