It is no secret that billionaire Elon Musk has a history of embellishing reality.
Thanks to recent reports from various financial publications, the American people are starting to realize this is the case with Tesla. A car that was built and marketed to be the everyday man's electric vehicle has instead become the rich man's luxury toy. Suddenly, the billionaire boy wonder is even having a hard time producing one of his signature products.
Musk targeted a production rate of between 100,000-200,000 Model 3s a week for the second half of 2017 but only made 260 in the third quarter and 2,425 more in the fourth. Musk also upset scores of mega-millionaires’ Christmas celebrations by not even coming close to producing 20,000 units in December, an estimate that he threw out in July. Today, it appears that Musk may have finally succeeded in meeting a more realistic goal of 5,000 a week, but by ceasing break-and-roll testing — essential safety precautions — just to hit the number.
Failing to hit production quotas on cars is one thing, but consistently over-promising and under-delivering on the taxpayers' dime when America's national security and scientific achievements are on the line is quite another. Unfortunately, that is precisely what former astronaut Chris Hadfield believes is inevitable.
In an interview with Business Insider, Hadfield stated:
"Personally, I don't think any of those three rockets (SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket, Blue Origin's New Glenn, or NASA'S Space Launch System) is taking people to Mars. I don't think those are a practical way to send people to Mars because they're dangerous and take too long. ... The majority of the astronauts that we send on those missions wouldn't make it."
Conservatives likely know that unelected government bureaucrats, who have a propensity for mismanaging, are responsible for NASA's shortcomings. Up until this point, fellow billionaire and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin has taken little from taxpayers, but what is the deal with Elon Musk? Is his company not going to bring humans to the Red Planet by next year likes he thinks it will?
It may upset Major Musk that Ground Control and Chris Hatfield — his fellow space oddity and David Bowie-loving space enthusiast –—don’t believe BFR will ever make it to Mars, but so far, it sure is looking that way. Although its shortfalls haven't made much news, SpaceX has been just as bad as Tesla on the broken promises front.
Some may recall Musk, the Star Wars and Trekkie fanatic, believed his BFR rocket was his ticket to Mars, but it was not too long ago that he was counting on another rocket to achieve the same objective: the Falcon Heavy, which was, for lack of a better phrase, weighing Elon Musk down.
The Falcon Heavy was supposed to first launch in 2013-2014, then it was pushed back to 2015, then to the Spring of 2016, then to the Fall of 2016, and finally to 2017. Musk even seemingly tried to lower expectations while simultaneously moving the goalposts by warning that even if his rocket never got into orbit, it should be considered a success as long as it did not cause launchpad damage. After its initial projected launch date of 2013-2014, it finally got off the ground this February.
While it is true that the camera optics behind the cherry-red Tesla Roadster payload launch aboard the Falcon Heavy were phenomenal, one must wonder if he put on a show in part created to mask real problems. Shortly before the test firing, Musk announced that the rocket, which was initially designed to carry people, will never be used for crew missions due to "BFR development moving too quickly."
If that is the case, then why were taxpayers helping to finance the Falcon Heavy in the first place? An article in The Wall Street Journal suggests that because of shifting government preferences and national security needs over the course of the 4-5 years of Falcon Heavy's delays, the rocket may have been "a good show, but certainly not a good business decision."
But have no fear, because even though the Falcon Heavy may not have panned out as expected, Musk’s up-and-coming rocket — the BFR — apparently will; however, the company expects to receive more taxpayer money even though it has received over $74 million from the federal government.
Yeah, right . . .
Hadfield, who literally walked in Space and was Commander of the International Space Station, is someone whose expertise I would trust over habitual under-achiever Elon Musk. SpaceX, which is now facing security concerns from the Department of Defense and Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, does not have a successful track record in this space and is not a safe bet to make it to Mars. That is not to say the company will never make it there, but if somehow it does, Musk should do it through using his own $20.8 billion-dollar fortune rather than strapping himself, his company, and his rocket to the backs of the taxpayers.
And with that, I say wake up, government contractors! Let’s face it, giving more federal dollars to NASA's Space Launch System without the contingency of bureaucratic operational changes would be dumb; however, providing Elon Musk — the king of over-promising and under-delivering — even more federal funding would be even dumber.
For the sake of the taxpayers, it’s time we listen to the experts.
Josh Bernstein, is host of the The Josh Bernstein Show, a television news show featured on Amazon TV. Follow him on Twitter @jbc230mb Become a patron of his show at www.patreon.com/joshbernstein