If This Is Your Inspiration From Space, You’re Doing It Wrong

So after a false start due to bad weather, the first crewed launch of a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule with two astronauts on board has gone ahead. After playing catch-up with the ISS for around 27 hours they’re now safely aboard. At times it seems that space launches have become everyday occurrences, but they are still heroes who have risked their lives in the furtherment of mankind’s exploration of space. Their achievement, and that of all the scientists, engineers, and other staff who stand behind them, is immense.

I watched the drama unfold via the live video feed. Having heaved a huge sigh of relief once they were safely in orbit, the feed cut to the studio, and then moved on to interview the NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. He was naturally elated at a successful launch, and enthused about the agency’s achievement. You can watch the full interview embedded below, but what caught my attention was his parting sentence:

And if this can inspire a young child to become the next Elon Musk, or the next Jeff Bezos, or the next Sir Richard Branson, then that’s what this is all about

I was slightly shocked and saddened to hear this from the NASA administrator, because to my mind the careers of Musk, Bezos, or Branson should not be the ones first brought to mind by a space launch. This isn’t a comment on those three in themselves; although they have many critics it is undeniable that they have each through their respective space companies brought much to the world of space flight. Instead it’s a comment on what a NASA administrator should be trying to inspire in kids.

Ask yourself how many billionaire masters-of-the-universe it takes for a successful space race compared to the number of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, technicians, physicists, et al. From the anecdote of the NASA administrator it takes about three, but if he is to make good on his goal of returning to the Moon in 2024 and then eventually taking humanity to Mars it will take a generation packed full of those other roles. To understand that we’ll have to take a trip back to the Apollo era, and how that generation of kids were inspired by the spacecraft on their screens.

Inspiration from probably the coolest room in the world at the time, the Apollo mission control in Houston.
Inspiration from probably the coolest room in the world at the time, the Apollo mission control in Houston. NASA on The Commons / No restrictions

Fifty years ago, we were very much on the brink of becoming a spacefaring planet. American astronauts were taking their first steps on the Moon, and Soviet cosmonauts were occupying real space stations that would soon be capable of housing them for months at a time. Planetary probes were returning colour TV pictures from other worlds, and it was certain that in the immediate aftermath of the Apollo programme we’d be sending astronauts and probably cosmonauts too further afield. A Mars base in the 1980s perhaps, and following our fictional Star Trek heroes further afield thereafter.

We now know it didn’t quite work out that way, but a whole generation of tech-inclined kids grew up wanting nothing more than to be involved in space flight. The vast majority of us never made it, but with that inspiration we took our soldering irons and 8-bit home computers and ran with them. Those NASA folks were the coolest of role-models, and no doubt their Soviet equivalents were too for kids on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

With the best will in the world, the chances of any kid becoming the next Jeff Bezos is about as high as that of their becoming the next Neil Armstrong. Compared to the number of kids in the world, the number of billionaires and the number of astronauts both pale into statistical insignificance. But the chances of a kid becoming an engineer or a scientist is much higher, and in those careers their chances of having some of their work be involved with the space effort becomes not entirely unlikely.

I understand what the NASA administrator was trying to say, but can’t shake the feeling that if those are the people he rolls out to inspire kids watching a space launch, he’s missed an opportunity. Those are the names we all recognize, but shouldn’t we also elevate the people making the scientific breakthroughs so their names are equally recognized? Like Margaret Hamilton, Gene Kranz, and Sergei Korolev and many others before them, we should be making names like Tom Mueller and Margarita Marinova prominent examples of where a career in the sciences can take you. But to be honest, the real problem is we just don’t hear much about all the people doing this fascinating engineering and that’s a sad state of affairs.

Looks like it’s time for Hackaday to pursue a biography series based on the many great minds who are the ones delivering on the promise and vision of today’s (and tomorrow’s) space race. Get us started by talking about your favorite behind the scenes science folks in the comments below.

162 thoughts on “If This Is Your Inspiration From Space, You’re Doing It Wrong

    1. I must agree with you. I was a bit chagrined when Senator Cruz tried to use the moment of the dock for a bit of a political statement, but was relieved when both of the new ISS members artfully dodge the political minefield by emphasizing the contributions of the many scientist and engineers that made the mission a success.

      On a side note docking in KSP is much harder than what I saw today. I think I will download MechJeb. :-)

  1. It is indeed unfortunate to be “inspired” and have as role-models, tycoons with highly questionable motives (primarily profit) on all their ventures so far. Thank you for bringing this up!

    I would suggest Hackaday focus on a series of great minds like the ones you mentioned and additionally: Cayley, Goddard, Kemurdzhian, Keldysh, Severin, Xiji and many others.

    1. Interesting that none of the names listed, with the possible exception of Goddard, come quickly to mind when one thinks of life-changing engineers and scientists. Instead, we might think of Edison, Einstein, Kepler, Newton, and Brahe, all of whom were wealthy or became so through their work. Worth noting, however, is that their work was in pure science, whereas today’s “tycoons” are working on applications that require huge sums of money. The US government could no longer afford space exploration because its transition to a socialist economy as put it on a fast track to bankruptcy. We need visionary tycoons to literally lift us up.

    2. While I agree that it was an unfortunate comment on part of NASA’s administrator, I’m not inclined to believe that the primary drivers behind creating SpaceX, Blue Origin and perhaps some others were profit, particularly given that there are far more profitable and less risky avenues to making money than through space technology companies. Of course, if they have any intention of being at least somewhat self-sustainable, then they do need to figure out how to generate income, but that could be attributed more to necessity than underlying motive.

      And while the upper echelons of space tech is in the realm of billionaires and mega corporations, that’s quite an improvement over what was once, and not all that long ago, limited to wealthy nation states and their behemoth contractors. It will be longer still, if ever, that we attain the capabilities to reach similar outcomes at costs many orders of magnitude lower, but it seems like that’s more so the intent now than it realistically ever has been before. Though I’m not sure that will be achieved by your typical combusted propellant-powered engine attached to a stick method.

      1. “And while the upper echelons of space tech is in the realm of billionaires and mega corporations, that’s quite an improvement over what was once, and not all that long ago, limited to wealthy nation states and their behemoth contractors. ” Instead of 4 countries it’s 4 billionaires. What a change!

        1. Yes, we need everything into the hands of 4 billionaires. I can’t wait until I don’t have to care about voting and budget allocations anymore, the 4 billionaires will do it for me! :-)

          1. here is a perfect example of the insanity we face, the “billionaire” has never created anything least of all solutions to problems. the slap their name on other peoples work and make people pay more money they they should ever to get it.

      2. “not inclined to believe that the primary drivers behind creating SpaceX, Blue Origin and perhaps some others were profit,”
        Everyone knows government contracts have no profit. That’s why Boring, Lockheed and Raytheon are so broke.
        Musk is a welfare queen.

