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Apollo astronauts, SpaceX, and a special photo

The re-airing of a 60 Minutes segment last month about SpaceX generated some criticism from Apollo-era officials that they were unfairly portrayed as being negative about SpaceX, which led a few weeks later to a clarification from 60 Minutes host Scott Pelley that Neil Armstrong in particular had not testified against commercial space. All this, as previously noted, came only after the second airing of the segment, shortly after SpaceX’s successful flight to the ISS, and not after CBS originally broadcast the piece in March.

This story does have a happy ending of sorts, though. Earlier this week venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, whose investments include SpaceX, posted a photo of a gift he was sending SpaceX founder Elon Musk: a picture of a Falcon 9 launch signed by nine Apollo astronauts. The astronauts offered congratulations to Musk and SpaceX for their recent achievement. “A real breakthrough – much success on many flights to come!” signed Fred Haise of Apollo 13 fame. Even Gene Cernan, who had been critical of commercial spaceflight providers in the past—he legendarily said in Senate testimony in 2010 that such companies “do not yet know what they don’t know”—offered his congratulations and advice to the company: “Congratulations on a job well done – now the challenge begins.”

Jurvetson writes that he originally sought to get Cernan to tour SpaceX’s facility, but had no luck. He finally approached Cernan about signing the photo after getting other astronauts to sign it, eventually winning over the astronaut with how SpaceX and Musk persevered through early failures to achieve their recent success. “As I told him these stories of heroic entrepreneurship, I could see his mind turning,” Jurvetson wrote. “He found a reconciliation: ‘I never read any of this in the news. Why doesn’t the press report on this?’”

30 comments to Apollo astronauts, SpaceX, and a special photo

  • Has 60 Minutes rerun the bogus segment on Brevard County that made it look like we’d folded up and were now a bunch of weeds? My guess is no, since they got so much blowback from NASA and county officials about how false and distorted was their report. Even the local press called them out on it. Mr. Pelley at the least should have the journalistic integrity to run a correction.

  • common sense

    ‘I never read any of this in the news. Why doesn’t the press report on this?’

    Take your friends and go visit for crying out loud! It’s easier than a trip to the Moon and I am sure if you want discretion they will accommodate. Just GO.

  • amightywind

    ‘I never read any of this in the news. Why doesn’t the press report on this?’”

    Give me a break. How much more positive press is SpaceX looking for? Does the hype never end? This rockstar space program stuff has to end. Nobody sends the Lockmart CEO signed astronaut photos although that company deserves them 1000x over. Will you jokers send flowers when Orbital delivers Cheetos and underwear to the ISS in the coming month?

  • common sense

    “Nobody sends the Lockmart CEO signed astronaut photos although that company deserves them 1000x over. ”

    What was the last crewed space vehicle they actually designed that flew?

  • Vladislaw

    No the astronauts sit on the board or are invited for the meet and greets. Laughable that you think astronauts are somehow strangers to lockheed martin.

    ASTRONAUTS ARE STARS AND FILMMAKERS OF FIRST-EVER LOCKHEED MARTIN-SPONSORED IMAX® 3D SPACE FILM

    No they don’t send signed photos… they make freakin’ movies with them. LOL

  • Mark R. Whittington

    I wouldn’t read anymore into this than it appears. It is entirely possible to admire what SpaceX has been able to accomplish and also have reservations with Obama’s space policy.

  • josh

    lol at mark desperately spinning away…haha

    cernan is a fool btw. if he doesn’t know how to keep himself informed he should just shut up. this debate doesn’t need the opinion of an ignorant has-been.

  • josh

    @windy

    it’s nice to see you admit to just being jealous. and no, lockmart doesn’t deserve admiration, they have yet to build a working spaceship. all they have produced so far are failures (x33), overruns and delays. nothing to be admired for really.

  • Mark R. Whittington wrote @ July 12th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    I wouldn’t read anymore into this than it appears. It is entirely possible to admire what SpaceX has been able to accomplish and also have reservations with Obama’s space policy.”

    it really isnt. if Bush43 had gotten SpaceX flying you would be banging one drum after the next calling it a victory for free enterprise.

    The objections you have about Obama’s space policy are incoherent.

    First you label SpaceX and other groups participating in commercial cargo and crew “crony capitalism”…now thats all fine and good you have defined things in a clinton like manner before…but then all you do is praise Cx/SLS and Orion whe they are actually the now 22 billion dollar sink hole …and have produced nothing.

