Former NASA official says Russian designer inspired Elon Musk to launch SpaceX by spitting on his shoes

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, stands next to a rocket in Los Angeles in 2004.Paul Harris / Getty Images

  • Former NASA Deputy Managing Director Lori Garver describes how Elon Musk started SpaceX in a new book.

  • Musk decided to start the company after disrespect from many Russians, according to reports.

  • Garver Memoirs traces the commercialization of space and its history with Musk and Jeff Bezos.

Former NASA Deputy Director Lori Garver recalled how Elon Musk was inspired to start building his own rockets in her recent memoirs.

The CEO of SpaceX decided to start his own space project after being spat at by a Russian engineer in 2001. Garver commented on the incident in “Escaping Gravity: My Quest to Transform NASA and Launch a New Space Age,” published June 21.

“This act so completely offended Elon that he decided on the flight home that he would start his own rocket company to compete with them,” Garver wrote. “If Helen of Troy had a person who launched a thousand ships, this was the spit that launched a thousand spaceships.”

Garver’s book follows the commercialization of the US space industry during her tenure as Deputy Administrator for NASA under the Obama administration. The book highlights Garver’s efforts to make space travel more accessible, despite pressure from NASA to maintain production within the company.

Garver first met Musk in the summer of 2002. The two discussed NASA’s dependence on Russia, he said. At the time, he had just completed a term in Russia, training to go to the country’s Soyuz rocket – an experience he lost due to a competitive offer from singer Lance Bass.

The former NASA official is not the first to describe the incident in detail. Last month, SpaceX co-founder Jim Cantrell said the Russians mistreated Musk when he took him to Moscow to negotiate a space rocket deal for a future mission to send mice or plants to Mars.

“The designer was very upset while Elon was talking,” Cantrell said in a Channel 4 documentary aired in May. “The designer got tired of listening to him and spat on our shoes,” he added.

Cantrell said he believed the Russians considered Musk’s informal attire a “sign of disrespect.” In her book, Garver said that Musk’s “disruptive mentality and lack of respect for traditional industry” often had a similar impact on NASA and White House staff.

The Co-Founder described the situation in a similar way in a biography of Musk by Ashlee Vance, “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.”

He said the Russians had mistreated Musk during several talks in Moscow. The Russians became more interested in chatting and enjoying drinks, while Musk was looking forward to doing chores, according to the biography.

“They looked at us as if we were not trustworthy people,” Cantrell said, according to Vance’s book.

The co-founder said that the chief designer spat on them because “he thought we were full of shit”. Even Musk’s close friend Adeo Ressi has questioned whether the dot-com millionaire may have gone “crazy,” Vance wrote.

The Russians finally could not agree on a price with Musk and he “left the meeting”, according to the book. But it was during the flight home that Musk had the idea to build his own rockets, Cantrell told Vance.

SpaceX was founded as Space Exploration Technologies Corporation less than a year later. It has developed into one of the most valuable private companies.

Last year, SpaceX launched the world’s first exclusive orbital mission. The company has a contract to build a lunar landing for NASA and is preparing to launch one of the most powerful rockets in the world by the end of the year, per Musk.

Meanwhile, Musk’s rivalry with Russia has continued for decades. Most recently, the billionaire had many disagreements on Twitter with the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin.

Read the original article in Business Insider

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