Pando

Elon Musk gets his thank you gift for staying loyal to Donald Trump

By Paul Bradley Carr , written on March 22, 2017

From The Space Desk

Donald Trump has taken all the fun out of being right.

I used to really enjoy it: The smug “told you so” satisfaction when I predicted some particular tech awfulness -- Uber proving to be an ethical swamp, Facebook refusing to do anything about fake news, Secret being worthless without teen bullying -- and it eventually became established public wisdom.

But with Trump in power, it’s just all become depressingly predictable. 

Today’s example comes courtesy of Elon Musk -- the only tech mogul to remain on Trump’s economic advisory council, even after Travis “moral vacuum” Kalanick got cold feet about palling around with a fascist.

Musk insisted, of course, that his motives were pure. That it was better to be “in the room,” speaking truth to power rather than yelling from the barricades. That he would use this influence to educate Trump on environmental issues and maybe even help change his mind on immigration.

Bollocks, said I. And said everyone else with half a brain. If Trump’s own closest advisors can’t make Trump less awful then there’s zero chance the Tesla guy is going to make a dent. Clearly Musk was acting entirely on his own self interest: Out of an awareness that pro-big-oil, anti-science Trump could be very, very bad news for a maker of electric cars, solar panels and space ships. As I wrote here, Musk has good reason to worry.

Fast forward to this week and, surprise! We half-a-brainers were right. Trump has, if anything, become more awful on the environment and less interested in science. His immigration policies continue to be both fascist and racist.

But, as of yesterday, one thing did change. Despite cuts to meals on wheels and public broadcasting, Trump found a few billion dollars sloshing around and signed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act. The bill was advertised as a pro-NASA measure that would put a human on Mars by 2033.

And, wouldn’tyaknowit? The bill is packed with promises to continue paying companies like SpaceX sacks of money to help get people and cargo into space -- and to specifically ban using the services of any of SpaceX's foreign rivals. 

Here's a snippet....

  • NASA should build upon the success of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services and Commercial Resupply Services programs that have allowed private sector companies to partner with NASA to deliver cargo and scientific experiments to the ISS since 2012, and
  • the 21st Century Launch Complex Program should be continued so as to leverage state and private investments to achieve such program's goals.

Congress reaffirms:

  • its commitment to the use of a commercially developed, private sector launch and delivery system to the ISS for crew missions; and
  • the requirement that NASA shall make use of U.S. commercially provided ISS crew transfer and crew rescue services.

The federal government may not acquire human space flight transportation services from a foreign entity unless:

  • there is no U.S. government-operated human space flight capability available,
  • there is no U.S. commercial provider available, and
  • it is a qualified foreign entity.

Yep old anti-science Trump apparently decided there was one thing he could do that would reward Elon Musk for his loyalty without upsetting his oil industry pals. So there you go, American seniors: Meals on Wheels is going away but Elon on Mars just got one step closer.

I dunno about you but I can’t wait to see what thank you gift Trump has planned for Peter Thiel and his buddies at Facebook.