This week, Lori Garver, former NASA Deputy Administrator recalled how an incident inspired billionaire Elon Musk to come up with SpaceX. Turns out, he fascinatingly decided to open his own space venture following a Russian engineer spitting on him in 2001. Garver spoke of the particular instance in “Escaping Gravity: My Quest to Transform NASA and Launch a New Space Age,” which was published on June 21.
“This act so completely offended Elon that he decided on the flight home that he would start his own rocket company to compete with them,” Garver wrote. “If Helen of Troy had a face that launched a thousand ships, this was the spit that launched a thousand spaceships.”
The NASA official’s book follows US space Industry’s commercialisation during her tenure as NASA’s Deputy Administrator under the Obama Administration. She first met the current SpaceX CEO in 2002, when the two discussed how NASA relied on Russia.
Garver is clearly not the first one to detail this particular incident concerning Musk. In May this year, SpaceX co-founder Jim Cantrell noted how the Russians treated Musk rather badly. This was when Musk took him to Moscow for the negotiation of the deal concerning purchase of space rockers for future mission of sending plants or mice to Mars.
“The chief designer was getting very agitated as Elon spoke,” Cantrell said in a Channel 4 documentary that aired in May. “The chief designer got tired of listening to him and he spit on our shoes,” he added.
According to Cantrell, the Russians probably saw Musk’s informal clothes as an indication of ‘disrespect.’ Moreover, Garver stated in the book how the billionaire’s ‘disrupter mentality’ along with ‘lack of deference’ when it came to ‘traditional industry’, frequently affected NASA and White House workers.
Cantrell similarly described the instance similarly stating that the Russians treated Musk badly during various conversations in Moscow. Comparatively, the Russians had more interest in informal activities and Musk wanted to focus on business. The co-founder added how the Russians viewed Musk and himself as people who were ‘not credible.’
He specified that they were spat on by the chief designer as he assumed they were ‘full of shit.’ Finally, the Russians could not agree on a price with the now billionaire, who ‘storming out of the meeting,’ as the book specified. However, Musk finally came up with the idea to build his own space rockets on the flight back, said Cantrell.
Almost a year following this, SpaceX was founded and called ‘Space Exploration Technologies Corporation,’ emerging as one of the most valuable conglomerates. In 2021, the company launched the first all-civilian mission to orbit in the world. Currently, it has a contract to make a lunar lander for NASA, and is set to launch one of the strong rockets in the world.