📸 Photos show incredible Tesla Cybertruck prototype

Musk Reads #243

Tesla Cybertruck spotted; NASA chooses SpaceX for its Moon missions; Tesla’s safety record comes under the spotlight. It’s the free edition of Musk Reads #243 — subscribe now to receive two more editions later this week!

Last week, Musk Reads+ subscribers heard from British architect Richard Hawkes, who has put the Tesla Energy plan through its paces at his eco-friendly Passivhaus-certified home. This week, subscribers will hear from space reporter Robin Seemangal on what it’s like to witness a rocket launch.

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Musk quote of the week

“I was just there, driving Cybertruck around the site where it will be built!”


Tesla

Tesla’s Cybertruck, the upcoming angular electric vehicle, has been spotted in prototype form. Twitter user Anthony Leisner shared an image on April 15 of the truck by the under-construction Giga Texas factory in Austin. He described the truck as looking “absolutely badass dirty in a real environment.”

The official Tesla account also shared two images of the truck at the factory:

Musk confirmed on Twitter the same day he attended the site to drive the Cybertruck. However, when asked if Tesla was still on track to start production at the factory this year, he responded that there will be “limited production of Model Y this year, high volume next year.” The remarks suggest the Cybertruck, which will be built exclusively at Giga Texas, will reach faster production rates in 2022.

One big unknown about the truck is its design. In March 2021, Musk claimed the Cybertruck would feature “no handles.” As the prototype above still has door handles, it may not represent the final design.


SpaceX

NASA announced Friday it has chosen SpaceX to land future astronauts on the Moon. The agency awarded SpaceX a milestone-based contract worth $2.89 billion. SpaceX’s proposal involves using the Starship rocket as a lander. The firm is currently developing the giant stainless steel rocket at its Texas facility, and it has so far hosted four high-altitude tests with prototype models of the ship.

NASA plans to send four astronauts into space using its Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. Once they reach lunar orbit, two astronauts will rendezvous with SpaceX’s lander, docking long enough for the astronauts to move between the vessels and complete their journey to the surface. After a week on the Moon, they will return to lunar orbit and re-enter the Orion spacecraft.

While NASA plans to use the Space Launch System to leave the Earth, SpaceX has plans of its own to send humans into space with the Starship. The firm plans to develop a Super Heavy booster, which will pair with the Starship to provide added power and help the ship leave the Earth. 

SpaceX has big plans for this Super Heavy-powered setup. It aims to send the first humans to Mars by using the Starship as the natural precursor to transforming humanity into a multi-planetary species.


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In other Musk news…

  • Tesla released its first quarter 2021 safety report on April 17. The data shows cars using the semi-autonomous Autopilot mode crashed once every 4.19 million miles. With no Autopilot or safety features engaged, Tesla cars crashed once every 978,000 miles. The firm cites NHTSA data that shows cars in the United States crash on average once every 484,000 miles.

  • Just two days after the report, a Tesla Model S crashed in Texas, killing two passengers. Sergeant Cinthya Umanzor, from the Harris County Constable Precinct 4, told reporters there was nobody in the driver’s seat. Officials told the Washington Post that the battery ignited around 45 minutes after firefighters had extinguished the initial flames. Musk posted on Twitter that same day that Autopilot was not enabled in the car.

  • Officials also told the Washington Post that it took four hours and 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish the battery flames from the Texas crash. This claim was later disputed by Palmer Buck, fire chief for the Woodlands Township Fire Department, who told the Houston Chronicle that “it did not take us four hours to put out the blaze,” adding that “our guys got there and put down the fire within two to three minutes, enough to see the vehicle had occupants […] ”after that, it was simply cooling the car as the batteries continued to have a chain reaction due to damage."

  • Stay tuned: SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission, which will send four astronauts to the International Space Station in a Crew Dragon capsule, is set to launch April 22.

  • When will Starlink, SpaceX’s internet service, be available globally? The firm is about to hit a big milestone. Read more.


The ultra-fine print

This has been Musk Reads #243, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Mike Brown, an innovation journalist for Inverse.

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Musk Reads+ is a fully independent operation. We are not Elon Musk, nor are we employed by him. Our job is to report the events we find newsworthy, giving you the inside look at the worlds of space rockets, electric cars, clean energy, and more. It means firsthand accounts of a SpaceX rocket launch, Tesla insights from third-party analysts, and more. 

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Update 04/23/2021 5 a.m. Eastern time: Updated with new information about the Texas crash.