Can We Turn Over America’s Space Program to a “Space Cadet”?

I came across Elon Musk when I was working to encourage GM to push out the electric Chevy Volt.

He helped start Tesla Motors and put out the snazzy looking electric sports car. The problem has been that it costs over $100,000 and few want to buy it.

{mosads}Musk is quite a character  —  he made hundreds of millions from Pay Pal and since has become a one-man PR machine, not all to the good.

I just saw him on the Colbert Report, read a long profile in The New York Times and wonder where this is all going.

He must be somewhat bored with electric cars because now he started SpaceX to take over our space program, or at least a chunk of it.  He even claims he is “broke” from the Tesla venture (oh yes, he is in a nasty divorce).

What concerns me is not all the bravado out of Musk, but rather, that we taxpayers may be paying for it and sacrificing solid, important research and development in the process.

Tesla, for example, has $465 million dollars of our money in the form of low interest loans that could go into default, if Musk doesn’t hold 65 percent of the company. They say they are going public, but to be honest, and I am prejudiced here, I would bet on the major car companies, not someone who makes a $100,000-plus sports car.

But SpaceX may be even scarier  —  a venture that risks a major program. The New York Times describes a bunch of 20- and 30-somethings who are launching rockets while soaking up $1.6 billion from NASA. My work in this area makes me think that this is a risky gamble with someone like Musk, who promises the sky, the moon and the stars.

He is out there at best —  writing a 1,500-plus word piece on the Huffington Post titled “Correcting the Record About My Divorce,” and a 2,200-plus word defense of his role in Pay Pal on a high-tech blog. 

Somehow this does not seem like the right style for a company and a CEO that we should entrust with our space program and the effort to build the electric car.  Certainly not such a large investment of our tax dollars — high-risk to be sure.


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