Trump Enthuses About Musk, NASA During Cabinet Meeting

Trump Enthuses About Musk, NASA During Cabinet Meeting

During a Cabinet meeting today President Trump displayed models of rockets and enthused about space activities at NASA and in the private sector, especially those of SpaceX’s Elon Musk.  He praised both, but was particularly complimentary about the “rich guys” who “love rockets,” though he speculated they would become “a little less rich probably.”

Trump spoke for about 20 minutes at the opening of the Cabinet meeting on a number of subjects.  What prompted the space discussion is not clear, but Trump had planned for it, placing models of several rockets on the table before the meeting began.  Three can be seen in the camera shots. [UPDATE: Trump’s comments turned out to be a prelude to a briefing by Vice President Pence on activities of the National Space Council.]

The meeting was broadcast live by a number of national news outlets including C-SPAN and CNBC.  C-SPAN has Trump’s entire opening remarks. CNBC’s Michael Sheetz posted the space clip to Twitter.

Some of the quotable quotes from the President:

  • “Rich guys, they love rocket ships.  And that’s good.  Better than us paying for them.”
  • “I notice the prices of the last one they sent.  It cost $80 million. If the government did it the same thing would have cost probably 40-50 times that amount of money. I mean literally. …  I’m so used to hearing different numbers from NASA.”  [Editor’s note: That is off by at least a factor of 10.  ULA’s Delta IV Heavy is the most expensive rocket in the U.S. fleet and costs approximately $400 million per launch.  Also, SpaceX says the price of a Falcon Heavy launch is $90 million, not $80 million.  The reference to NASA is not clear.  NASA does not launch rockets today, it purchases launch services from companies like ULA and SpaceX.  NASA is building a new very large rocket, the Space Launch System, to send astronauts to Mars, but how much it will cost per flight is unknown. It is expected to be extremely expensive, perhaps $1 billion per flight, but even that is not 40-50 times more than SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy.]
  • “But NASA’s making tremendous strides.”
  • “We’re using a lot of private money, lot of people, they love rockets and they’re rich so they’re going to be a little less rich, probably, but a lot of rockets are going up.”
  • “We’re really at the forefront, nobody is doing what we’re doing.  I don’t know if you saw, with Elon, the [Falcon Heavy] rocket boosters where they’re coming back down.  To me that was more amazing than watching the rocket go up. ‘Cause I’ve never seen that before.  Nobody has seen that before…. They landed so beautifully.”
  • “At the same time, NASA is very much involved in doing their own projects.  But we’re bringing that whole spaceflight back.  We’ll be sending something very beautiful to Mars in the very near future.”  [Editor’s note: probably a reference to the InSight mission scheduled for launch on May 5.]
  • “We’re going to areas that nobody thought possible, certainly not this quickly.”
  • “It’s really amazing what’s happening with regard to space and our country.”

Trump also acknowledged Vice President Mike Pence, who was sitting across from Trump but out of camera range, and his leadership of the National Space Council.

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