    3. Good grief. Hilarious. Profit is a highly questionable motive? Joke? Nothing happens without profit. With a gain of 1 or less, you never get beyond hunter-gather. You definitely never build boats or roads or bridges. What is this whinging over smart successful individuals kicking the ass of NASA and Russia combined? The booster AND the capsule are Space-X! Why would you not be inspired?

      Is this response due to the group cooperative learning that is all the rage in education? You want them to be inspired by some career as a cog in the machine? Can you remember being young? This is a real life Tom Swift story. And why pick three billionaires? Because they are in a space race made possible by their success. I gotta say, this response is pretty depressing. Talk about a huge “yes but”.

      1. Go back to 2012, or now at Boca Chica. SpaceX is the embodiment of those 1950’s tales of people building rockets in farm fields, and they’re even using steel just like in the old stories.

      2. “One has to pity your romantic partner.” What a scumbag comment. I guess when you run out of good arguments (or in your case, you never had any) it’s easier to be rude. I pity your romantic partner.

      3. You are forgetting that they are “in the race” because they stand on the shoulder of giants that already did all the research for them, and that was paid with public/government money.

        It would not be the same if these “billionaires” had to train all the scientists from zero, right now they use scientist that got their experience by previously working at NASA et al.

        Where were these “billionaires” in the 50s/60s? There were billionaires back then you know?

        It is the same with Pharmaceutical companies. Many companies start from successful government programs that allowed PhDs to do their research and discover things.

        Furthermore, none of these “billionaires” made their money by being brilliant rocket scientists or discoverers of vaccines…which by itself speaks of where priorities are in this world…remember Whatsapp? Facebook paid 20 billions for it to about 100 guys…who invented nothing when compared to guys who discover vaccines.
        Sure, they made some app based off open source code, it’s fine that they make some money and all that. The problem is the scale and how those 20 billions could have gone to medical research…

    4. Why post so ignorantly…..Musks primary motivation is not profit. He has stated over and over that he is rich enough as it is… to never matter for him ever again. All the money he throws around or invests in this or that is disposable income effectively.

      His primary motivation is to make humans a multiplanetary species… and you can see that connected to every thing he does and company he starts in some way.

      1. Sure, that’d be fine if we did not had other urgent issues, like climate change.

        This planet is perfectly capable of sustaining life, unlike any other close (or even far) planets like Mars, yet we do everything to render it a wastedump.

        If Musk wanted to fix human problems, maybe he could start with the problems that we have right now (disease, hunger, overpopulation and overpollution). The thing is that those problems are harder, shooting a rocket is a solved problem…talk about ambition…

        1. Wait, so you’re saying Musk is not trying to address major issues, like pollution or pollution, in some way? It’s hard to deny that he has done a lot to return electric cars to the public consciousness while making them more desirable (and not just his brand) than ever before. Did Tesla end pollution and climate change? Of course not, but it is a push in the right direction. In reality, we’ll need a lot of pushes like that, and you can’t expect Elon or any other human to do them all.

          But I guess he should have fixed all those issues you list with the $165 million he made from PayPal, right? That should have been more than enough! /S

      2. Musk main goal is to feed his own ego and nothing else.

        musk is a narcissistic sociopath who’s trying to get his name remembers and be doesn’t care how many lies he has to tell or people have to die to have that happen. and when his plan fail as there is no other option for them but to fail they are that stupid.

        he will have damage space exploration for years to come

          1. I don’t know you have all day?

            someone stopping to help fix a flat tire, returning a lost toy, return someones dropped money and so on.

            they’re not typically the kind you see in history books tho, history writers do so love to writer about mythological figures rather then the harder dirty truth of incremental change and group dynamics. its one of the greater flaws of the human mind, we’re not very good at understanding the complexity of reality but the mind is very good at personal understanding so it likes personalize complex concepts by choosing “avatars” (think wearing the same underwear for good luck or thinking a god made that glass of water fall on their laps) which is easier to understand but completely wrong.

            Musk an trash like him are desperately try to make themselves seem important when they’re not. because they are just sad pathetic people and i just feel sorry for the people that fall for it,

        1. Even “selfless” actions are ego. Say you step in to help someone you don’t know, and not with an expectation of receiving anything in return. That’s quite selfless, but it’s the ego that makes you think you can be of any help in the first place. Like most things, ego is a gradient, not some simple black and white thing like you imply.

          1. you post more then boards on straw man argument Msat

            any good musk does for the world will be purely incidental, the people he hurts to get his ego fueled nightmare already out number those it could ever help. this isn’t a binary issue its simply the fact his actions haven proven he’s toxic in the purest sense.

          2. Sure dexdraco. You are adding up all the small businesses and individual successes, charities, and help-me sites that have been created because PayPal made it easy to trade internationally or trade domestically without them becoming a credit card processor? And PayPal avoided becoming a bank as well. Who are all these damaged people who far outnumber those who benefit? I mean a business degree from Wharton and a BS in Physics with two years of graduate work at Stanford. He must be a terrible person. He founded two software/online companies that were bought by Compaq and PayPal and we all know those software hackers are reprehensible.

  2. No argument there. I spent my formative years studying what was known about Goddard, and many others. And watched with surprise and awe the collective efforts of NASA to do the impossible. (Or what was then.) Now? Yes I am impressed by Musk’s company. Not by the one Jeff Bezos is doing stuff with, and could care less about the name behind Virgin anything. And as it happens my interests in computers were shaped by the efforts to apply them for those efforts. Also the middle and lower level electronics efforts.

  3. Everyone knows about the nazis we got from Operation Paperclip, but what’s less well known is the contingent of brilliant aerodynamicists and engineers from Avro in Canada. After the Avro Arrow (which would have been the world’s most advanced interceptor at the time) program was shut down for sketchy political reasons, a lot of Avro’s top people emigrated to the U.S. They, including Jim Chamberlin and John Hodge, went on to lead the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs.

    1. The ICBM made high altitude, high speed interceptor aircraft designed to shoot down bombing airplanes obsolete. The Arrow would’ve been the best of them but it was just too late.

      Destroying most of the hardware was a stupid thing to do. Most likely the Soviets already had any info they wanted from it.

      1. Not necessarily obsolete, just of lesser importance. There’s a reason we currently have a “nuclear triad” which still contains manned strategic bombers (and, of course, the complementary need to counter such a threat).

        (Also, I reported your comment by accident. Sorry, mods, didn’t mean it.)

  4. I’m disappointed- I love a good billionaire bashing as much as the next guy, but I’ve come to expect a little actual content to help wash it down. Usually love the poignancy of your writing, but the clearest point made in this article seems to be that there are more children than billionaires on earth.

    1. As it happens, I’m at pains not to billionaire-bash. Their contribution to the current space effort is beyond question. My target is the NASA man, for imagining that kids should be inspired in their direction.

