Wolf Richter: Oops, SpaceX to Lay Off 10% of its Employees after Funding Fiasco in November

By Wolf Richter, a San Francisco based executive, entrepreneur, start up specialist, and author, with extensive international work experience. Originally published at Wolf Street

What SpaceX is trying to do has “bankrupted other organizations,” it said.

SpaceX, the unicorn startup with a newly minted $30.5 billion “valuation” and dreams of sending humans to Mars shortly, will lay off about 10% of its employees, “a person familiar with the matter” told the Los Angeles Times on Friday.

The company says on its website that it has “6,000+” employees. TechCrunch reported that SpaceX “employed at least 7,000 people in late 2017 when COO Gwynne Shotwell last gave a number.” So somewhere between 600 and 700 employees will be out of a job. The Times reached out to SpaceX for comment, and this is how the company responded in perfect corporate-hype speak (bold added):

“To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company. Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations. This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team.”

And note the phrase, “…have bankrupted other organizations.” So how serious is this getting?

This reflects perhaps the money-raising fiasco SpaceX smacked into in November. SpaceX had tried to raise $750 million by issuing a leveraged loan. The leveraged loan market was red hot until October, and anything would go. But this era ended. By November, investors were getting jittery about leveraged loans. And in December, the leveraged loan market came unglued.

SpaceX will need many billions of dollars over the next few years not only to launch commercial and government satellites, but also to fulfill its dreams, including sending cargo to Mars by 2022 and humans by 2024, or whatever.

It marketed that $750 million leveraged loan only to a select group of investors, and they had no appetite for a risky loan of this magnitude. And here’s why, according to the Wall Street Journal at the time:

Some investors who were offered the loan expressed misgivings about the company’s record of burning through cash and its experience with high-profile accidents, which have previously led to dips in revenue. Other concerns include the company’s large investment plans and its connection to Mr. Musk, the founder and chief executive of SpaceX, whose volatile behavior has led to turmoil at the electric-car maker Tesla Inc., where he also is chief executive.

With that fiasco under the belt, and needing more cash to burn through, SpaceX tried in December to make up the difference by selling $500 million in equity, “to help get its internet-service business off the ground, according to people familiar with the fundraising,” the Wall Street Journal reported at the time.

SpaceX has not yet announced if it actually received the equity funding. In total, including the downsized leveraged loan and the December equity funding, if or when it goes through, SpaceX will have raised $2.7 billion.

To those of its employees who are now getting laid off, the company is offering a minimum of eight weeks’ severance pay along with other benefits and assistance, such as career coaching, according to an email sent Friday to employees by COO Shotwell, cited by the Times.

SpaceX launched 21 satellites in 2018 and 18 the year before. It has contracts with NASA to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and develop a capsule to send humans up there. The first unmanned test flight of the capsule is schedule for next month (NASA used to do that sort of thing itself in the 1960s).

The loan debacle SpaceX ran into in November is the beginning of a broader symptom: The rising difficulties for cash-burning companies to obtain new funds to burn through, after an era when just about anything went.

This is another piece of the puzzle of those “financial conditions” in the markets that the Fed has been discussing for a while. It was trying for three years via its monetary policy to tighten the ultra loosey-goosey financial conditions that resulted from years of QE and zero-interest-rate policy. And suddenly, starting in October the financial conditions in the markets tightened as investors became a tad more aware of risks.

When companies have trouble funding their cash-burn operations as financial conditions tighten, the next step is to be more prudent with their expenses and to try to reduce their cash burn so that they can hang on under these tighter financial conditions. And perhaps that’s what we’re seeing at work here.

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53 comments

  1. PlutoniumKun

    I doubt if SpaceX would really fail, they’ve become TBTF for the US space and military establishment (not least because other launchers are dependent on Russian engines). Whatever you say about Musk, he does hire outstanding engineers and the Falcon 9 works extremely well, and if it went bust the tech could well be bought up by competitors, either Arianespace or Chinese or Indian companies. SpaceX can easily be bailed out by granting them a few soft military contracts. The only fly in the ointment for Musk is that Besos might intercede with his CIA buddies to prevent this, Blue Origin are catching up fast.

