SpaceX’s plans land it near trouble; Tesla gets investigated; Musk puts his only home up for sale. It’s the free edition of Musk Reads #252 — subscribe now to receive two more editions later this week!
Last week, Musk Reads+ subscribers heard from Brad Stone, author of Amazon Unbound, about the rivalry between Blue Origin and SpaceX. This week, readers will hear from astronaut Leland Melvin about his out-of-this-world experiences.
Musk quote of the week
“Manufacturing is so hard. I have the utmost respect for those who build things.” — Elon Musk tweeted in response to a comment on Tesla’s manufacturing capacity. The tweet came June 16, two days before Electrek shared an internal Tesla email where Musk urged engineers to “go all out” for end-of-quarter production.
SpaceX: If all goes well, Crew Dragon will spend Halloween in space
As its 19 completed flights and 12 planned flights in 2021 suggest, SpaceX has had a busy year. On June 17, Falcon 9 broke through clouds for the U.S. Space Force, successfully launching the GPS-III satellite after blasting off from Cape Canaveral.
Upcoming SpaceX flights include a Falcon 9 rideshare flight on June 25 and, looking farther out, a recently announced Crew-3 mission to take place “no earlier than Sunday, October 31” with a return trip planned for November.
More nebulously, in May, Musk revealed plans to push the work-in-progress Starship rocket past Earth’s orbit for its first ever orbital flight. At an April news conference, Musk hoped the flight would occur before 2024. A June 15 photo of Starship’s Super Heavy booster suggests SpaceX is already working on making the landmark flight happen.
That is, of course, if SpaceX avoids the wrath of Texas authorities, who have threatened the company with legal action for unauthorized road and beach closures that accommodate launches.
The Federal Aviation Administration allowed SpaceX to close public areas around their Boca Chica launch site for up to 300 hours this year, a number Tesla has exceeded in six months.
According to South Texas news, this violation, which is exacerbated by SpaceX security guards impersonating law enforcement, could turn into a third-degree felony and charges against the company itself.
Tesla: NHTSA pressures Tesla to get real about autopilot
SpaceX isn’t the only Musk company in hot water. Tesla’s Autopilot keeps gaining the company negative attention after a spring marred by tragic accidents and controversial changes to the software that helped cause them.
Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced 30 open investigations into Tesla crashes spanning back to 2016, 10 of which were fatal, where Autopilot use was suspected to be in use.
Tesla isn’t completely alone in receiving Autopilot scrutiny — Volvo, Lexus, and Cadillac also each have two open NHTSA investigations.
Although Tesla has proclaimed interest in fully autonomous vehicles for years now, Tesla’s current Autopilot system requires drivers to monitor automated functions like steering, navigating, and object recognition. But because of unclear messaging, not all drivers know this.
Eight of NHTSA’s Tesla Autopilot investigations were opened after this March, and as recently as last week, Tesla drivers were spotted with their hands off the wheel. (In the case of this Florida driver, off the wheel and on a paperback novel.) Tesla has not made a public statement regarding NHTSA’s announcement of their investigations.
Tesla is, however, working on developing full self-driving capabilities, maybe even with the help of you, the consumer. The company recently posted open Autopilot tester jobs across the U.S., including in New York, California, and D.C., that only really require applicants to be able to drive a Tesla and operate computer software.
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In other Musk news…
Elon Musk re-lists “last remaining” mansion at astronomical price of $37.5 million: “It’s a special place”
Elon Musk’s Boring Company reportedly pitching wider tunnels that could transport freight
In other Musk-related news…
T-minus the internet
A ranked list of everything Musk-related and online, handpicked weekly with bionic precision.
10. Computer software site AnandTech spoke with former Tesla engineer Jim Keller about his work on Tesla Autopilot and the human experience. Read more.
8. On June 16, the Pulitzer Center announced the Artificial Intelligence Accountability grant, which will support journalism fostering critical discussions on A.I. Read more.
7. Elon Musk’s brother, Kimbal Musk, heads one of many companies working out how to farm in space. Cucumbers on Mars: It’s more likely than you think.
6. A Change.org petition is begging Jeff Bezos to stay in space once he’s there. The petition has over 44,000 signatures as of writing, and since Bezos is set to traverse the cosmos in July, it could be more successful than a 2015 campaign hoping to beam up Donald Trump. At least there might be cucumbers.
5. YouTuber Warped Perception found an alternative to the three-hour line at his local charging station by towing his Tesla 75 miles per hour. Watch now.
4. CleanTechnica reported on an unlikely group advocating for Tesla’s electric vehicle mission — coal miners on YouTube. Read more.
2. Although Starlink can usually get through high temperatures, the ozone layer might not be able to withstand satellites poking through it. Read more.
1. And a piece of Musk history: With Tesla’s years of Autopilot scandals, leaked emails, and strained public relations, it can be easy to lose sight of the company’s purpose beyond flashy headlines and angry tweets. It’s a good thing, then, that Elon Musk wrote down Tesla’s “master plan” in a 2006 blog post. Ultimately, the plan was to build inexpensive cars and do right by the planet. Did Tesla succeed? You decide.
The ultra-fine print
This has been Musk Reads #252, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Ashley Bardhan, assistant to Musk Reads. I’ll be taking over the Monday newsletter for the summer.
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