      1. While I take your point (and agree!), in fairness to Bridenstine in the exchange immediately after this he pointed out that he himself was nothing like those guys, so maybe there’s a degree of modesty at play. It would be odd if he’d said “I hope kids are inspired to become the next me!”. :)

      2. One has to wonder.

        The people behind SpaceX’s rockets were already working for NASA on the very same problem, when Musk bought and hired them to sell NASA the same technology by the same people. The only “thing” here is that NASA was having a hard time securing funding, so they made this whole “commercial space flight” switcheroo to make it look like they’re doing something different.

        Even the re-usable rockets are just a rehash of the old McDonnell Douglas DC-X concept that was funded by NASA, and the technology was transferred to NASA in 1996 in order to develop into the DC-XA.

        Everything that Musk is doing is projects that NASA was doing, handed over on a platter to privatize the profits.

        1. SpaceX began with what was already available sure enough… As has pretty much any attempt at new rockets since Goddard and all those that derrived the rocket equation. The latest block falcon 9 is a far cry from what they got from NASA. StarShip and the heavy lift is a different beast altogether. I’d also restate your last sentence a bit as “…Musk is doing projects that NASA WANTED to do but had no funding and zero effective long term project support needed to push space flight through to re-usable rockets”. This was proven time and time again in the decisions made for Shuttle and for its oft delayed, constantly replaced successor projects that at this point never got built. SLS… MIGHT basically show a return to Sat V style stack and is ANYTHING but an improvement on Shuttle re-useability and cost effective launch solution.

          Musk is weird, possibly in the midst of going full Howard Hughes. He has a ton of baggage and issues and seems hell bent on piling up more. But as often as profit motive is cast as the driving factor for SpaceX he continues to show his goal to be Mars again and again and again. There is ZERO case for profit for Starship given current space market launch capacity needs. The only thing that MIGHT make Starship work is them dogfooding their own launch demand with Starlink. If he held pat and doubled down on Falcon 9 and Heavy he would corner the existing market in short order if it were a truly open market. But he doesn’t want the current market. He wants a market that does not exist. And he believes in it enough he is moving his company to retire The falcon 9 and heavy in favor of a heavy launch capacity that if even a 10th of the design goals are met for re-usability it will significantly increase our total mass to orbit capability at lower cost. Fantastic move…. if and ONLY if you have a market for enough mass to utilize the capability. If anything I think he is a Delos D. Harriman. For him, at least as far as SpaceX goes, Money seems to be more a means to an end rather than an end goal in and of itself.

          Should he be held up for emulation? Ef if I know.

        2. While there may be some truth to your comment, it’s definitely not the whole of it like you imply. The Falcon9 bears little resemblance to the DC-X other than the former having propulsive landing capabilities for its first stage, which is hardly something invented by the latter. And to be fair, much of the history of the space industry, or pretty much any industry for that matter, is at least partially based on technology and know-how that came before, yet further refined by taking advantage of progress made in numerous fields. So no, SpaceX didn’t have the keys to the kingdom, because if they did then it shouldn’t have taken them 18 years to reach this point, unless you’re saying they’re grossly incompetent.

          1. There has been a whole lot of wheel reinventing in space stuff. Why not pick up where McDonnel Douglas left off with the DC-X? Build a rocket that can fly to orbit in one piece and come down in one piece. NASA instead chose the X-33 which had nothing but some pretty art and “blue sky” while DC-X had real, flying hardware. Several years and a whole lot of money later X-33 had a semi-functional part of a linear aerospike engine and had learned the many ways technology and materials of the time couldn’t make cryogenic fuel and oxidizer tanks in odd shapes.

            Through the 70’s and 80’s I read Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Mechanix Illustrated, and back issues of those and similar magazines from the 60’s and earlier. There’s a huge amount of stuff that was written about in all those magazines which I’ve later seen versions of touted as “new”.

            Dig through the closets of the past, apply some new techniques and materials, everything we need to go out into the whole solar system in a big way has already been thought up and much of it already prototyped – and given the cold shoulder because NASA didn’t have a finger in the pie, or if they did it was rejected because of political palm greasing.

        3. If SpaceX is doing stuff NASA already figured out, why didn’t NASA (and Boeing//Lockheed/Aerojet/…) just do it? At SpaceX prices? How’s their Starship coming along? Orbital refueling? Their FFSC methalox engine? Much of the shortcomings of old-space can be attributed to certain congressmen dictating the use of Russian engines, leftover shuttle scrap and supply chain, lobbying dollars to grease the wheels of the old gravy train. But some of it is vision, audacity, and a willingness to iterate to something better, rather than just looking for ways to jack up Boeing’s bottom line. Can you imagine SLS suddenly going to stainless steel a decade in?

          1. Why not indeed.

            The issue is that the space industry is transitioning towards smaller launches as commercial satellites are getting smaller and more efficient, so there’s no demand for the type of rocketry that SpaceX is doing. Their only customer is NASA and the ISS, where the ISS in turn exists only to justify spending tax money on NASA. There’s no genuine need for it.

            It’s still the same old boondoggle, the gravy train is still going, only the corporations getting the money are slowly being changed over for political reasons. People are cheering Musk because they believe he’s some sort of visionary instead of just another rich guy playing the “get more money” game.

          2. Luke,
            Not seeing a “Reply” button on your message for some reason, so will reply here.

            You said:
            “It’s still the same old boondoggle, the gravy train is still going, only the corporations getting the money are slowly being changed over for political reasons.”

            Economic reasons. The politics are kicking and screaming, trying to maintain the status quo.

            The Falcon9 is driving down prices for a ton to orbit, and taking over the orbital launch market as a result. If SpaceX succeeds with the fully reusable Starship, they hope to eventually push prices far lower: https://www.inverse.com/article/60712-spacex-starship-elon-musk-outlines-cost-for-launches

            That’s at least a couple orders of magnitude down from prices today, closer to three.
            And it’s what will be required to establish a moon base or colonize mars, which are goals SpaceX has expressed. They need to stay solvent somehow, but maximizing dividends is not at the top of their list..

          3. NASA is paying for a lot of it. “NASA has signed a series of funding agreements with SpaceX since 2011 valued at more than $3.1 billion. With NASA funding and technical oversight, SpaceX has developed the human-rated Crew Dragon spacecraft to launch on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.” [source: spaceflightnow.com]. It’s not just billionaires with a dream and a purse.

    2. I didn’t see any billionaire bashing in her article. Do you really think we need to encourage our children to dream of becoming the billionaire founders of new space companies more than we need to encourage them to become scientists and engineers?

