Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
I was going to post this earlier, but the horror show in the Middle East made me shelve this piece for a little while.
Mr. Musk is in trouble again. His giant rocket, the Starship/Superheavy, is facing lengthy delays in receiving approval for a second launch from the FAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Both government agencies cite safety and environmental concerns at Space X’s Boca Chica launch site on the South Texas Coast. This means that the second test flight of the huge spaceship could be delayed well into next year. And if the coalition of environmental groups now suing the FAA for lax environmental oversight has their way, possibly never.
On top of the FAA and the Greens giving him grief, the founder of Space X and Tesla is facing scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice. Space X is being sued over discriminatory practices by DOJ-the rocket company is ostensibly being targeted by the DOJ because it has refused to hire refugees and asylum seekers. The DOJ action is rather strange since Space X, which launches national security payloads for the U.S. Government, can’t hire people unless they’re U.S. citizens or legal residents. Musk’s attorneys have countersued the DOJ in a federal court in Texas.
The DOJ is also coming at Musk from another direction, claiming that the tech billionaire took advantage of illegal perks from Tesla with his supposed plans to build a futuristic glass house for his own personal use. ‘Supposed’ is the key word here, since the house was never built.
Musk’s latest fight involves the EU, which has accused the tech entrepreneur of allowing “disinformation” regarding the Israel-Hamas War to appear on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. The dispute once again raises the old issue of free speech and who decides exactly what is disinformation. For now, at least, though, EU officials seem to have backed off their threats to fine X for its violation of EU regulations.
But the most important accusation against him is that he somehow ‘betrayed’ the USA by denying Ukraine the use of Space X’s Starlink’s internet service in planning attacks against Sevastopol, the big Russian naval base in Crimea. The main reason given for Musk’s refusal was that he feared that any massive Ukrainian strike against Crimea would force Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons to stave off defeat, a very legitimate concern even today.
But since the USA isn’t officially at war with Russia, Space X is under no legal obligation to honor any requests from Washington whatsoever. Additionally, the allegations against Musk have also proved to be completely false. The Space X founder pointed out that Starlink had no coverage in the Crimea and besides, as Musk himself put it: “Our terms of service clearly prohibit Starlink for offensive military action, as we are a civilian system, so they [Ukraine] were asking for something that was expressly prohibited.”
People who accuse Musk of “selling out” also forget, deliberately or otherwise, that two days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Space X shipped 10,000 Starlink terminals to the besieged country to replace the previous comsat network operated by Viasat, which the Russians had taken down just prior to the invasion.
To understand Musk’s behavior in this affair, people must remember what the tech entrepreneur’s main goal in life actually is, which is using Space X and most of his other enterprises to ensure the survival of the human race by colonizing Mars and making humanity a multplanetary species.
Having World War III with Russia would put a serious crimp in those plans. Even if a Russo-American war didn’t go nuclear, it could still possibly do fatal damage to Musk’s dreams of going interplanetary. After all, Starbase Boca Chica, Space X’s launch and R&D site, is located right on the Gulf of Mexico. This would make it vulnerable to destruction by any one of the Russian Navy’s numerous cruise-missile-carrying submarines. Just one hit on Starbase’s cryogenic tank farm could set Musk’s Mars colonization plans back indefinitely.
The same glaring vulnerability applies to America’s other space launch sites as well. NASA’s Wallops Island Launch Center and the Kennedy Space Center, with its historic Pad 39 launch complex, are both prone to easy destruction from the sea. And on the West Coast, Vandenberg Space Force Base could be reduced to a shattered ruin within the first few hours of any war with Russia. America’s entire space launch capability, the result of decades of sustained effort, would be reduced to a wistful memory. As an afterthought, a Russian sub could drop a cruise missile barrage on NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. JPL is the control center for most of NASA’s deep-space probes and its loss would inflict a crippling blow against the USA’s extremely successful interplanetary probe program.
And all this devastation would be accomplished without the use of a single nuclear weapon.
Undoubtedly, Musk figured this out a good while ago. But has anybody in Washington taken note of this unpleasant scenario? I understand that many people don’t wish Vladimir Putin success in his “special operation,” but exactly how far should we be willing to go to punish the Russian leader for his aggression? At what point will he respond with a crushing non-nuclear counterstrike of his own against targets outside Ukraine, and how would NATO retaliate against such an attack?Published in