    Reply
    1. Octopii

      Agreed, but if it went bankrupt the US would never let SpaceX tech fall into the hands of China or India. It’s our fastest path toward a return to manned flight and we would not give it away.

      It’s hard to see how BO is actually catching up fast – I know their plans but they’ve never even done an orbital flight. Everybody has a plan until…

      Reply
    2. Samuel Conner

      Blue Origin’s approach to re-useable orbital access vehicles strikes me as admirable. They have a more stable funding source, too (at least until, if ever, Amazon implodes). It’s a bit disheartening that the company’s progress appears to depend on the suffering of low-level employees at Amazon.

      One may be inclined, as I am, to admire the company coat of arms.

      “turtles all the way up”

      Reply
      1. jrs

        “It’s a bit disheartening that the company’s progress appears to depend on the suffering of low-level employees at Amazon.”

        it doesn’t really, that’s not where Amazon made it’s real money, it was all in AWS. The suffering is just because. Now don’t say most capitalists aren’t sadists.

        Reply
  2. The Rev Kev

    I’m calling shenanigans on SpaceX and say now that they had no real intention of ever going to Mars. A typical neoliberal company in thought and deed. They saw a government activity – launching satellites into space – and decided to move in to take it over for their own profit. I would be curious to know how many government subsidies they took which helped them in this goal. They used money raised to hire away talent from NASA to use against them as well as a bunch of stary-eyed idealists. They say that they want to go to Mars but I say that that is just a publicity gimmick to draw in more people. Their real business is to try to corner the market on launching satellites into orbit and turn it into a death grip. Probably find down the track they will go for more subsidies to undercut foreign satellite companies which would suit the US government just fine. I would guess that the ones being let go would be more to do with the division working on the “Mars venture” while they concentrate their resources on their real business – launching satellites.

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    1. PlutoniumKun

      You could argue that the problem with SpaceX is that its not neoliberal enough. Its crippled by all Musks crazy space exploration dreams, which he shares with many silicone valley types – the core SpaceX product (medium heavy launchers) is top class – its all the other stuff thats wasting money. This is the one subject they don’t apply profit and loss calculations to.

      I doubt very much if SpaceX could ever corner any market in space travel, its strategically too important to too many countries, so there will always be competitors from Russia, China, Europe, India and maybe other countries too in the next few years. Its possible of course that he could intend to corner the US government market, but even that would be difficult given the power of the existing industry.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Without Mars, I don’t know if SpaceX would be seen as sexy enough to attract neoliberal investors, who think vending machines and apps are revolutionary with a good enough Ted Talk.

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    2. XXYY

      Can we all just agree now that a manned mission to Mars is a completely ridiculous and impossible idea, doubly so if the goal is to have the people return to Earth.

      Just consider the basic numbers. It costs about $10,000/lb to put things into Earth orbit. Mars is between 100 and 1000 times as far away as the Moon (depending on planetary alignment), so putting a gigantic payload on Mars is going to require a substantial craft with many tons of fuel that will itself need to be boosted into Earth orbit at a cost of $10,000/lb. Because of the way the planets rotate, there is only a favorable time to transit between Earth and Mars every 2 years, so the minimum length of a Mars mission is 2 years.

      So. From Earth, we will need to orbit (a) a trans-planetary spacecraft, (b) fuel for that craft to power it both to and from Mars, (c ) a human crew, (d) 2 years of oxygen, food and water for that crew, and (e) sufficient structures and supplies for the crew to live for 2 years in a place that has absolutely no natural resources, not even air or water (recall in the US moon missions the astronauts were on-planet for a few days at most). Just from a cost perspective, this will take the combined GDP of many countries and need hundreds of launches from the surface of the Earth just to position things for the start of the trip.