  5. I might have agreed with the article in my youth, but my perspectives have changed as my hair has grayed.

    There were and remain technical problems to be solved in our new space race, but things got solved because Musk, Bezos, and Brannon were willing to do a prolonged leap of faith in a high risk venture, investing their personal fortunes AND never giving up. Their boffins may be the ones solving the problems, but they are also getting paid and hence weren’t taking a risk. If any of their employees had chosen a different career (politics, marketing, writing articles for Hackaday), we’d still be roughly where we are now. If Musk, Bezos and Brannon had made different choices, we wouldn’t. The important question was never “how to optimize a fuel nozzle for a space craft?” , it was “how important is it to me personally that we have space craft?”.

    1. At JPL, we’ve been landing vehicles on Mars for decades without any business pukes “taking risks”. There’s nothing special about Musk, Bezos, and Brannon, they’re just the most recent people trying to cash in on space technology. If they weren’t there, someone else would be. Back in the day, it was TRW, North American, Honeywell, and others.

      1. if it weren’t for those entrepreneurs willing to risk their personal money and their personal reputations to yes make some money a lot of things would never be accomplished. Money is not bad, it’s just a tool to get things done. so congratulations to those people willing to put up the money the time and the resources to get things done which ultimately benefit everybody on planet Earth.

        1. Thing is, the things that Bezos and Musk, Brannon, are doing were already accomplished by NASA and JAXA, Orbital, McDonnel Douglas… etc.

          The entire point of Elon Musk’s business is to take what’s -already- on the market and sell it. When he was setting up SpaceX, he first tried to buy an ICBM from the Russians, but they wouldn’t sell, so he went to NASA and bought some of their engineers to build him a rocket they were already developing.

          1. Sure. Nothing to do with wanting to go to Mars. How selfish of him. Did you ever notice how long it takes NASA’s usual herd of contractors to turn around a problem and test a fix?

          2. The Mars business is just a red herring. It’s an implausible goal set for the point that it’s really difficult, perfectly useless, and you can waste a lot of public money trying to.

        2. I’m not of the opinion that the next generation needs to be inspired to have money. They’ll probably be sufficiently motivated to try and accomplish that anyway.

          Should musk be acknowledged for accomplishing something significant? Definitely. Should he be the aspirational figure held up by the nasa administration to future generations? I don’t think so.

      2. While the accomplishments of NASA and its various contractors overall eclipse those of the relative newcomers and certainly should be celebrated, a point to be made is that it’s quite uncommon for someone’s personal fortune been on the line. Generally a government agency releases a RFP, and prospective contractors typically invest a non-company ruining amount of funding in those early stages, and pretty much never continue if they’re not down selected. The newcomers operate more along the lines (but of course not entirely) on the “build it and they will come” mentality. They do this not merely to secure contracts, but because of the founder’s space geek passion. It just so happens that they have the financial means to make greater contributions than pretty much any singular salary-collecting engineer (that’s not being disparaging), while not being entirely beholden to some agency’s needs. This gives quite a bit of leeway in terms of design and experimentation, which are risks most contractors [wisely] avoid. No, these companies aren’t the be-all-end-all of space technology and exploration, but they’ve also had accomplishments worth celebrating along with the other greats.

        1. Where is Musk’s personal fortune on the line? He hasn’t got a dime in it – NASA is paying nearly all of it. If SpaceX goes bankrupt, Musk will actually be on the receiving end of the line because he funds his companies by lending them the money, not investing.

          Should he be forced to liquidate the company, the money would go to pay all the debtors, including himself.

          1. Check the history of SpaceX. It didn’t start with a boatload of cash from NASA. Yet, when some of that money did start rolling in, it was substantially less than what the established manufacturers would have requested. Still is.

          2. It didn’t start with a boatload of cash from NASA, but neither were they doing anything interesting before they got into contact with NASA and got access to all the cool tech that they had sitting on the shelf.

            They started in 2001 with a bunch of other venture capitalists, then in 2002 bought Tom Mueller who was working for TRW under a sub-contract for NASA to develop exactly the kind of low-cost engines that SpaceX needed. Tom took the TR-106 and turned it into the Merlin engine, and NASA started throwing billions of dollars worth of contracts to them, which enabled Musk to pull in billions of dollars worth of public loans plus investments from companies like Google.

      3. We are talking about today, not 50 years ago when U.S. companies could have think-tanks and skunkworks and risk takers. And of couse JPL never used business puke contractors. What a bizarre government-worker thing to say.

      4. They wouldn’t be there because while governments had exclusivity in space access and controlled what was launched and who got to launch it, there was no market incentive to create a completely private space launch company. TRW, North American etc *weren’t allowed* to do what SpaceX is doing. They all had to wait around for NASA to come along and ask them to build a rocket or rocket parts. Companies wanting to put satellites in orbit had to buy rides on NASA (or ESA) owned rockets. Rockets and other space hardware cost a lot per unit because of the limited numbers governments would buy.

        SpaceX is reducing costs because they’re building rockets for themselves and selling rides to space to anyone who can pay to put their hardware on top, and they’ll launch as often as they want, of course allowing for launch times to put payloads into the desired orbits.

        SpaceX follows a development path similar to how the USSR did things. Build something, light it up. If it explodes, figure out what happened. Try a change and see if the next one blows up or not. If it explodes, the change wasn’t what was needed. Computer modeling makes the process quite a bit less trial and error, but from Grasshopper to the very reliable Falcon 9 there were quite a number of errors. That “fail fast” cycle is repeating with the development of Starship.

        NASA would have something go badly then wait a very long time going over the whole thing to figure out what went wrong. During that, not buying more of that hardware.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the first launch of NASA’s SLS becomes its only launch due to the large amount of time and expense. If that was a SpaceX project they likely would’ve blown up two or three, but they’d also have successfully launched at least half a dozen by now.

  6. I do agree with the premise of your article, it is not productive to try to inspire kids to “just be rich lol”, we need to have a more robust engineering culture that cultivates talent. On the other hand, I think more billionaires should be socially pressured into making higher risk-reward investments for the good of humanity, in the manner of Musk and co. , and not be satisfied with safe, boring portfolios that do little to advance the state of any art.

    1. Agree. It’s almost as if people are more satisfied when the wealthy simply squander their money or spend it on things like 7 different colored Ferrari to drive on each day of the week. If it was merely about money, one would be much better off making expensive vacuum cleaners or some social media site/app than a space tech company.

    2. Where do you think billionaires have their money? I should say, the three mentioned are billionaires on paper inequity or shares of companies. They don’t have that in cash and they can’t get it either. If they tries to cash out their equity, the company stock wold collapse and they get pennies on the dollar or less. Their “money” is working all the time. If they want to move it around it has to happen quite slowly. (The tech community as a whole is ill informed in the most peculiar ways.)

