Millionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is making headlines once again and not in a good way. NASA recently released a statement that they will be conducting a safety review of the two companies it has hired to fly astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The review was allegedly prompted by the recent and unusual behavior of SpaceX’s founder, Elon Musk, where he openly smoked cannabis and sipped on whiskey during a podcast hosted by Joe Rogan a couple of months ago.This behavior seems to have ruffled the feathers of some higher-ups at NASA leading the agency to take a closer look at the culture of the companies via what would be a months-long assessment, involving hundreds of interviews designed to evaluate the culture of the workplaces, the agency said.
William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration, said in an interview with The Washington Post that the review process, which is set to begin next year, would look into SpaceX and Boeing with the intent to examine “everything and anything that could impact safety” as the companies prepare to begin carrying humans for the very first time. Another administrator, Jim Bridenstine, also echoed during a recent interview where he stated that “If I see something that’s inappropriate, the key concern to me is what is the culture that led to that inappropriateness and is NASA involved in that…As an agency we’re not just leading ourselves, but our contractors, as well. We need to show the American public that when we put an astronaut on a rocket, they’ll be safe.”
Gerstenmaier said the review would focus not on the technical details of developing rockets and spacecraft but rather the companies’ safety culture — encompassing the number of hours employees work, drug policies, leadership and management styles, whether employees’ safety concerns are taken seriously, and more. There was a story floating around for a while about how people could get paid to smoke weed by NASA, that turned out to be false. However, others have suggested that cannabis, especially hemp, could become an essential crop for astronauts in the future due to its durability and its ability to survive.
Bridenstine also went on to say that he personally has “a lot of confidence in the SpaceX team.” While quickly adding that “culture and leadership start at the top. Anything that would result in some questioning the culture of safety, we need to fix immediately.” In response to news of the impending review, SpaceX released a statement noting that “human spaceflight is the core mission of our company. There is nothing more important to SpaceX than this endeavor, and we take seriously the responsibility that NASA has entrusted in us to safely and reliably carry American astronauts to and from the International Space Station.”
The review follows the heels what has been a rather difficult time for Musk as he has been plagued by a number of scandals. Back in September Musk stepped down as chairman of Tesla and pay a significant fine of $20 million as part of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission,who determined that he had lied to his investors via a tweet stating that “funding secured” to take the electric-car company private. Musk also caused some controversy by calling a rescue volunteer working to save the children caught in a Thai cave a “pedo” and “child rapist” without any shred of evidence. The volunteer has since sued Musk for defamation of character for his baseless accusations.
Do you believe that NASA’s review of SpaceX is warranted?