      There are also terrible technical issues with landing on Mars (which lacks enough atmosphere for a parachute to do much), and with assembling and fueling a gigantic interplanetary return-trip spacecraft in the surface of Mars. Mars has no infrastructure whatever, not even a tree to swing a rope over, so the idea of doing heavy vehicle assembly work on Mars, or any kind of assembly work, is facially absurd. The “industrial base” will consist of whatever humans can lift with their arms while wearing a spacesuit, breathing imported oxygen.

      One can go on and on, but there is no need. The whole mission, even leaving aside the pointlessness of visiting a barren and utterly hostile world and the great likelihood of death for the participants, makes no sense whatsoever and is strictly a fantasy for people who haven’t spent 5 minutes thinking about it.

      In other words, a perfect Musk proposal!

      Reply
        1. Oh

          Another reason for us to send Musk, Bezos and a whole bunch of politicians on the maiden flight! SpaceX is another scheme to suck on the public teat. Viva corporate welfare!

          Reply
      1. ambrit

        Bollocks! The Mars Direct group figured the mechanics of cheap and ‘easy’ Mars trips years ago.
        See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Direct
        First, Mars gravity well is ‘lighter’ than Earth’s. Returning from the Martian surface to orbit won’t be as hard as from here to Low Earth Orbit. (LEO, the base for all else in our vicinity.)
        Second, Mars has lots of water! Water can be ‘cracked’ quite easily and cheaply to supply both oxygen, (your reactive part of a breathable atmosphere,) and hydrogen, (one half of the most basic fuel needed, and already technically feasible.)
        Third, if you have to build political support by utilizing some of the Battlestar Mars methodology, the Moon also has water, though much more difficult to gain access to. Your basic fuel and atmosphere materials can be got there at much cheaper rates.
        Fourth, all the radiation problems have work arounds. Cost is the biggest draw back. Radiation shielding adds weight and complexity to your spacecraft.
        Fifth, on Mars, the ‘pioneers’ will have to spend much of their time in underground facilities anyway. A foot or more of good old Martian red dirt does wonders for stopping those pesky energetic particles.
        Sixth, the return craft will not land on Mars. It will be left in orbit, say tethered to one of the two “moons” of Mars. In the second generation deep space craft, the engineering enters a different field. Light weight construction methods.
        Seventh, humans need some frontier to aspire to, even if the individual doesn’t have a realistic chance of going there. The psychological value of aspiration, even though presently misused for socio-political ends, is positive.
        Some of us have spent more than five minutes thinking about this and have come away with the conviction that it is necessary for the species continued health and well being.

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      2. Jonathan Holland Becnel

        Why is it impossible? We mine a few tons of minerals from Mars and give earths climate a breather.

        Also, who dat.

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      3. Rosario

        Yeah, We can barely manage this planet, why do we intend to “inhabit” another one that can only be lived on by enthusiastically pissing in the wind. This said based on what efforts I have seen put forth by SpaceX wonks and in the pop-science media raving on the subject.

        Mission to Mars talk is a pathology of a culture practicing avoidance behavior. We have plenty of problems on this planet, and we are as unwilling to deal with the very real, immediate problems as we are to create newer, much sexier ones. Building an elaborate entertainment center to avoid fixing the roof.

        The species continuing argument is the only one that barely has any traction, and I mean barely. If we want to ensure the continuation of our (and other species) it is equally as sensible to create a DNA database (both digitally and through cryogenic process) and store them both deep on Earth and shoot one out into space with the hope of some higher species finding it. At this point in our technological, and more importantly cultural, development I don’t see how colonizing Mars (with extensive Earth based support no doubt!) will somehow ensure our long term survival in light of climate change or the one-off gamma-ray burst/asteroid.