      1. Comedicles, I am certainly aware that billionaires do not keep their wealth in vaults, and you are right with what you say. I am just suggesting that instead of an over-reliance of investment vehicles that are doing little to fund innovation, (of course this is coming from my perspective, as an ignorant outsider of that world) there should be encouragement for reasonable portion of their investments to be directed to blue sky research and the practical applications of the results of said research, as opposed to marginal improvements of process efficiency for the sake of quarterly earnings, which while that is important in and of itself, the computer did not result from the incremental improvement of the typewriter. It’s a question of how much resources are spent in mining a seam of ore, versus resources spent in locating new seams, what should that ratio be for society as a whole?

        1. The big aerospace companies had extremely fine Think Tanks in the 1950’s and 60’s that did all kinds of research and plenty of it was blue-sky. Boeing Research had a gas gun to study impact cratering and the effects of being hit by orbital velocity micro-meteorites as well as deformation. The theorists were also in-house. Hughs Research was excellent. That is where Robert Forward invented the rotating gradiometer. But in the 70’s tax policy changed in a way that killed off most of the private sector R&D and it moved to government, where the bureaucrats could control it.

          “what should that ratio be for society as a whole” I don’t think that is even a question that should be asked unless you are a Soviet central planner from 1950. Imagine the bland sameness if we did things that way? And the implied control over people’s actions just ain’t right.

          1. I think we may agree more than disagree, I would be in favour of tax policy that encourages private sector R&D, and my last statement would be more directed to those who essentially do already have control over our actions, albeit using free market incentives rather than politburo decree. Either way it is a great loss that institutions like Bell Labs seem to no longer exist. Questions such as “how many restaurants can a city sustain” are worthy questions to ask even in absence of central planning, if you are a prospective restaurant owner. It does not imply that the owner can control the total number of restaurants in the city, just that he can make the decision whether or not to join the fray. If there are studies published that show that the town is under-served by existing restaurants, it might give him extra incentive to open one. I do believe that is well within the scope of the free market. “What should the ratio (of risky vs safe investments) be for society as a whole?” is also question that can be asked by any individual regarding their own lives, for example when it comes to mastering an existing skill or learning a new one, climbing the ranks at work vs looking for new employment, moving down the street vs across the country etc. Increasing one’s appetite for risk (whilst remaining rational) can have beneficial effects.

  7. I too was disappointed by his statement, and a little annoyed that he kept referring to how much “support” the current administration had given. However, I watched the whole of the first launch attempt on YouTube, and they also interviewed some of the SpaceX staff who referred to the long run-up to this launch. How they had used the Cargo Dragon flights to test and certify equipment, software and procedures. And how many people had been involved. They also showed without any fuss, how diverse their staff are. I find it quite noticeable that SpaceX seem to have more women and minorities than NASA. Their President, Gwynne Shotwell also made comments in the same vein, and she was in the control room overnight. I remember back in the day, the then NASA administrator being asked how many people had worked on Apollo. His answer was that if you took in all the suppliers it would come to about 400,000. That’s where all the money went. In paychecks. The similar total for Crew Dragon is around 100,000 over 10 years. Nearly all the people from SpaceX that I have seen interviewed had said they were inspired by Apollo or Shuttle or Hubble or ISS or even Voyager. Both the astronauts, when Bridenstine talked to them on the ISS, went out of their way to praise the backup staff at NASA and SpaceX, and pretty much ignored what he said.

    On Friday over 10M people combined, watched the YouTube feeds of SpaceX and NASA. Their Twitter feeds seemed to be full of kids who had made their own spacesuits, LEGO spaceships, etc. Today they have all been showing off sparkly dinosaurs! Bridenstine may be an ex-military pilot, but he is now a politician in an administration that goes out of its way to claim the credit for things it hasn’t done. I think we can ignore what Bridenstine says, the kids are being inspired in the right way.

    1. You can say a lot of things about the Trump administration, but there’s no question they’ve given their full support to NASA these last few years.

      From reconvening the National Space Council, increasing NASA’s budget, kick-starting the Artemis program, and yes even Space Force, nobody will be able to look back and say Trump didn’t go all in on space. He even talked about it in his inauguration.

      We can argue WHY he did this (probably figured it was a good way to secure a positive note in history books), but there’s no debating that he’s been an unusually engaged when it comes to space.

  8. I would put Musk in a different category to other two, who are basically entrepeneurs. Musk wants to build a colony on Mars, launching rockets is a means to an end. That needs to be self-financing, but he is not really “cashing in” on space. Boeing and oldspace are doing that, taking taxpayers money is easy.

    But Bridenstine is a pol, he knows he needs to schmooze the guys holding the purse strings, so I wouldn’t really read too much into it. Engineers will do whatever you tell them, just give them a lab and buy them pizza.

    The space programs of the 60s and 70s were never about humans exploring space, they were purely political inventions to prove national prowess. The goal of landing a man on the Moon was specifically set to allow the US to catch up and then beat the Soviet Union. There was never any goal of going beyond that.

    That was understood by the insiders, but many people looking on bought the whole “for the good of mankind” angle. It was a surprise to them when the manned planetary exploration fizzled out, but when you win the race there is no reason to keep running. Flag planted, job done.

    Von Braun had an ambitious plan for “colonising space”, but his plan was hacked down into something that the military would pay for, and the “spaceplane” part became the Shuttle. Then the purpose of the shuttle became servicing the ISS, and the purpose of the ISS was to provide a destination for the Shuttle.

    1. Yep. There’s no doubt that many of the boots on the ground at NASA and other space organizations around the world have grand visions of space exploration, but since these are government agencies, they’re at the mercy of the nation’s political will, and those that have the power to decide their fate. Of course, cost and efficiency is often claimed to be of major importance, but not when it’s at the expense of spending that money far and wide. That obviously leads to expensive projects, which then turns into project cuts. I think it’s a matter of lack of long-term vision, or perhaps that there’s usually no benefit to a politician other than securing short term gains. I suspect that instead of requiring a project to involve every relevant company across the country, we can have numerous projects spread across a similar number of companies, all at a similar total cost. But good luck trying to get a politician to not chomp at every bit that involves spending tax money.

    2. “Engineers will do whatever you tell them, just give them a lab and buy them pizza.”

      Brilliant! I can afford pizza but it’s not the same as when other people buy it for you.

  9. Jim Bridenstine might have politicized the news conferences a little bit, but the author of this article did more of that.
    Let kids be inspired by whatever they want to be inspired by. The author’s attempt to dictate what is the “wrong” and “right” inspiration only exposes her own limitations and narrow-mindedness. I am disappointed, because I ended up reading some of author’s other writings and those were enjoyable. This one not so much.

  10. Maybe I’m reading Bridenstine’s comment wrong, but I’d read it less as “be inspired by Musk to become a billionaire” and more “be inspired by Musk to dream bigger and push humanity farther.”

    In defense of this explanation, I’ll use an example from the movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. At the funeral for Peter Parker early in the movie, MJ says that “…[i]n our own way, we are all Spider-Man.” She doesn’t literally mean “we are all people that have been bitten by radioactive spiders.” But she’s saying that we all can be Spider-Man in his devotion to justice.

