Elon Musk inspires to found SpaceX after Russians spat on his shoes

Elon Musk inspires to found SpaceX after Russians spat on his shoes

  • Former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver details how Elon Musk started SpaceX in a new book.
  • Musk decided to start the company after reportedly being disrespected by several Russians.
  • Garver’s memoir follows the commercialization of space and her history with Musk and Jeff Bezos.

Former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver recalled in her recent memoir how Elon Musk was inspired to start building his own rockets.

The CEO of SpaceX famously decided to start his own space company after being spat on by a Russian engineer in 2001. Garver commented on the incident in Escaping Gravity: My Quest to Transform NASA and Launch a New Space Age, published June 21.

“This act offended Elon so much that on the flight home he decided to start his own rocket company to compete with them,” Garver wrote. “If Helen of Troy had a face that launched a thousand ships into space, then this was the spear that launched a thousand ships into space.”

Garver’s book traces the commercialization of the US space industry during her time as NASA’s Deputy Administrator under the Obama administration. The book highlights Garver’s efforts to make space travel more affordable despite pressure from NASA to keep production in-house.

Garver first met Musk in the summer of 2002. The two discussed NASA’s dependence on Russia, she said. At the time she had just completed a stint in Russia training to take part in Russia’s Soyuz rocket – an experience she missed due to a competing bid from singer Lance Bass.

The former NASA official is not the first to detail the incident. Last month, SpaceX co-founder Jim Cantrell said the Russians treated Musk badly when he brought him to Moscow to negotiate a deal to buy space rockets for a future mission to send mice or plants to Mars.

“The chief designer was very excited when Elon spoke,” Cantrell said in a Channel 4 documentary that aired in May. “The chief designer got tired of listening to him and he spat on our shoes,” he added.

Cantrell said he believes Russians see Musk’s informal attire as a “sign of disrespect.” In her book, Garver said Musk’s “disruptor mentality and lack of respect for traditional industry” often have similar effects on NASA and White House staff.

Similarly, the co-founder described the situation in a Musk biography by Ashlee Vance, “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.”

He said the Russians had treated Musk badly over the course of several talks in Moscow. The Russians were more interested in small talk and drinks, while Musk was keen to get down to business, according to the biography.

“They looked at us like we weren’t credible people,” Cantrell said, according to Vance’s book.

The co-founder said the chief designer spat on her because “he thought we were full of shit”. Even Musk’s close friend Adeo Ressi wondered if the dot-com millionaire might have gone “insane,” Vance wrote.

The Russians eventually couldn’t agree on a price with Musk, and he “stormed out of the meeting,” the book says. But on the flight home, Musk got the idea to build his own rockets, Cantrell told Vance.

Less than a year later, SpaceX was incorporated as Space Exploration Technologies Corporation. It has grown into one of the most valuable private companies.

Last year, SpaceX launched the world’s first all-civilian mission into orbit. The company has a contract to develop a lunar lander for NASA and is preparing to launch one of the world’s most powerful rockets by the end of the year, according to Musk.

Meanwhile, Musk’s rivalry with Russia has lasted for decades. Most recently, the billionaire had several Twitter spats with Roscosmos boss Dmitry Rogozin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.