Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Would You Buy A Used Rocket From This Man?

Space travel is dangerous enough.   Riding in a rocket made by a company run by someone who acts crazy is.... well, adding to the risk.

Today is an exciting day - they are going to launch the Space-X rocket for the first time with people aboard.   This will be the first time in years that we have launched humans into space, and marks the end of our reliance on Russia for a ride to the International Space Station.   I hope it goes well, but growing up in the Apollo era, I appreciate how dangerous spaceflight can be, and I wish them all the best.

But this got me to thinking a bit.  Elon Musk doesn't seem like a really a stable person.  The only one who tweets weirder than him is, well, Donald Trump.   The guy regularly shoots his mouth off and gets in trouble with the SEC - for example, by saying he has a buyout lined up for his company for $420.  "420" - get it?  As in smoking dope.   He also got in hot water for calling some cave rescuer a "Pedo" which seems unnecessarily stupid.   And his empire of hole-digging, electric cars, solar shingles, and rockets to Mars looks more and more tenuous, as it requires a fire hose of money to keep running.

And the fire hose has a kink in it.  The "Boring Company" makes holes in the ground, but has yet to stuff them full of cash.  The solar shingle thing got caught in the collapse of home solar - due to cheap Chinese panels, Trump's tariffs, expiring tax credits, and the switch by utilities to paying wholesale rates for home-generated electricity, rather than retail.   Tesla is making and selling cars, but teeters on the brink of profitability.  With a two-month shutdown of his factory and $1.98 gas, well, we'll see how that works out.  They are offering discounts to move cars.   The whole move to electric cars, worldwide, may turn out to have been premature.   We'll see.

Space-X probably is profitable, given all the government contracts and satellite launches.  Whether it has earned back the staggering development costs is anyone's guess. Whether the overall Musk enterprise is profitable is another question entirely.  Musk says he's selling off his 20 mansions in Los Angeles (a rational purchase, if you are professional athlete, rock star, or lottery winner - is Musk just white trash?) because he wants to get away from materialism.  Or, he needs the money.   And sadly, selling multi-million-dollar mansions in the middle of a pandemic is problematic.  Such properties can languish on the market for years - even in good times.  Ask Michael Jordan.

An item in the news "gossip" column today gave me pause, though.   Maybe Musk's behavior is "LA Normal" but to the rest of the country, it seems an outlier.   Apparently he is married to an "elf" or "elven" or whatever, named "Grimes" - no word on whether this is a first name, last, or solo moniker like "Cher."  And they have apparently named their kid after the catalog part number of a rocket turbine pump sealing gasket:
"X Æ A-12" was always going to be a puzzling name, to say the least, but now it's officially an invalid one. Grimes confirmed on Instagram that she and her partner, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, changed the name of their son to "X Æ A-Xii" on his birth certificate, swapping the "12" out for the corresponding Roman numeral in order to satisfy California laws that prohibit anything other than "the 26" English-language letters. Of course, that still leaves a big question mark around "Æ," which Grimes has previously explained is her "elven spelling of Ai," and which is not one of the 26 more prosaic letters required by California. Baby X may very well have yet another name change in his near future.
Not since Frank Zappa named his kids "Moon Unit" and "Dweezle" has such a crime been committed, although the former wisely shortened her name to "Moon" which sounds sexy and feminine.  I mean, growing up as the child of a billionaire or celebrity - or both - is hard enough (yea, I know, all that money - so hard!) but to be tagged with a moniker like THX-1138 (There's an idea for you, Lucas - you can scar your kids for life, too!) is just icing on the cake.

You know, "Baby-X" might not be a bad choice.  Could be shortened to "Baby" later in life, which is cool and sexy, and the "X" is an homage to Space-X.   But for the love of God, could we just go back to normal, traditional names like Sam, and Mary, and Jim, and Fred?   Enough of the made-up names, whether black, white, or whatever.

Fortunately, names can be changed.  I wonder if years from now, Musk, Jr. will go to court to have his name changed to "Chuck" just to piss off Mom and Dad.  (Just a thought, can you imagine getting up in the morning and having breakfast with Elon Musk and calling him "Dad"?   "Pass the Cap'n Crunch, Elon!"   "Sure thing, X Æ A-Xii!" Surreal.)

I wish these astronauts Godspeed and hope the mission goes well - and is the precursor to many, many more.  And I hope Mr. Musk does well, too - because a world of solar-powered homes charging up electric cars, underground tubes wooshing people cross-country, and colonies on Mars sounds like - well, the dreams we were sold back in 1969.   I hope it comes true.

But the guy behind these dreams, well, he isn't the slide-rule geek we were all expecting to lead us to greatness.   Mr.Musk, if you will, can you please tone-down the bizarre?  Just a bit?  Thanks!

Would you buy a used rocket from this man?