    We can be inspired by Musk, Bezos, and Branson for attempting to push humanity farther into space, just as we can be inspired by Bob and Doug’s courage in test-flying the capsule or in the countless engineers and technicians that built the vehicles and took part in their design and testing. Even the janitors who cleaned the offices and buildings can say that this launch was theirs.

  11. Same feeling reading this, as in October 2011.
    When we were mourning all around the world the messiah of computer design Steve Jobs.
    As one week later, died Dennis Ritchie, inventor of C language and Unix system in a such a discretion.
    Who does the world owe more ? Who ‘s in our chidrens’ dreams ?

  12. Jenny, I respectfully have to disagree with you. What Mr. Bridenstine did was confess that NASA, as a whole, can’t do what SpaceX has done.

    Please look at both the control rooms at KSC (Launch Control) and Houston (Mission Control). Actually, look at BOTH of Houston’s control rooms. See the custom consoles, the endless wrap of metal around everything … the MASS of it all.

    Then, look at the control room at Hawthorne. I swear they used the cafeteria (including the tables) and could move and reset in another building (or the parking lot) if needed, on a few minute’s notice.

    The difference you see is the massive bureaucratic system that has eaten NASA, while at SpaceX, you see people doing their job, and next week, that room will be used for something else. The LEAN principal painted vividly for all to see.

    I think Mr. Bridenstine realizes that NASA, with the congressional heavy-handed back-seat driving is NOT what is going to help us, it’s people outside the government (and lets be fair, ALL governments operate much the same way) that find new ways to accomplish the goal without serious outside “oversight”. His candor was somehow missed by a lot of people.

    The continuing bashing that goes on hides the fact that we aren’t riding in an old design that kinda works, but a new design meant for today, and the future. Trendy buzz words and trash talking is NOT what I’ve been looking for on Hackaday, nor do I bother reading much beyond the throw-away critical comments that offer no alternative.

    Lets get off the bashing, slamming, and otherwise trying to reduce these tremendous achievements to snarky sound bites please. Look at the technology, and appreciate HOW it got where it is … moving along quite nicely in orbit.

    1. Well, NASA got started when custom consoles HAD to be built, because the only thing which had “control room” facilities were the military, in their War Rooms, and battleships, so they built on what was existing. Starting (much) later in the game, when the technology allows easy re-configuration of computers, displays, networks, is what you see at Hawthorne.

    2. Nicely put. Also, the crew and the ground people are all replaceable. How many qualified people would volunteer to man the capsule? Nearly everyone involved is interchangeable. Except Musk. None of it happens without Musk. That is why you look to him for inspiration and maybe you find it.

      Lets not forget the Inanimate Carbon Rod of all this. The combination of Arduino and the first person to do full multi-copter control with Kalman Filters and the works on that lowly slow 8 bit processor (anyone know who?). And balancing robots and all that. This was compelling proof that not only were all these space flight related systems possible, but doable without special hardware. Something has to look do-able before the engineering community and education jump on board. Has it been over 10 years? That is enough time for several new graduating classes from universities who were in middle school or younger when the tech became affordable and open source and all that. I bet most HaD readers can envision the processes as the booster goes through its return procedure or the capsule does autonomous docking. Likewise for the bBue Horizon and the Branson/Rutan stuff.

  13. Just hear the crazy cheering in the MCR, I thought it was a concert of Bon Jovi in 90’s or the release of the latest iPhone with no ports.

    I am sorry but it failed on me, this amount of hype, coolness is ridiculous. Is it not just possible to be proud without screaming like an Apple fangirl? Í was really embarrassed.

    NASA failed to inspire, yes.

    SpaceX is delivering cheap rockets, good but damn, can you give us a break about Elon here, Elon there?

  14. I think it’s worth noting that Musk, Bezos, and Branson are all self-made. They became rich by developing products that could sell well. They are now using that money to push development that the government, was progressively becoming too penny-pinching to fund (per launch: Delta IV Heavy – $350 M; Saturn V – $1.23 B-adjusted; Falcon Heavy – $240 Mil total; and don’t forget dropping the shuttle). Add that they are also working towards recreational use, and the focus of these men seems to have done more for the space industry than 60 years of government exclusivity.

    To expand on what someone above said: the government has very little interest in science for its own sake, the US got into the space race to beat the USSR, and backed off once they did. The companies may not have an exclusive research focus, but they can be more flexible in what they fund and accept. And their profit motive gives them reason to expand and improve, rather than limit, their development.

    1. You mean buying companies that made products that could sell, then selling the companies to get richer?

      Elon didn’t make PayPal happen. He bought in just as it got going.

  15. Jenny,

    Perhaps you might be too focused on their wealth and as a result not focused on their ability to not just inspire others but to have some skin in the game to enact major change.

    I don’t have much time for Bezos as he is locking us all out but the other guys have not just moved fast and broken stuff but taken us all along on the ride with them. I would have added Peter Beck to that list as while he might not be a billionaire he has been a remarkable innovator, entrepreneur and inspiration to many.

    I have met Richard Branson and if nothing else he has a remarkable ability to bring people on-board with an idea. His staff have been fiercely loyal to him as a result of his inspiration. Even now after it has all fallen to bits those that I know personally still think the world of him.

    Chris Hadfield & I are a month apart in age ( & sadly light years apart in capability ;-) and as much as I hold him high on the list as one of my heroes his remarkable contribution is on a different level to Musk. This said he would be a remarkable role model for any budding engineer, both for his tenacious ability and great humanity. Evan is evidence of this.

    Musk has taken us further forward in a decade than that which I have seen in the 50 years since I saw Neil leave that footprint. Decades of people jumping through hoops left us floundering with little to show for it in human spaceflight aside from a political quagmire and a massive bill on cost plus gold plating.

    The difference that Musk has made has been to step outside of this mess and go back to basics. While he rides high on the shoulders of the many amazing humans in NASA he has taken the work and started an entirely new direction. The wealth has enabled him to operate further out of the political swamp and as a consequence not only on his chosen direction but to hold to his specified goal. I suspect that those being snarky about Musk have thought little about the implications of starship.

    My grandmother went from using a horse and buggy as primary transport to seeing the images of the Wright Brothers and wondering where it might lead. She was an early passenger in a local airline flying open cockpit aircraft in the Australian outback which later went on to become QANTAS. She traded in the horse for a Model T and her circle of existence expanded considerably. Later she sat in front of a television and watched Armstrong take mankind’s first steps off planet. All of these things were major technology steps which led to changes in society as a consequence of their introduction.

