He just can’t catch a break, can he? SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has been reprimanded in public for smoking weed again, this time by the NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
Bridenstine was speaking to reporters at an event yesterday where NASA announced some new commercial partnerships to explore the Moon. But he also fielded some questions on a NASA investigation that’s taking place into SpaceX and Boeing.
Those two companies are due to start launching US astronauts into space again next year. But when Musk appeared on the Joe Rogan podcast and smoked a joint in September this year, that did not go down well with NASA, who SpaceX are contracted with to launch humans.
According to The Washington Post, this prompted NASA to launch a safety review earlier this month into practices at SpaceX and Boeing. “We need to show the American public that when we put an astronaut on a rocket, they’ll be safe,” Bridenstine said.
And in his latest comments, Bridenstine has doubled down on this criticism, giving Musk a stern telling off. “I will tell you that was not helpful, and that did not inspire confidence, and the leaders of these organizations need to take that as an example of what to do when you lead an organization that’s going to launch American astronauts,” he told The Atlantic.
It was reported that Bridenstine himself ordered the investigations, in part due to memories of tragedies in NASA’s history – such as the Apollo 1 fire, and the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttle disasters. And while he noted technological problems were to blame, another issue was the culture of NASA.
“What was the culture of our contractors, and were there people that were raising a red flag that we didn’t listen to, and ultimately did that culture contribute to the failure and, in those cases, to disaster?” he said.
He added that having spoken to Musk, he thought he was “as committed to safety as anybody, and he understands that that was not appropriate behavior, and you won’t be seeing that again.”
The comments are likely to be somewhat controversial. On the one hand, cannabis is legal in California, where Musk smoked the joint on camera. But it is still a controlled substance, and considering the magnitude of what SpaceX are aiming for, there are understandably some concerns about practices.
If all goes to plan, SpaceX hopes to start launching humans into space in its Dragon capsule by the summer of 2019 at the earliest, with Boeing following soon after. Hopefully by then, all of this will have been forgotten, and we can get back to enjoying some good old crewed space launches again.