        I’m with The Rev Kev up top, it is all marketing BS. They are in it to launch satellites. Also, despite what I said above, I would love for us to be interplanetary someday, but we aren’t going about it in a sensible fashion, and its ultimate success would ride on the understanding that these would not be “military” missions. Recall that the Apollo flights were operated in that manner (as are all current space flights). People don’t do very well under military discipline for 5, 10, or 20 years. It would be like running a commune in the worst environment imaginable on Earth and every person in that commune would need to have a high level of technological and scientific proficiency. Also, no oxygen, low pressure, high radiation, on-and-on and all these are only mitigated through 100% reliance on human controlled and maintained systems. Do I even need to say, “what could possibly go wrong?”

        All the work that needs to be done revolves around developing a sustainable, healthy society through cultural, political, and economic mechanisms, not techno-solutions. These are, ironically, what are needed to fix many of the problems on this planet, go figure. So it’s easy to see how the whole thing puts the cart before the horse. Make things work well on this planet first, then apply elsewhere. Going to Mars is not going to magically sort out our Earth based behaviors.

        All that said, if they really wanted to go to Mars it would be at least a 30 year process. Probably something like this.

        1) 5 year Earth based colony (with at least 5 years prep): continuous habitation of an isolated Earth based colony with no outside food, no outside water, no outside oxygen, etc. (think Biosphere-2 sans the New Age nonsense and it was actually done correctly under rigorous scientific oversight.
        2) 5 year Moon based colony (with at least 5 years prep, possibly 10 years): Same as above except the stakes are much higher (no opening the hatch to leave if the systems fail).
        3) Mars based colony (10 years prep): The goal. If there is the slightest problem it could spell doom for all people involved.

        All NASA missions up to now (child’s play in comparison) were done in a similar graduated manner. With R&D time very tightly correlated with mission difficulty.

        I’m not seeing much of the above being discussed so it is hard for me to take any of the Mars colonization stuff seriously. It is a project that would cost well over a trillion (if not trillions) dollars and likely require the expertise of hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of people working on it everyday. Funny, those same people could be working on dealing with climate change and all of its catastrophes, but I suppose that problem is just too real for our species to deal with.

        Reply
        1. ambrit

          Technical problems can be dealt with. That’s just a function of funding and will. What is crucial with any massive project is having the “right” mindset. To proceed with a “visionary” program, one must develop a focus on that program. Cults have learned this. Religions are not much more than evolved cults. This sort of focus requires a sufficiently beguiling ‘aim’ to go for. Alas and alack, the environment and various social justice ’causes’ do not demonstrate that ‘cultural charisma’ that compels support and sacrifice. They are, at least as framed at present, too prosaic. Something like an off planet colonization project does have such a cachet. That’s where my earlier mention of the ‘Lost Frontier’ comes into play. Humanity needs a “New Frontier” to focus it’s emotional energies on. Who knows? Probably, the research into living on Mars could create better methods of dealing with Earthly ecological degradation.
          As a science fiction writer once quipped: “Who ever heard of someone fighting and dying for a standard of living?”

          Reply
          1. XXYY

            Technical problems can be dealt with. That’s just a function of funding and will.

            This is basically Musk’s attitude: technical problems, schmeklical problems! It doesn’t seem to be working out super well for him despite over $5 billion in taxpayer subsidies for his various efforts

            I’m an engineer, though, and have learned over the decades that airy dismissals of practical problems usually come back to bite. Occasionally breakthroughs are made, though they themselves require time (frequently decades), money and good luck for the benefits to appear.

            If your breakthroughs themselves require breakthroughs in order to happen, don’t hold your breath!

            Reply
            1. ambrit

              I’ll posit that this is why so many technical advances occur during times of war and societal stress. Then, the “heat is on” and a wider net is thrown for potential discoveries and developments. Ideas that under “normal” conditions would be shunned, will be given a chance. There is where many of your ‘breakthrough’ discoveries come from.
              As for that paltry $5 billion; that’s less than half the cost of a new Ford Class aircraft carrier. Someone elsewhere on this thread mentioned trillions in development costs. That is precisely why this level of project has to be State sponsored. A sufficiently devious project “projector” can mix in ecological restoration experimental projects with the Mars habitability studies. Apply some political ‘sauce’ to make the entire ‘dish’ palatable.

