These are just the latest examples of why the federal government has no viable way to break with Musk, at least as long as the United States decides it will continue space exploration and deter its biggest rivals, the superpowers. He can denounce him and declare that all Americans should reject his views. But you need him, or at least his rockets and satellites, more than ever.
And both the White House and the Pentagon know it.
Rarely has the United States government been so dependent on technology provided by a single, if petulant, technologist with views he has declared so publicly repugnant. And yet, according to what administration officials say, they have no choice, and won’t have one for a while. Because there are, right now, few viable alternatives.
It is an unusual situation. If a top executive at one of the traditional publicly traded defense contractors (Raytheon, Boeing, or Lockheed Martin) had espoused an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory as Musk did, there would be pressure from shareholders and customers alike for him to resign. In fact, advertisers such as IBM, Apple and Warner Bros. Discovery have been announcing in recent days that they will stop doing business on X, formerly known as Twitter. Musk, instead of apologizing, has threatened lawsuits.
But SpaceX is a private company and is entirely controlled by Musk. (Tesla, its electric vehicle company, is publicly traded.) And so far, while the White House has been forthright, the Pentagon has remained silent.
“It would be nice to have alternatives, and the US government has tried to develop some,” Walter Isaacson, Musk’s biographer, said in an interview on Sunday. “But no other company,” he said, including United Launch Alliance, a Boeing and Lockheed Martin company, has “been able to make reusable rockets, or put astronauts into orbit, or put some of these heavy satellites into high Earth orbit. “