    The lowering of the cost per kilo to place equipment in orbit will see a similar step change in human society. Musk will lead and Bezos will safely follow, while trying to patent everything he can get his Amazonian fingers on (grrr). Regardless of this they will get the gear into orbit for the Gateway Foundation to get established and life will never be the same again. I do admire Bezos’s stated intention to move industry to space and preserve Earth as a National Park.

    I would contend that Jim Bridenstine was correct as we don’t just need talented individuals, we need talented individuals willing to put it all on the line, think outside the box and inspire others to join them on their sometimes seemingly crazy journey.

    Chris Hadfield saw this when viewing the launch of Falcon Heavy. I saw him speak on his tour in Australia and the magic moment that he described was the little girl in front of the TV who was standing there, hands in the air cheering, as the rocket left the pad ( in one piece thankfully ;-). Musk has made space cool again and as a consequence made the space industry a desirable career for many more youngsters who will go on to choose a STEM path and eventually not just become great engineers but also inspirational, entrepreneurial leaders for future generations.

    So while I recognise your position I respectfully disagree with your conclusion.

    1. I should add that the first thing that both Musk and Beck will do when interviewed is to acknowledge all of the people and organisations that have helped get them to where they are.

    1. Funnily enough, I completely agree with you on that point. And I wasn’t saying they’re bad. Simply that kids inspired by space should be exhorted to make spacecraft, not finance them.

  16. The fact is: without Musk this would not have happened – so all those kids would be inspired by what? Boeing? A NASA dependent on Russia? It took a Musk to change the paradigm to get people to space cheaply. Go rag on something else to make yourself feel better.

    1. Going to space cheaply also allows for things like starlink, which is much more useful than sending people to an orbiting tin can for cleaning and maintenance duties.

    2. If you really want to go to space cheaply, you should rather look to Atrix, not SpaceX. The Indians are launching stuff to space at a fraction of the cost Musk is capable of, and have been for a long time.

      1. Most of their rocket launches have been of very small satellites. Even their biggest rocket, the GSLV Mk III can only lift 8 tons to LEO, compared to 22 tons for the Falcon 9, at similar cost.

        1. Most of the stuff you want to lift is small – unless you’re NASA and want to go to the ISS. That’s the entire reason why SpaceX is developing re-usable rockets. The big launch customers are few and far between, while the small launch customers would be plenty if they didn’t have to pay for a big rocket every time – so use the rocket multiple times to spread the cost.

          But if you’re not even trying to have huge launch capacity, then you can size the rocket exponentially smaller and it becomes much cheaper per pound of payload. Like it’s cheaper to deliver pizza by a Fiat Punto than a 18-wheeler truck even though the latter can carry a thousand times more pizza.

  17. NASA has totally turned over it’s responsibility to the private sector. At a budget of over 25 billion, what does it say that a private company given just a few of that can bring back the space program and put us back in low earth orbit on our own ships. I’m 52 and saw what it NASA could do “back in the day”. Now NASA is just a money dump supporting a failed bureaucracy that killed the crews of two shuttle missions and still can’t see past its own politics. It seems odd that the one guy that actually pulled this off wasn’t on screen. Although we got to see a lot of politicians that could no more work out the math behind three sides of a triangle try and steal credit for something that started over 10 years ago.

  18. This is so hateful and wrong. There is nothing wrong with what Musk is doing. Just because he’s making money doing this does not make him evil. He’s pouring his fortune back into his projects to make the world a better place. He’s worth more than a million of the small minded scolds who want to hate him.

      1. Nah, how about a Delos building a Westworld? Minus all the crazy weird plotting behind the scenes.

        Watch the original “Westworld” and “Futureworld” movies and you’ll see the inspirations for a lot of what’s in the series. Replacing influential people with robots is lifted from “Futureworld”.

      1. I’ve been saying that for **YEARS.** I don’t know if Musk read Robert Heinlein’s “The Man Who Sold the Moon” stories, but he is certainly following the plan Harriman used. Get rich, reinvest, get richer, reinvest, get richer, throw absolute boat loads of money at the problems in getting into space, reinvest, get richer, keep working on space.

        He may not personally be an kind of engineer, but he’s good at getting money to engineers so that they can do their thing.

    1. For SpaceX it seems failure is a mandatory part of the process. Fail until the problems are fixed, then you can put people on top of the rocket. The USSR failed a large number of times designing a closed cycle rocket engine. Then they failed more with every N-1 launch. If it hadn’t been for the death of *one guy* over there it’s likely they would’ve continued failing until they got things reliable enough to send people to the moon. But without Sergei Korolev they were lost and the government pulled the plug, then tried to claim they never were interested in going to the Moon.

      Attempting to never ever fail results in a small number of very expensive rockets, with a few multi-year gaps between flights when the money runs out, or people get killed on top of the failed rockets.

      NASA’s four failures with people on their rockets showed how problems happened that shouldn’t have occurred or should have been discovered and fixed before killing (or almost killing with Apollo 13) people. What makes those worse is with Apollo 1 it was blatant disregard of engineering and design rules* for dealing with a pure oxygen environment that made the fire so quickly deadly, with Challenger it was ignoring the objections to a cold weather launch from the people who knew about the SRB O-Ring leaks and that it’d be worse at freezing temps, with Columbia they knew the older Light Weight Tanks had worse foam shedding problems than the Super Light Weight Tanks yet didn’t take action to fix the LWT’s.

      *One thing was limits on the use of Nylon Velcro in the Command Module. But being so convenient, everyone who had a need to stick something somewhere and have it easy to remove would use Velcro. Nylon goes up almost like flash paper when set on fire in pure oxygen.

  19. It’s becoming ever more clear from the unmaned Mars exploration that there is absolutely no reason to send a human there. Everything that can be learned there can be achieved with “robots” at a fraction of the cost of any one manned mission. So if billionaires want to fund a trip there (and back), then that’s the only way the taxpayers should support it. Throughout the exploration on Earth, explorers were financed by rich people, Royal Geographical Society, Advertizements, sales, etc (and of course Kings). Humans should learn to live in Antartica without a supply chain, before they spent trillions supporting a few lost souls on Mars, a location a hundred times more hostile than the south pole.

  20. And how about all the great people in entertainment or other industried that have also contributed greatly to science and space exploration. Because you are never just “one thing”.
    I know HAD has already featured many of them prominently but it ties back to this particular post quite well.
    I mean these three tech entrepreneurs are great examples. They all run a variety of businesses very well. And in the case of Bronson are notorious for their inssne hobbies as well.
    So maybe the message isnt “tech moguls in space” or “engineers in space”. Maybe its “we need everyone in space”
    Food prep and garment design for spaceflight are both examples. Its not just engineers and scientists.

  21. I really don’t think there is an issue here. The metal that Steve Jobs for instance was cut from is not the same metal that Steve Wozniac was cut from. You are either one or the other and I would not want to compare their intelligences. Both are brilliant in their own domain of effectiveness. I agree that we need to nurture development of more Wozniac types but I think it best to encourage both since they both do amazing things, especially when paired up on a project.