              Reply
  3. kimyo

    current technology will not allow humans to visit mars. What is the Temperature of Mars?

    On average, the temperature on Mars is about minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 60 degrees Celsius). A summer day on Mars may get up to 70 degrees F (20 degrees C) near the equator, but at night the temperature can plummet to about minus 100 degrees F (minus 73 C).

    Reply
    1. Octopii

      Is this the flat earth society here? Men visited the moon almost fifty years ago and it’s not too hospitable either.

      Reply
      1. kimyo

        is the following a plausible scenario? what materials will the habitat be built from? how will it be heated?

        elon musk (sept 2017)

        “In 2024 we want to try to fly four ships [to Mars]. Two cargo and two crew. The goal of these initial missions is to find the best source of water, that’s for the first mission, and then the second mission, the goal is to build the propellant plant. So we should, particular with six ships there, have plenty of landed mass to construct the propellant depot, which will consist of a large array of solar panels, a very large array, and then everything necessary to mine and refine water, and then draw the CO2 out of the atmosphere, and then create and store deep-cryo CH4 and O2.”

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        1. Octopii

          I don’t have the background to assess that plan, and I doubt anyone in this discussion does. I certainly have no informed reason to trash talk it.

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        2. ambrit

          It looks like Musk is appropriating parts of the Mars Direct proposal.
          See above for a Mars Direct link.
          It is all technically feasible. What are needed are the necessary resources allocated. (Cost.)
          Once a usable source of water is found, the rest falls into place.
          There is no reason why the ‘pioneers’ won’t become literal pioneers and stay on Mars. (The Commentariat’s preferred outcome for Musk et. al.)

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            1. ambrit

              The primary task, as I see it, is to make the decision to send people to Mars to live there. That sets the right trains of thought in motion. Once self sufficiency is the goal, the mission parameters change to suit.
              So, first is needed a ‘proof of concept’ flight. Then perhaps a robotic landing with a greenhouse experiment. Set out some appropriate plants in Martian soil and study their growth patterns. Put them under a pressure cover of some sort to begin. For human food stocks, that might be permanently required. Luckily, the air pressure differential between Mars datum and say Andean pressures, is not insurmountable.
              All that being said, the end of the critique of the Mars Direct program smacks of elitism. Let NASA take the erring children under her wing and all will be well. That is demonstrably false. Both of the Space Shuttle disasters were avoidable. Each was facilitated by NASA’s incestuous culture of bureaucratic groupthink and organizational insularity. If my life were at hazard, I most definitely would not want NASA managerial staff involved.
              The final point, which the citation of Robinson’s “Mars Trilogy” below emphasizes, is that there are going to be losses. People are going to die, no matter what. What we need now is an attitude somewhat like that of the character in Pierre Boulle’s book “Garden on the Moon.”

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                1. ambrit

                  That’s the trillion dollar question.
                  Roughly, it depends on how widespread life is in our cosmic neighborhood. If we were to degrade or destroy other sentient or pre sentient lifeforms, then I’d say that we needed quarantining. If there are not other sentient lifeforms close enough for us to corrupt, then I’d say that the wider horizons of the cosmos could be our salvation through proliferation of human variants. After some time, the human stock that settles off world will adapt to the new environments. That will lead to adjustments to human psychology through simple changes in environmental stimuli. Both nature and nurture will be different, of necessity.
                  When we do meet true alien societies, I suspect that we will discover ourselves to be average in the balance between good and evil.
                  Finally, the term ‘deserve’ implies some higher standard to which we must be measured. Although I do not advocate complete nihilism, I do see where the utilization of ethics can be considered as a cultural artifact. The Aztecs and Maya practiced mass human sacrifice as a religious ritual. The various manifestations of the Inquisition employed torture and murder to ‘purify’ and ‘redeem’ religious heretics. Then we come to reformers and their sacrifices. All in all, we are a mixed bunch, and that is our saving grace.

