Elon Musk is unfit to lead us into space
First he dismissed concerns about the virus. Then he made an embarrassing attempt to ride to the rescue. Then he tried to defy his state’s safety measures by ordering his employees back to work. One way or another, it seems Elon Musk is determined to “win” the pandemic. This is worrisome behavior for the man who may soon be leading human souls into space from the Kennedy Space Center.
When a tragedy unfolds, it’s easy to see who the heroes are. In our current one, it’s the doctors and nurses working nightmarish shifts at the hospital. It’s first responders, delivery drivers, and restaurant workers putting their health at risk to make sure our country continues to function.
And it’s easy to see who our heroes
They’re the people who are putting the spotlight on themselves. Musk, the iconoclastic entrepreneur and founder of Tesla and SpaceX, falls into the latter category. At a time of collective shared sacrifice, Musk wants attention — any way he can get it. This fact has serious implications for our collective relationship with Musk just weeks before SpaceX will take astronauts to the International Space Station.
In short, Musk’s reckless vanity could endanger human lives.
Let’s review Musk’s response to the pandemic. First, he wanted to showcase his brilliant, detached, unemotional skepticism: “The coronavirus panic is dumb,” he tweeted on March 6.
When it became clear that the virus was going to kill tens of thousands of people in the U.S., he wanted to be the hero by supplying ventilators. So he “delivered” them. The only problem? They weren’t really ventilators. Instead, there were common home health devices known as bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines that assist people with sleep apnea but provide little (if any) benefit to those in need of a ventilator.
Rather than admit a mistake, Musk lashed out in defense of his donation. He questioned the integrity of media outlets that reported his shortcoming by sharing posts from hospitals and providing a delivery list that accounts for only 197 units.
Even if you could find the rest of the units, they are apparently not the devices medical facilities need for Covid patients. But the poor hospitals duped by his ventilator ploy seemed to want to avoid any offense, offering oblique thanks for the “gifts.” Nobody wants to offend a thin-skinned billionaire.
Most recently, Musk tried to order his Tesla employees back to work despite his state’s stay-at-home orders, before apparently canceling those plans.
Like a child who needs continuous praise from their parents, even when their parents are tending to an emergency, Musk needs the world’s uninterrupted attention, no matter how many people are dying by the thousands from a scary new disease.
Is this the person we want in charge of leading astronauts into space?
Musk has a storied history of big promises that failed to materialize, including repeated issues with the development, delivery and output of Tesla vehicles. He has mocked his investors’ fears of financial troubles with jokes calling the company bankrupt and responded to criticism of his production failures by peddling a rogue worker conspiracy. His comments about the company have even landed him in hot water with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The same disparity between stirring public proclamations and cold, hard reality exists at SpaceX. Since successfully suing to force the Air Force into hiring his firm, Musk has cost taxpayers millions of dollars and set back national priorities with catastrophes such as the incineration of International Space Station (ISS) cargo and the detonation of SpaceX rockets loaded with government equipment. As the pattern goes, Musk deflects responsibility.
Perhaps it’s the fact that Musk chooses subjects that invoke a titillating futuristic world in which the unheard-of becomes the norm. Or maybe he’s just that good of a showman. But with lives on the line, standards must be met precisely. It’s beyond time for public leaders to rise to the seriousness of their duties and demand that Musk do the same. If that’s not possible, then the government should rethink the scale and scope of its reliance on this inspiring but seemingly negligent visionary.