It was revealed last week that NASA will be conducting an investigation into the company culture of SpaceX after concerns over Elon Musk’s behavior began to grow within NASA’s upper management. NASA has remained relatively silent as far as public statements against Musk’s stunts are concerned but that appears to be changing ever so slightly.
Speaking with reporters, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine openly criticized Musk and addressed the perceived drama he has been causing. The NASA boss was critical of Musk’s public persona, noting that as head man at SpaceX he is seen as the face of a group that has close ties to NASA itself.
“I will tell you that was not helpful,” Bridenstine told assembled reporters at a press gathering at NASA HQ. “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.”
NASA promotes a drug-free environment in which its scientists and engineers are held to the highest possible standard. SpaceX has been a hugely valuable partner for NASA, but launching unmanned cargo ships into space is one thing. Sending American astronauts into space aboard SpaceX hardware is another, and it appears NASA is going to be a lot more strict about how SpaceX and its CEO behave now that the company is in the midst of building vehicles to carry crew.
When asked by The Atlantic about NASA’s relationship with Musk, Bridenstine said that he had personally talked with Musk. “We’ve had a number of conversations,” he explained. “I will tell you, he is as committed to safety as anybody, and he understands that that was not appropriate behavior, and you won’t be seeing that again.”
Musk is an interesting character. He’s built some groundbreaking businesses and, with SpaceX, has helped push science advancement in a big way. He also clearly loves being in the spotlight, and those two things don’t necessarily mix well when one of your biggest partners is the U.S. space program. We’ll have to see how things pan out, but it would be surprising if we see Musk push the envelop going forward.