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                2. Rosario

                  To Lambert. I agree completely. I’m not opposed to interplanetary existence, just that, it is the ultimate hubris of humanity to assume an exceptionalism undeserved, and I will argue, that has been one of the first signs of inevitable failure in any ambition. An inability to respect the power of the unknown and the limitations of ones capabilities.

                  It’s not that we can’t “figure it out” in a technical sense. That is too vulgar an appraisal of the problem. Like Malcolm said in Jurassic Park, should we? More for me, should we now? I, for one, don’t think we actually understand the problem. Figuring out how to get there and managing to keep people alive from a purely technical sense is the easy part. It is the people I am worried about. It is how they behave. What they think is normal behavior on Earth won’t fly on Mars. There is more room to f*** it up on Earth. Not so on Mars.

                  I think censoring our dreams is one of the hardest things to do, but probably the most essential thing for us to do in a period of history where we are short on time and resources (i.e. the hard material limiters) but big on vision. It will always be easy for us to want to do something grand, but it is very hard to know what we should do.

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                  1. ambrit

                    A good point, but, who makes the decisions?
                    Agreed that we should be working mighty hard on our ecological malaise. However, under the present ‘administration’ we aren’t doing ‘Jack S—‘ to even understand the dimensions of the problems facing us.
                    Secondly, absent some game changing discovery in energy production, I don’t see how we will have a very long period of ‘high’ technical civilization left with which to act decisively. Energy is the key. In space, at least within the ‘habitable zone,’ that endless source of energy is sunlight.
                    It really comes down to two differing but not necessarily antagonistic culture sets. One is the “New Frontier,” expansionist cosmos view. The other is a “Home and Hearth” conservationist world view. Ideally, both should work in tandem. Unfortunately, humans with their penchant for extremes have often ended up with unsustainable expansionist regimes that eventually collapse, or steady state stagnation cultures peopled by Pharaonic elites and a mass of subservient fellahin. where nothing ever changes until ‘invaders’ disrupt from outside. That scenario also ends in disaster.
                    So, if one does adhere to the tenets of Darwinianism, the next step in Humanities evolution is up and out.

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                    1. Rosario

                      I guess I just don’t see how going off planet makes any of our problems easier when those problems are centered around how we see ourselves relative to “nature” (and I mean nature in a scientific as well as metaphysical sense). I don’t see that as a purely technical problem nor is it something that will work itself out without of a great deal of intentionality on the part of the people working to achieve the goal.

                      I agree on your points about visions and frontiers. Why go to the South Pole, “for queen and country!”, why go to the Moon, “for all mankind…”, etc.Though, as I see it, the issue is, what we define as that frontier. It is our duty to define that frontier in a manner that is ethical, practical, and to the most benefit to ourselves and ideally other species. This is the whole dream censoring thing. I don’t think some of humanities best achievements came from following our most ambitious dreams. I think they came from our ability to pick out the right dream. Even if it didn’t shoot for the Moon (or Mars).

                      As an engineer by trade, if someone from NASA came up to me and said “We want you on a team to figure out how to go to Mars” I would probably piss myself in excitement. What a thrilling thing. What a fun engineering problem.

                      Though, I would end up coming back to the same issue, do we actually understand the problem? I don’t think we do. I don’t think we are at that level of maturity, and I don’t think any amount of my or anyone else’s engineering alone can solve that. Maybe if the problem was defined more broadly I’d be a bit more receptive, but all I’ve heard up to now sounds like science fiction fever dreams.

                    2. ambrit

                      Rosario;
                      To the extent science fiction is useful, it functions as an extrapolation of current trends and ‘discoveries.’ Also, we have, as I said in another comment, humanities penchant for extremes. “Pie in the Sky” space operas and crushing dystopias. The technical aspects change over time in somewhat predictable ways, until ‘breakthrough’ discoveries throw everything into chaos. But how often do we see a true ‘breakthrough’ advance in technical culture? And, more interestingly, would we recognize it as such at the beginning? Who could have predicted today from observing the discovery of tunnel diodes back in 1957? “Solid state electronics? What good is that?” What good is it? Just ask Sony, where it was discovered.
                      As you point out, the true centrepoint of all this is human nature. That’s why I advocate for something as ‘Blue Sky’ as the Mars project. It gives humans a chance to expand their horizons, as it were. Expand them in a myriad of ‘directions.’