    You dont like Obama’s policy because it has no destination; yet you cannot explain how a “destination” that has no relevance to American society makes any sense…this is even more entertaining in light of Willard “Bain” Romney shooting down your former hero “Mr. Newt’s” notion of a lunar base (and hence a lunar effort)

    Worse Obama has done EXACTLY what you agreed to was a good policy in The Weekly Standard piece you had no real part in other then you asked for your name to be put on it and then took part of the payment for it.

    Meanwhile SpaceX goes where NASA has not gone in a long time…a successful more or less on budget program with mostly private money…and you complain. Seesh.

    RGO

  • Theresa

    Give me a break, SX does not deserve applause for doing what has been done in years past. And I don’t believe most people would have been banging a drum if this happened under the last President. They didn’t deserve it under him and don’t deserve it under Obama. By the by, how does anyone know they came in under cost, they do not have public disclosure or a real cost accounting system as do all other aerospace companies. They were nearly 3 years late on launching that one mission! Further, who knows what bags of money were mixed to pay for that one successful launch…CRS for COTS, who cares, apparently ethics are irrelevant when it comes to seeing this lobbying-heavy company succeed.

  • DCSCA

    @amightywind wrote @ July 12th, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Geno’s being coy. The most media savvy Apollo veterans are Cernan and Lovell– w/Stafford not far behind (he successfully fought for color TV on his 10 flight to share the experience w/t public BTW) w/a hard-earned honorable mention for Aldrin, Collins, Bean, Borman– even Duke and Scott. The wise one is Armstrong, who meters his public commentary in measured terms and when he speaks on matters spacial, smart people listen.

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ July 12th, 2012 at 7:00 am

    “Has 60 Minutes rerun the bogus segment on Brevard County…”

    Except it wasn’t. And it’s a hard sell by locals trying to pitch all is well on the Space Coast w/t shuttle program winding down after three decades.

    @Mark R. Whittington wrote @ July 12th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Precisely. Akin to a signed ‘stay in school, study hard and reach for the stars’ type photo. These guys have toured more assembly facilities in their time than they can count. They’ve all been to Downey. Hawthorne ain’t much different.

    @josh wrote @ July 12th, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    “cernan is a fool btw.”

    Except he’s not.

  • Ben Joshua

    Eugene Cernan, a talented, highly capable and courageous former Gemini / Apollo astronaut, a man for the history books, apprears to lack curiosity. I am heartened by his new awareness, perhaps it will spread, but I am puzzled by his reported statement, “I never read any of this (about SpaceX) in the news. Why doesn’t the press report on this?’”

    The general press is decidedly poor at covering space issues. Cernan has it right there. But a quick search of AW&ST yields 76 articles on SpaceX going back some years.

    Childish catcalls against SpaceX by variously entrenched establishment interests are to be expected. But lack of curiosity by a true hero of space exploration gives one pause.

    How many space insiders are so self insulating and blissfully unaware, and then proceed to make authoritative judgments about space efforts of which they have such scant awareness?

    At this point, do Cernan and his rightly lauded fraternity have the curiosity to at least read about SpaceX, and at most visit, to see who is at work behind the nameplate, and what SpaceX’s multiple innovations in development might yield in a few short years?

    btw, the notion that SpaceX is just doing what has been done before is just too funny for words. I get a kick out of each hilarious repetition!

  • josh

    @theresa

    your post was full of fail. what do you hope to accomplish here? embarrassing yourself maybe? you brilliantly succeeded at that..

    ofc spacex has a “real cost accounting system” (are you implying they have a fake one?) and nasa double checked everything.
    a “lobbying-heavy company”? good one. it is old space that is entirely dependent on lobbying to get contracts. spacex does it the old fashioned way: they’re actually performing.
    delays: they were right on schedule compared to the blunder that was project constellation (orion first flight slipped from 2011 to 2019).

  • josh

    @dssca

    sure he is.

    btw: what’s with that weird fetish of yours for that oneword? you know: “except”… makes you sound like a broken record.

  • Curtis Quick

    Theresa,

    Why do you care where SpaceX’s money comes from? The only thing that matters is that it did not cost the taxpayers umpteen billions of dollars and produce nothing usable like Constellation. Which would you rather pay, 20 billion for nothing or 200 million for a new spacecraft (Dragon) and two launchers (Falcon 1 and 9)? And do you know how much it costs you if they fail? Not one thin dime.

