The CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, was seen taking a puff of a marijuana blunt during a live stream. This happened in September while he made an appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. NASA’s top officials didn’t appreciate the act and ordered a review of the workplace culture for Musk’s company.
The reviews were directly ordered by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. His agency is working with SpaceX and Boeing to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. After seeing Musk’s behavior on the podcast, he thought it was necessary to take action. In a big part, because of NASA’S history of tragedies. For example, the Apollo I fire that killed three astronauts on a launch pad in 1967, the Space Shuttle disasters that killed a total of 14 people, or the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle explosions in 1986 and 2003, respectively.
“Every single one of those accidents had a number of complications. Of course, the technological piece was a big piece of it. [But] the other question that always comes up was, what was the culture of NASA?” Bridenstine stated.
Musk relationship with NASA
Boeing and Musk’s SpaceX, are the companies NASA hired to provide passenger spacecraft for the agency to shuttle astronauts from American soil to the International Space Station. With the first test flights scheduled for next year, is pretty clear to understand the reason behind Bridenstine’s concern.
The contracts are worth a combined $6.8 billion, and it stipulates that both companies “maintain a program for achieving a drug-and-alcohol-free workforce.” Musk’s actions are a clear violation of this clause.
Bridenstine ordered the reviews to make sure that both companies are not a threat to astronauts safety. NASA is worried that drug use or stress, long work hours and workplace safety may end up provoking an incident that could result in astronaut deaths. All those issues are always present and carefully taken care off. But NASA never expected that they would seem like a sure option until Musk decided that the use of marijuana on-camera, as the CEO of SpaceX, was a good idea. And in the past, he even has recognized that he works grueling hours pushing himself to his absolute limits for other projects.
NASA’s opinions on the matter
“We want to get ahead of it. We want to see, right now, today, are they experiencing pressure from schedule, are they experiencing pressure from cost, and are those concerns challenging their thought process in a way that could be dangerous?”. Explained Bridenstine on the expectations for the reviews, on an interview in the NASA’s headquarters on Thursday.
Bridenstine did recognize that marijuana is legal in California now, and that’s the place where Rogan’s podcast was filmed. But he also clarified that he’s even more concerned about the use of drugs like cocaine or opiate use. And that he had on his agenda the workplace culture and safety, even before the accident. But Musk’s actions made the issue more urgent.
On the other hand, after the issues arose, SpaceX representatives did not give an immediate answer. The public is still waiting to see what actions may this company take to resolve this problem.