Twitter outrages shouldn’t keep people from appreciating SpaceX’s accomplishments
By Greg Waldock, Staff Writer
Elon Musk has had a weird year. He’s worked with Donald Trump to promote sciences, left, started dating Grimes, has engaged in a multitude of Twitter arguments, and spectacularly embarrassed himself during the Thai cave crisis.
However, this should not change how people feel about SpaceX, privatized space travel, and the advancements in technology SpaceX has made over the last decade. Musk can be an idiot on Twitter and still contribute to the field.
To start off though, I should clarify specifically which Twitter incidences I am referring to. During the Thai cave rescue operation, where a soccer team and a coach were trapped kilometers deep in a cave with a minimal chance of survival, Musk posted on Twitter that he was developing a few methods to help the victims. He did not end up contributing to the operation, despite garnering a lot of support and attention online. Vernon Unsworth, a British diver who aided in the rescue, criticized Musk’s proposed automated submarine and decried it as a PR stunt. Musk took this personally and insisted the submarine plan would go ahead anyways—and casually implied Unsworth is a “pedo guy.” It was about as ugly and reprehensible as an insult can get, aimed towards a person risking their own life to save trapped kids.
This, as well as his year-long involvement in Trump’s science council, has made him enormously unpopular among a lot of people, and it’s not hard to see why. Though he later apologized, it is hard to come back from calling a rescue diver a pedophile seemingly out of the blue. Despite that, I do not think Elon Musk and SpaceX should be so casually disregarded. A lack of nuance is one of the internet’s greatest problems. If someone does something incredibly stupid, they must be as evil and incompetent as a Disney villain. It does a disservice to Musk’s remarkable achievements—founding PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX is nothing short of incredible—and prevents a better dialogue on his many flaws, like his ongoing labour disputes around the treatment and payment of his Tesla workers.
Being an asshole online does not make a person or their accomplishments unimportant. Musk and SpaceX shouldn’t both be written off by internet anger as evil and mean-spirited. Musk and his company have accomplished amazing things in the past decade, like reusable rockets, synchronized vertical landings, long-term manned space capsules, and many contributions to NASA projects and the ISS. It is, in fact, possible for someone to contribute massively to the future of human space exploration and still be a giant tool. As satisfying as it is to watch a billionaire get taken down a few pegs, the perspective is important.