  • Frank Glover

    “Give me a break. How much more positive press is SpaceX looking for? Does the hype never end? ”

    Windy, ‘sic transit gloria mundi.’

    Moon missions got to be ho-hum very quickly, eventually SpaceX ISS resupply, and ultimately even manned flights will be just another launch. Boeing got space launch-like video coverage (including a cheering crowd, just like a ‘rockstar’) on CNN of he first 787 takeoff, and even a quick videobite for the second one. Now it’s just anther airliner to the public.

    “Nobody sends the Lockmart CEO signed astronaut photos although that company deserves them 1000x over.”

    Why?

    I’m sorry, but this looks more like envy on your part, than anything else…

    @ DSCA:

    Cernan: “I never read any of this in the news. Why doesn’t the press report on this?”

    You: “Geno’s being coy. ”

    Coy…for what mysterious reason?

    Some people have a very hard tie saying “I don’t/didn’t know.” about anything. He just did.

    Unless you can tell us that he has acknowledged this ‘coyness’ somewhere in public. or to you in private (preferably with an explanation), I’m going to take him at his word, and assume that you aren’t telepathic.

  • DCSCA

    @Ben Joshua wrote @ July 13th, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    There’s nothing puzzling about it except to those who don’t know what they don’t know yet.

    “The general press is decidedly poor at covering space issues.”

    Except it’s not. In fact, it’s decidely rich– and has become more so since the early 1980s, at least in the United States– when primary news outlets shifted from being loss leaders required to meet liscencing requirements to profit centers. So in America today, you getthe news that draws the biggest audiences, not news you can use. Big difference. Paley always liked to remind Murrow that the entire annual budget for the news division was paid for by the commercial time sold on I Love Lucy alone.

    “But lack of curiosity by a true hero of space exploration gives one pause.”

    Not really. Musk seeks the validation, not Cernan. Apollo guys have toured more assembly facilities in their time than they can count. They’ve all been to Downey. Hawthorne ain’t much different. If Musk wants validation— fly somebody. Tick-tock, tick-tock….

    @josh wrote @ July 13th, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Except he’s not, But then, if you want to go personal, you may be speaking from deep experience in in matters foolish.

  • Malmesbury

    “The general press is decidedly poor at covering space issues.”

    The general press is decidedly poor at covering *all* issues. Every time I see a news report relating to the areas I personally know about, I see howlers. Not to do with any personal point of view – objective, technical howlers.

    Every friend I have comments on the howlers in the areas *they* are interested in.

    The most entertaining thing about the Apollo crew(s) and commercial space was the letter in which some of them criticised the use of SAA instead of FAR contracts. While saying (in the next sentence!) they didn’t know much about SAA agreements.

  • josh

    “Except he’s not…”

    yup, something is broken… maybe do a check-up some time soon..

  • Vladislaw

    Frank Glover wrote:

    “Moon missions got to be ho-hum very quickly, eventually SpaceX ISS resupply, and ultimately even manned flights will be just another launch.”

    Same with the Space Shuttle, after the first accident’s return to flight mission. The first flight, the first return to flight missions, the first hook up with Mir, the First hubble repair mission, the first flight to the ISS, the last repair flight to hubble the last flight to the ISS.

    It is very easy to predict which flights will get the most eyeballs, firsts and lasts.

    So what are some of the upcoming launches that will get press coverage?

    First flight for Orbital.
    First cargo flight to the ISS for Orbital.
    First manned flights from each firm.
    First Bigelow crewed station launch.
    First Bigelow cargo launch to a station.
    First Falcon Heavy launch.
    First Dragon lab launch.
    First crew to a Bigelow Station.
    First XCOR flight.
    First XCOR passenger flight.
    First SpaceShipTwo launch with engines.
    First commercial SS2 launch.

    Just a few that predictibly will be getting some press coverage. Can anyone name some more… so that windy is prepared for the onslaught of press coverage?

  • Dave Hall

    @DCSCA wrote:

    Musk seeks the validation, not Cernan. Apollo guys have toured more assembly facilities in their time than they can count. They’ve all been to Downey. Hawthorne ain’t much different. If Musk wants validation— fly somebody. Tick-tock, tick-tock….

    I agree with that. The picture from Jurvetson is incomplete and perhaps consciously so … it is missing Neil Armstrong’s signature. Musk may just be motivated to step up his game and that of his teams in search of the final signature. Which would indicate a special kind of currency only available in Silicon Valley … arguably a child of Apollo.

