From The Editors Science

NASA Concerned About Elon Musk’s Weed-Smoking Ways: Orders Safety Review of SpaceX

NASA has reportedly ordered a workplace safety review of Space X and Boeing – two companies it has major dealings with.

As a matter of fact, both companies have signed multi-billion-dollar contracts with the space agency to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

Therefore, it does make a lot of sense to carry out a thorough assessment of the workplace safety culture, especially if the companies are contracted to undertake assignments where human lives and billions of dollars of equipment are involved – where razor-sharp precision is the name of the game.

First reported by The Washington Post, the review is due to begin next year and will entail extensive scrutiny of “everything and anything that could impact safety,” William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration, was quoted by the daily as saying.

TWP says that three officials with inside knowledge have confirmed that the NASA decision was driven by Elon Musk’s recent tryst with weed.

In a podcast streamed live on Sep 7, the Space X CEO was seen smoking marijuana and sipping whiskey with podcast host Joe Rogan.

Although NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs didn’t explicitly attribute the probe to Musk’s reefer (or him sipping whiskey) he did tell TWP that it would help determine if the companies were on par with NASA’s workplace safety standards, “including the adherence to a drug-free environment.”

“We fully expect our commercial partners to meet all workplace safety requirements in the execution of our missions and the services they provide the American people,” Jacobs continued. “As always, NASA will ensure they do so.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is believed to have said in an interview that the review was a reflection of the agency’s commitment to its business partners and to the American people, who ought to know that NASA is serious about the safety of its astronauts.

“If I see something that’s inappropriate, the key concern to me is what is the culture that led to that inappropriateness and is NASA involved in that,” TWP quoted him as saying.

“As an agency we’re not just leading ourselves, but our contractors, as well. We need to show the American public that when we put an astronaut on a rocket, they’ll be safe,” Bridenstine said.

Bridenstine expressed his confidence in the SpaceX team, but also went on to say that the example of “culture and leadership” should start at the top, adding that “anything that would result in some questioning the culture of safety, we need to fix immediately.”

Both Space X and Boeing issued statements proclaiming their commitment to the highest safety standards.

“Human spaceflight is the core mission of our company,” said the Space X statement.

“There is nothing more important to SpaceX than this endeavor, and we take seriously the responsibility that NASA has entrusted in us to safely and reliably carry American astronauts to and from the International Space Station,” the statement continued.

“SpaceX actively promotes workplace safety and we are confident that our comprehensive drug-free workforce and workplace programs exceed all applicable contractual requirements,” it said

Boeing, for its part, said that the culture at the company “ensures the integrity, safety and quality of our products, our people and their work environment”

The statement added: “As NASA’s trusted partner since the beginning of human spaceflight, we share the same values and are committed to continuing our legacy of trust, openness and mission success.”

NASA announces the launch date for Space X spacecraft Crew Dragon’s maiden test flight

NASA announced Wednesday (Nov 21) that Space X’s first Crew Dragon was being prepared for a Jan 7 launch.

The Crew Dragon will be launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket, which will put the capsule into the target orbit for its maiden uncrewed test flight, or Demo-1, to the International Space Station.

After separation, the Dragon will begin its journey to the orbiting lab, docking on arrival at the recently overhauled forward port.

After a short stay, the spacecraft will disengage itself from the lab for its return journey to Earth for an Ocean landing.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft pictured at NASA’s Plum Brook Station test facility. Credit: SpaceX
The Crew Dragon spacecraft pictured at NASA’s Plum Brook Station test facility. Credit: SpaceX

If all goes well with the test flight, we could well see a crewed launch of the Dragon (Demo-2) as early as June 2019.

However, between the two demos the Crew Dragon will be tested for its “crew escape capability during an actual on-pad, or ascent emergency,” NASA said in a blog post.

Demo-2 will be one of the crewed test flights before NASA certifies the Dragon for actual astronaut rotation missions to the ISS.

Meanwhile, things are also in full swing at Boeing as it develops its version of the Crew Dragon – the CST-100 Starliner.

Starliner will have to go through the exact same test sequence as the Dragon, with its Demo-1 and Demo -2 equivalent being Boeing Orbital Flight Test (OFT) and Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT), respectively.

Both OFT and CFT have been tentatively scheduled – the former for a March 2019 test flight and the other for August 2019; and, of course, the in-between crew escape test.

Starliner’s launch vehicle will be United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rockets.

Ever since NASA scrapped its space shuttle program in July 2011, it has depended on Russian Soyuz rockets and spacecraft to carry its astronaut to and from ISS.

Well, the Russian monopoly is about to end; it’s just a matter of how soon Space X and Boeing manage to get that NASA certification.

However, despite the pace of work at both Space X and Boeing, the two companies are experiencing their fair share of stumbling blocks – not insurmountable ones, NASA would like to believe, and so would the other two stakeholders.

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