In a long and horrific article that recounts all the terrible safety violations and tragic deaths and injuries at SpaceX, we get Musk’s perspective on workplace safety.
“Elon’s concept that SpaceX is on this mission to go to Mars as fast as possible and save humanity permeates every part of the company,” said Tom Moline, a former SpaceX senior avionics engineer who was among a group of employees fired after raising workplace complaints. “The company justifies casting aside anything that could stand in the way of accomplishing that goal, including worker safety.”
Someone needs to explain that rushing as fast as possible to get to a place does not translate into safely and reliably arriving at that place. “As fast as possible” exposes his real goal, which is to win a race and feed his ego. He wants bragging rights. Getting a shambling wreck of a space base installed on Mars while its crew dies slowly (or instantly!) is not what people mean by “going to Mars”. It is going to kill any interest in “going to Mars” for any more responsible space nerds in the future, though.
Also, the “saving humanity” schtick is old and overblown. Putting a few people on Mars in a ramshackle station that decays away for lack of utility is not going to save humanity. Did that temporary outpost in Vinland save the Vikings?
Do I need to add that this is not a serious leader? This is a man-child.
Four SpaceX employees told Reuters they were disturbed by Musk’s habit of playing with a flamethrower when he visited the SpaceX site in Hawthorne. The device was marketed to the public in 2018 as a $500 novelty item by Musk’s tunnel-building firm, the Boring Company. Videos posted online show it can shoot a thick flame more than five feet long. Boring later renamed the device the “Not-A-Flamethrower” amid reports of confiscations by authorities.
For years, Musk and his deputies found it “hilarious” to wave the flamethrower around, firing it near other people and giggling “like they were in middle school,” one engineer said. Musk tweeted in 2018 that the flamethrower was “guaranteed to liven up any party!” At SpaceX, Musk played with the device in close-quarters office settings, said the engineer, who at one point feared Musk would set someone’s hair on fire.
I work in a place that takes people’s safety seriously. If our chancellor showed up and giggled while firing off a flamethrower in the atrium, we’d be calling the police and demanding their immediate resignation. But then, we don’t claim our role is to “save humanity” and lack the overwhelming sense of importance that excuses idiot behavior.