Tesla CEO Musk Embarrassed That US Astronauts Have To ‘Thumb Rides’ From Russia

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Elon Musk has proven himself to be an impressive innovator, but part of his success is that he understands what people want. PayPal wasn’t the first company to try moving money online, and the Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) Roadster wasn’t the first electric car, but consumers loved them and they quickly dominated their respective sectors.

Now he’s using that cultural sense to plug one of his company’s that people tend to forget about, SpaceX.

“We’re being forced to pay over $70 million dollars per seat to the Russians just to go to the Space Station and they have us over a barrel,” said Musk during an interview on Bloomberg, reports Alex Knapp at Forbes. “It’s just kind of embarrassing that the United States has to thumb rides from the Russians.”

Musk also attacked Boeing-Lockheed Martin monopoly

It’s a good line, and it will probably play well with people wondering how the US can punish Russia for its incursion into Ukraine, but Musk’s other comments today put his embarrassment in a different light.

Speaking in front of the Senate Appropriations sub-committee, Musk said that he thought it was ‘crazy’ for the US military to rely on the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launches Alliance LLC because its Atlas V rockets use Russian engines, report Kathleen Miller and Jonathan D. Salant for Bloomberg.

United Launches Alliance CEO Michael Gass said that he has enough of the engines in stock to last two years, and the blueprints in case the company ever needs to produce its own (between Boeing and Lockheed, it certainly has the capability), so the current tension with Russia shouldn’t affect its ability to make launches on schedule.

Musk is trying to introduce some competition into the US government’s space program, which may not be a bad idea, and his rhetoric about American reliance on Russian rockets seems like an attempt to capitalize on the current crisis and present SpaceX as an all-American alternative (it currently handles private launches). Considering the requirements necessary to even bid on future launches, there aren’t that many other companies in the running.

US, Russian space programs still cooperating

As for the International Space Station, NASA administrator Charles Borden said that relations with his Russian counterparts are fine. “I think people lose track of the fact that we have occupied the International Space Station now for 13 consecutive years uninterrupted, and that has been through multiple international crises,” said Borden.

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