    1. Exactly… if things were left up to Woz, there probably would be no Apple computers today.

      Musk isn’t “just a rich guy” its a visionary. and it happens to mostly be a vision that doens’t involve violating my rights or those of others (unlike Bill Gates).

  22. This is fantastic. I was also shocked that NASA Administrator Bridenstine called out Elon Musk or Richard Branson as the inspirational examples. I think I understand the top-of-mind idea, that this was a triumph of *commercial* space development. And I was absolutely thrilled by this success. And I think the era of cost-plus space contracting is on its way out. And…

    Yes, all of that. But the idea that we need to emulate the billionaires seems at least tone-deaf to me. Not the greatest hot-take interview. If that’s what it was. It was all very strange.

    Global climate change, ongoing trauma of racial injustice, economies of scale that fail to address the common good, a backlash of insular populism in Western just as globalization of economy reaches the Global South and emerging markets in Asia, and a global pandemic that will continue to strain our ability to address these already-overwhelming challenges — we still need the notion that space exploration will continue to express our greatest ideals of transcendent collective achievement.

    They tried to say that, too. But couldn’t just tell the Flat-Earthers to go jump in the lake. Ugh.

    1. Yes you are tone deaf… he’s talking about visionaries not just being a billionaire there are a *lot* of billionaires and to some degree he is certainly talking to those young people that may be future billionaires. Future space endeavors cannot ride solely on the governments dime.

      If that bothers you perhaps you should get off the internet put your mind to making your first billion instead of mouthing off on the internet about your jealousy.

  23. Inspire the next generation of engineers? I’ve been in aerospace since Gemini. I wouldn’t recommend engineering as a career now. It’s hard to think ‘out of the box’ when you’re booted out every three years from contract changes in favor of cheaper labor with worse benefits. I expect my job will be gone within a year if it even survives the current virus crisis. My current Fortune 500 employer now assembles products mostly made in Asia and much of the engineering and coding is done in India. Even our military hardware is now dependent on offshore sole-source suppliers. Our orientation has gone from being the best and fostering R&D at many commercial enterprises to simply being cheap. Space-X has done some good work but they’re not typical.

    1. That’s true of even non capitalist economies… they are just more bureaucratic and less efficient in how things are handled. Anyone claiming otherwise is just turning a blind eye to reality.

      1. There’s always capitalism – only the capital changes.

        In democratic socialism, votes and the control of people become capital because the actual wealth is distributed arbitrarily by those with political power: it’s social capitalism. This is why social democracies too form a shadow economy: crony capitalism, where money and political influence are freely exchanged for one another. It’s a mixed economy. Then there’s of course the regular money capitalism where money talks and bulls**t walks.

        The difference is that whenever you go more left in the political spectrum, the rationale of the system changes from liberty and the rule of law to the moral anarchy of arbitrary “do-gooders” who think they know better how to pull all the strings… and as a consequence everything tends to turn for the worse.

  24. I knew this would be controversial.

    I hate those +1 posts like the next guy, but I want to let you know, Jenny, that you’ve hit the nail on the head, for me, at least.

    That’s wy I went into science. 1969 sure has a part on it, us kids before the blak & white TV, watching a countdown.

    I went into science, not into making money.


  25. Bill Gates, Steven Jobs… The visionaries at the top always get the credit. And with Musk at least, he always emphasizes that it is a huge team effort. There are far too many exceptional people involved to single out any one or even a few. Any kid old enough and smart enough to become involved in such efforts will know that. Until then, at an early age they can admire the rockets, the astronauts, and their toy dinosaur.

  26. From a realistic perspective, NASA will not survive without these huge pockets. I understand the motivation behind the comment. I remember the concept from my childhood, “anyone can grow up to be President.” It is also true in our country that anyone can grow up to be the next rich person who invests in space travel. I see your point that only a small minority of people will reach that goal, but there is nothing wrong with desiring to be a successful business person. I remember watching Armstrong step on to the moon. He inspired me to study science. My career path did not go in that direction, but my attitude toward all the sciences is forever changed. You know, I do not remember the name of the NASA director at that time. Just a thought.

  27. So maybe instead of inspiring kids to shoot for the Moon we should Inspire them to shoot for something more likely to happen and practical according to this logic. And while we are at it why send actual people to the Moon if the science is all that matters?

      1. This does not inspire this is someones opinion on the proper way to inspire. HAD should not be an opinion article website there are enough of those already. HAD should be a showcase like it always has been. I don’t like the direction it is going soon it will be like wired magazine.

  28. I don’t get why so many are attacking Jenny on this. I don’t see anywhere that she attacked Musk, Beezos, Branson, Billionaires or capitalism. She just said that to progress we need to inspire kids to become engineers and scientists, more than business people.

    Forgive me, I never went to business school but I feel pretty confident in guessing that there is nothing in the curriculum about how to design and build spacecraft or how to explore and colonize a planet. If you read about Robert Goddard in Business 101 and did your thesis on the Grand Tour then please reply and tell us about it. I would love to read that story.

  29. Now that we have a non-scientist as head of NASA, every interview sounds like a campaign commercial, first for the president after launch, and then for the Senator after docking. And the entire tenor of “Relaunch America,” aside from good-natured ribbing about trampolines, feels like the Cold War again. Do you think the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the ISS could get any work done with that kind of mentality?

    I’m wary of Musk as a role model. He’s a visionary, but there’s a certain godlessness to his approach. Steve Jobs foresaw the dangers of devices like iPads, and wouldn’t let his own children use them. Even Waymo is a careful exception to Google’s usual kludginess, with guarded development and tens of millions of miles of on-the-road testing and billions more in simulation. Tesla’s philosphy, on the other hand, seems to be pushing software updates to their cars and letting consumers be the guinea pigs, and if we have a few deaths here or there, that’s the price of progress. One of my former students has now started a company with Musk that implants computer interfaces into human brains, and while it’s exciting and promising for medical applications, I worry about the ethical implications not being thoroughly thought out.

    It appears we’re now in a race to monetize the moon and militarize Mars, but these ways of thinking are so last-century. If America wants to lead the future, we need a new generation of visionaries who understand collaborative science, sustainable development, and healthy global exchange…not a return to the good old days of robber barrons, party before country, country before humanity, and mutual assured destruction. As Carl Sagan challenged us to ask, “Who speaks for Earth?”

    1. There’s no framing in mentioning the Other Side during the Space Race. Both sides did amazing work, and feeding off each other took us further than we would imagine. It would be disingenuous of me to talk about that era of space exploration without mentioning the Soviets.

    1. It’s British to find the negative and let it highlight the positive by omission. Some Brits aren’t able to do the highlighting though. Now a sheer effort of will to point out that the last sentence highlights that most Brits are able to do the highlighting.

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