Elon Musk and NASA chief play nice in person after SpaceX kerfuffle

After a bit of public sniping, Jim Bridenstine and Elon Musk put on a unified front as they look ahead to launching astronauts to the ISS in 2020.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

The SpaceX Crew Dragon is designed to eventually carry NASA astronauts to the ISS.


Everything is cool. Can we just get back to testing spacecraft now? 

NASA  administrator Jim Bridenstine toured SpaceX headquarters Thursday in Hawthorne, California, and stood next to Elon Musk for a joint press conference on the state of the Crew Dragon mission that aims to take astronauts into orbit.

This follows a disturbance in the force ahead of SpaceX's big Starship party in late September when NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted a sharp statement aimed at Elon Musk's company. Bridenstine seemed to be taking SpaceX to task for delays in the development of the spacecraft designed to launch astronauts from US soil to the ISS. 

Musk returned the favor with a sick burn of his own, calling attention to NASA's own Space Launch System delays in an interview with CNN in early October. Both parties seem to have now set down their snark-weapons and called a truce.

Bridenstine and Musk were joined at the press conference by NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who are scheduled to be on the first crewed Dragon mission to the International Space Station. 

Musk and Bridenstine fielded questions about parachutes, crew safety and what they have in common as Star Wars fans.

Musk and Bridenstine both highlighted the importance of safety testing for Crew Dragon equipment, however long that process might take. The NASA chief hopes all will go well and Crew Dragon will carry actual humans into space early in 2020. 

The joint appearance seems like it put to rest the public feud between Musk and Bridenstine, which seemed to be more snipey and snarky than terribly serious. Bridenstine highlighted how he expects all contractors and NASA itself to have "more realism in our development timelines."

SpaceX and Boeing are both part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, an effort to bring ISS launches back to US soil so NASA won't have to buy rides on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft. Anticipated flight test launch dates for both companies have been pushed back.

While early 2020 would be a nice time to see Crew Dragon carry humans into orbit, neither space honcho would commit to a solid launch date. That's probably smart knowing how space programs are notorious for delays.

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