  • Dave Hall

    Anyone interested in putting Steve Jurvetson in perspective may be interested in two tidbits:

    1. His collection of Apollo artifacts:
    http://news.cnet.com/2300-19882_3-10011182-1.html

    2. He received the first Tesla Model S off the production line, Musk received the second.

    I think the ultimate test for capital markets will be to fund a first Mars return mission. People like Jurveston will play an important role in making it happen. Silicon Valley is in a league of it’s own.

  • common sense

    “I think the ultimate test for capital markets will be to fund a first Mars return mission.”

    Ultimate test? Why would they have to succeed some arbitrary test? To do what? Whom for?

    Their ultimate test is to be commercially successful, nothing else. If they are not the sanction will be far worse than that of CxP.

    Oh well…

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    SpaceX and Musk in particular needs no validation from anyone. And as for ‘stepping up their game’, that’s pretty rich compared to NASA’s own programs. Musk is creating value for the U.S. mainly on his own dime and where NASA has invested, they’re getting a fantastic return. Lots just don’t seem to get that, Dave Hall and DCSCA among them.
    Tick tock, tick tock, time’s a wasting for SLS, MPCV, JWST.

  • Dave Hall

    “Their ultimate test is to be commercially successful, nothing else. If they are not the sanction will be far worse than that of CxP. ”

    You’re right. From afar and position of political neutrality, I was thinking about the difference capitalism Silicon Valley style and the way China funds it’s space programme.

  • common sense

    @ Dave Hall wrote @ July 17th, 2012 at 6:58 am

    Apples and oranges.

    SpaceX = private company
    China = government

    Different purposes, different goals, different funding, different everything.

  • Dave Hall

    common sense wrote @ July 17th, 2012 at 11:00 am

    SpaceX = private company
    China = government

    Different purposes, different goals, different funding, different everything.

    To fulfill their purposes, one system plods towards getting humans back to the Moon, the other system potentially makes a bold leap to get to Mars and back somehow … both happening during the same period of history. I wish success on both.

  • common sense

    @ Dave Hall wrote @ July 17th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I don’t think you understand Dave. Moon and Mars are NOT primary missions for SpaceX. And I suspect and believe they are not even for the China. You are projecting your desires on what they do. I think. Well I am pretty sure.

  • DCSCA

    @BeanCounterfromDownunder wrote @ July 16th, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    “SpaceX and Musk in particular needs no validation from anyone…”

    =yawn= Except he does– which he made obvious in his CBS News ’60 Minutes’ puff piece w/Pelley, broadcast in March, 2012.

  • niksus

    Ben Joshua wrote @ July 13th, 2012 at 6:22 pm
    “btw, the notion that SpaceX is just doing what has been done before is just too funny for words. I get a kick out of each hilarious repetition!”
    But it’s true, and they must do what has been done before. They are in the business of making money, not for innovation, your amusement or glory. Don’t mix the intentions of their owner/CTO aka Musk to put humans on Mars, etc with company goal of making M$ from every possible way, and doing it as effective as possible. Investors and stakeholders don’t care about what SpaceX do first/second… but how much money (ROI) they get out of this. So they don’t need to innovate technically but in production/business manner that really matters. And you’ll never see airbreating engine/spaceloop/spaceelevator from SpaceX until someone else completely test it/make $ from it, at the most they’ll buy/acquire some techno from NASA/contractors or some patents to implement, and that will always be already tested/developed option.

    common sense wrote @ July 16th, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    “Their ultimate test is to be commercially successful, nothing else. If they are not the sanction will be far worse than that of CxP.”
    And that’s real difficulty for every newspace company being it SpaceX,XCOR, Interorbital, Virgin Galactic, etc. Mostly all of them are in development/pre-commercial phase of operation, have very small market share/low flight record or none and even with launch shedule – a problem to supply it fully.
    We can wholeheartedly admit their technical accomplishments and ability to procede/raise capital but at the moment they are not breakeven and investors didn’t get single $ out of it. That’s why Buffet doesn’t like those type of techno-geak investments – once they have profit they need to invest it to continue development/innovation process or they’ll be out of business. Those companies are worse than Wallmart, Coca-Cola or even Microsoft. So commercial success means not just profit but large enough margin of ROI for investors to stay. And that doesn’t matter that SpaceX is private company, the rules are the same.

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