Elon Musk is becoming a welfare case. Federal auto-industry loans helped save his electric-car company, Tesla. Now Musk wants another federal bailout for his embarrassing space startup. And he may well get it.
Musk and his private rocket company, SpaceX, are "urging the White House to come up with... financial support" for their Falcon 9 heavy rocket, the Wall Street Journal reports. SpaceX would then charge the government to send astronauts and space-station parts into orbit. Luckily for Musk, the president appears to have a soft spot for profligate futurists. In addition to funneling $465 million to help Tesla manufacture an electric sedan, the Obama administration is also considering hiring private companies — like SpaceX — to launch and supply a forthcoming space station, the Journal says.
The bailout could hardly come at a better time; despite private infusions totaling at least $120 million, and millions in fees from government customers for its first few launches, SpaceX has become famous for its failed launches. The company notoriously sent the ashes of Star Trek actor James "Scotty" Doohan into the South Pacific rather than toward the stars, giving the startup a perfect 0-for-3 record. In the intervening year, the company has successfully launched exactly one satellite, and been bailed out by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. Thiel, a libertarian, no doubt relishes the thought of displacing NASA bureaucrats. But he'll have trouble explaining to his pro-oil-drilling, anti-immigrant political buddies why he's helping a Democratic administration grow the federal debt through a massive pork-barrel subsidy to an environmental entrepreneur, from South Africa.
Come to think of it, the administration in question might have trouble explaining that, too.