                3. Ian Ollmann

                  What does deserve have to do with it?

                  I have 3 kids. Do I deserve to have 3 kids? Who gets to make that decision? I have 3 kids because I had 3 kids. A mars colony does not need to deserve to exist.

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                  1. James Murgolo

                    HA, I strongly encourage you to watch The Unforgiven if you haven’t already. Clint Eastwood’s answer to s@#t happens.

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          1. Greg

            It’s interesting that the SpaceX timeline isn’t too far off the Red Mars timeline from Kim Stanley-Robinson’s epic martian series back in the early 90s. You know, when Musk etc were young and impressionable :)

            Anyway, the flip-side of that is that the Mars Trilogy has the first pioneers on a one way trip with certain death from rad exposure and a bunch of other fun side effects. They still went. The first fifty to a hundred years of humans on mars is life-dependent on regular cargo shipments from home (think 40ft containers dropped from space that cost megabucks to send from a disintegrating global economy drowning in climate failure and you’ll see some of the problems with that approach).

            So https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_trilogy probably source material, remarkably prescient but that’s a bit chicken/egg I think.

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            1. polecat

              How about we go eastward .. and pioneer D.C. instead ? Capitol Hill folk could be the new indigenous hostiles .. that’s your new frontier right there, ambrit !

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              1. ambrit

                But that’s a post apocalyptic scenario polecat.
                ‘The Beltway’ crowd won’t give up control until some catastrophe sets us all back to the ‘Halcyon Days of Yore.’
                Even now I find it difficult to figure out who ‘owns’ whom. Does Silicon Valley work for Langley, or has Langley become ensorcelled by Silicon Valley?
                Now, I can see some ‘alt power’ nexus dropping small asteroids on D.C and environs. Say, the Belters come with grievances and do not like the response.

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                1. polecat

                  They all seem an incestuous bunch … or bunches, don’t they.
                  The Huggle Buddies for Hell !

                  I’d put stock into Bollides R US. … cuz ‘In Space, No one can hear you Scheme’ …

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                  1. ambrit

                    Naughty polecat. Throwing Alien concepts at us like that.
                    That sounds promising for some prop-agit.
                    Demomorphs versus Republomorphs.
                    Now here’s a Luchador flick if I ever saw one: “Alien versus Predator” starring Carlos Slim and Jaimie Dimon.

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  4. FreeMarketApologist

    …SpaceX tried in December to make up the difference by selling $500 million in equity, “to help get its internet-service business off the ground,…

    Here we have a company that hasn’t been profitable doing the thing they were set up to to, and now they’re trying to justify that work by implementing space-based internet connectivity, which coincidentally requires another 10,000+ things to be launched into space. This would nearly triple the number of satellites in orbit (about 4900 as of Nov 2018), and add significantly to the space junk problem.

    I’m all for continued space exploration, but at this point it seems like the company is simply flailing about trying to justify sucking money out of wealthy investors.

    Reply
    1. tegnost

      Speaking of excess junk, I know this story was in links today, but now teslas are going to follow their owners around “like pets” so add this to guillotine watch, annoying tesla traffic jams at the front door to all the stores, or “let’s take a walk down main st, come along tessie!” A car that follows you around is self driving and the reg pushback is probably the lack of a licensed driver. Whose fault is it going to be when it hits something? This should make the urban areas clogged with uber/lyfts just that much worse. What a stupid world they are making. Musk really should inhale more weed and go ride a bike.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        What happens when the next Timothy McVeigh loads up his ‘tessie’ with explosives and orders it to drive into some building while he is making his getaway?

