NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said he saw the SpaceX chief last weekend and wanted to hear just one thing from her in light of company owner Elon Musk’s troubled takeover of Twitter.
Recalling the conversation, Nelson said he asked Gwen Shotwell, President and CEO of SpaceX, “Tell me the distraction that Elon might cause on Twitter wouldn’t affect SpaceX.”
“I assure you it is not,” Shotwell replied, according to Nelson. “You have nothing to worry about.”
Nelson, who first mentioned the exchange Earlier Sunday after a press conference In Houston, he said the encounter took place after the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 5, and that he was quite friendly because he knows Shotwell — not Musk — runs SpaceX.
“I hugged her with a smile on my face, because I know she runs this thing. She runs SpaceX,” Nelson said.
When asked if he had any concerns about SpaceX, Nelson said, “No, I don’t.”
NASA pays SpaceX billions to fly astronauts and cargo to and from the International Space Station. The company also won the competition to take Americans to the moon at the end of 2025 as part of NASA’s Artemis 3 mission.
“This one will go into lunar orbit, and the crew will transfer to the SpaceX lander, which will go down to the surface of the moon,” Nelson said, praising SpaceX for cutting costs and doing well “in terms of delivering both crew and cargo to the International Space Station.”
SpaceX could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.
A former US Senator and House of Representative from Florida, Nelson used to represent Kennedy Space Center in his old congressional district and flew the space shuttle Columbia mission as a member of the House of Representatives in 1986.
Nelson, a longtime friend and former Senate colleague of President Joe Biden, was selected to lead NASA last year and has been a supporter of space exploration between the public and private sectors, especially with SpaceX. Quoting a Defense Department official, Nelson told a Senate committee in May SpaceX may have saved taxpayers up to $40 billion in launch costs.
Shortly after taking over NASA, Nelson had a major Twitter problem, but it had nothing to do with Musk — it had to do with aggressive tweets by Dmitry Olegovich Rogozin, head of Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, who suggested Moscow could international plane crash. Earth’s space station or leave an American astronaut behind. Nelson urged calm, and Russian President Vladimir Putin soon replaced Rogozin with Borisov, whom Nelson described as a “real professional”.
From a space perspective, Nelson said, the relationship with Russia is “a very professional relationship, and it’s been that way since 1975, the Apollo-Soyuz,” which was the first international manned space mission between the United States and Russia, then known as the Soviet Union.
As for Musk’s tweets, Nelson said he’s not focused on them other than a friendly chat with Shotwell.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Nelson said. “Look at what SpaceX is bringing in crew and cargo to the space station.”
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