Last year, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk went on the YouTube host Joe Rogan's show and smoked some weed . It was unfortunate because SpaceX happens to be a US military contractor with security clearance, and the US government doesn't like marijuana – and in this case, it disliked it so much that it spent $ 5 million to demonstrate dissatisfaction.
The US Air Force initially seemed as if it did not know what the hell to do with the incident . But it later emerged that top officials at NASA including administrator Jim Bridenstine were seriously tapped about Musk's decision to shine on the air. NASA then decided that it would require SpaceX, as well as competitor Boeing to undergo an intensive safety audit and cultural review that it described as ensuring that "the companies meet NASA's workplace safety requirements, including compliance of a drug-free environment. ”According to a report by Politico on Wednesday SpaceX's review ran up a $ 5 million tab to go to the taxpayer's crown.
According to Politico, one industry source said that NASA had never ordered such a comprehensive security and culture review before, to the point where both SpaceX and Boeing were confused about what it really was. In addition to interviewing employees at all levels of SpaceX, the review meant that the company had to do some Reefer Madness as "educating its employees and ensuring they follow strict guidelines for federal contractors that exclude illicit drug use." While SpaceX first came up with the $ 5 million bill and NASA agreed to repay it in a scheme that Politico similarly described as highly unusual and probably outstanding.
Despite NASA telling Politico that the refund to SpaceX was "standard practice," Boeing has not been reimbursed. It raises the question of why the company as CEO started this mess got repaid instead. But Boeing could have decided it wasn't wise to open its mouth on the matter, as it received $ 4.8 billion from NASA as part of the long-delayed Commercial Crew program, significantly more than SpaceX's $ 3.1
Both companies were expected to deliver their replacements for the retired space shuttle by 2017, which has been a source of frustration for NASA and lifted the prospect that the agency will buy more seats for the International Space Station at Roscosmos rockets. NASA publicly sparred with SpaceX over the delays before buried the hatch so perhaps Boeing concluded that a relatively unhappy $ 5 million was not worth risking its own spit over.
The idea that NASA will ever give SpaceX preference over Boeing is just giggle-inducing for industry insiders, ”University of South California assistant professor and former Trump NASA transition team member Greg Autry told Politico. “At every step of the way, Boeing got more [money] in the [Commercial Crew development] program. Far, far more than $ 5 million. Even discussing $ 5 million in this regard is foolish. "
In any case, while Musk may have triggered this mess, it is ultimately the government that decided to drop five fat stacks over it. Bridenstine recently tried to trivialize the whole matter, which recently told CNBC that he did not think "there is much a story there."
"Honestly, I think both companies operate very responsibly and make sure their cultures are safe," Bridenstine added. "And so when we get close to shooting astronauts at rockets again, it's not just NASA that has to be safe, it's our commercial partners that have to be safe. "
At least Musk could probably find himself" smoking weed on Joe Rogan's show "on his growing pile of stuff he did online which he now regrets . At least this time it didn't cost him money.