        Reply
  5. ambrit

    This points out the basic constraints on the “private” sector in gigantic projects. Some endeavours require the resources of an entire population to carry out. The Manhattan Project could not have been carried through by even a consortium of ‘private’ companies in the time scale require by the conditions; a war and a depression. Assembling the brainpower needed required the coercive power of the government. It is telling that Space-X is purported to have hired away boffins from NASA. Those Brainiacs were nurtured and developed by State funded schools and universities. They were given the opportunities to develop their gifts through State funded programs. See DARPA for an example of that.
    This retrenchment at Space-X is a sign that that entity has realized that it, suffering from the limitations imposed on it by the “private” sector, cannot be run as a Project, but must content itself with existing within the constraints of being a Business.

    Reply
    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Agreed. It would probably be cheaper and safer and faster to simply give the development back to NASA and just pay Musk to take photos of himself looking out a port window of a rocket.

      I lost track of why NASA had to give up these projects in the first place. Is it such revulsion for government that we can no longer feel proud of our flag unless it’s flown by private industry? Is it just one more avenue for funneling large amounts of cash into the hands of our most needy politicians to sustain their Dorian Grey pictures of what they really look like well locked up? Or is it to illustrate that in a meritocracy (ahem…), like ours, people that can hop in their own space ships really are worth 1000 times more than us beasts of burden?

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        I like your locution; “…a meritocracy, like ours…”
        The false equivalency inherent in the Neo-liberal myth of the “rugged individualist” is plain. All those ‘big business’ “successes” are built upon Government funded and run ‘pure science’ programs. The Internet itself, fecund source of fortunes large and small was the direct outgrowth of a network established among government and university departments to facilitate the communications of scientists. Who here remembers the Arpanet? All Bezos and his ilk did was to carry out a modern enclosure movement upon what had been a public trust. Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.
        In the proverbial “Just Society” criminals like the billionaire class would pay for their transgressions. We have the dishonour to be living in a corrupt and degenerate age. Thus, criminals are lauded. The rest of us, well…..

        Reply
        1. ambrit

          A bit off topic, yet related. I just had to stop watching a recent NOVA program about the New Horizons space probe. I was getting infuriated at the ‘breathless’ drama being spun up out of nothing to try and make the program ‘entertaining’ to the whatevers.
          NOVA has been downgraded from a good science program to a fluffy infotainment bauble. I shouldn’t be too surprised, considering the concomitant degradation seen on other PBS programming.

          Reply
  6. bob

    Musk is-

    1) a banker (paypal/ebay)
    2) A defense contractor (spaceX)

    He uses these two entities to fund gifts of shitty cars to giant, insufferable assholes.

    Reply
    1. Octopii

      1. Other Paypal alums have gone on to genuine evil. Peter Thiel with Palantir, for example.
      2. SpaceX achieved certification for defense payloads relatively recently. The company was built on Musk’s bank account for a while and then an ISS commercial resupply contract from NASA. If they hadn’t developed and demonstrated their orbital launch capability they would not have gotten any contracts from anyone.
      3. Whatever one thinks of their owners, the cars are the first widely successful electric cars made. The company has brought electric cars into the main stream.
      4. History is littered with defunct space companies that never got off the ground and electric car companies that never sold more than a few hundred units at best, their drivers condemned to ridicule (Ed Begley Jr.). Whatever one thinks of Mr. Musks motives or behavior, he and his companies are setting big goals and solving hard problems.
      5. I can understand when people say something can’t be done. But when something’s been done and yet those people still say it can’t be, well I just don’t understand that.

      Reply
      1. The Geege

        Well said. In response to your final point, I suggest a primary cause: over-education. As an engineering and computer science student in the 70’s, I was all too aware of physical limitations in my field… then. To those who share my early lack of imagination and vision, I recommend more play with young children, before they are regimented and taught what is ‘impossible’. Perhaps this is why Elon Musk doesn’t place a great importance on advanced degrees.

        Reply

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