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Shit Elon Says - Transcript - Elon Musk at MIT's Aero/Astro Centennial (part 4 of 6)

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Yeah, so I think it's - if NASA continues to expand upon the support of competitive commercial space that's probably what will have the most positive effect on the future of space development.

[Audience question about manufacturing.] Our goal for SpaceX and Tesla was not, initially, to do huge amounts of internal manufacturing. We actually tried to do as little manufacturing as possible at first but we found we had to insource more and more over time. So, it's not from the standpoint of we really believe in insourcing or outsourcing, it's just given - if there's a great supplier, then we'd love to use a great supplier, then if there's not then we need to do it ourselves. The need to find a way or make a way to a good solution, and it's just over time we've had to make our way more often than not. For rocketry, there's also ITAR limitations. Which is that rockets are considered advanced weapons technologies, so we can't just outsource it to some other country. But, I think for manufacturing, very often people think of manufacturing as just some rote process of making copies. Which, actually, it isn't. Manufacturing is building the machine that makes the machine. If you think the machine is important, well, building the machine that makes the machine is also extremely important, and more often than not, what I've found is the manufacturing is harder than the original product. For example, at Tesla we can make one of a car very easily, but to make thousands of a car with high reliability and quality and where the cost is affordable, is extremely hard. I'd say, maybe 10 times harder than just making one prototype - maybe more. At SpaceX also, maybe approaching an order of magnitude harder to manufacture rockets and launch a lot of them than to design one in the first place. So, I really think a lot more smart people should be getting into manufacturing and it's kinda fun, so it's like - it sort of got a bad name for a while but it's really interesting.

[Audience question about Tesla power train.] Actually, if power-to-weight ratio is of interest to you, rocket turbopumps really take the cake. The turbopump on the Merlin engine generates 10,000 horsepower and weighs 150 lbs. Fuel efficiency is sort of a different question.. but power-to-weight, it's at the ragged edge of pulling those molecules apart. It's kind of amazing that you can get 10,000 horsepower out of this thing that you can basically pick up. But, for electric motors, if you have a properly designed AC induction motor getting a high power-to-weight ratio and a really great response rate, low latency and all that, extremely low ripple current and what-not, it just sort of comes naturally to an AC induction motor. The bigger challenge is actually cooling it effectively and then particularly, cooling the rotor because you've got this rotor going at 18,000 RPM. So, in the Model-S we coaxially cool the rotor in order to have high steady state. For an electric motor you can have - it's easier to get peak power for a short period of time, it's hard to have sustained peak power - because you overheat, and then it's hard to get high efficiency over a complicated drive cycle. Those tend to be the problems we wrestle with more than, say, the peak power. We can get peak power pretty easily but sustained power and efficiency over the drive cycle are hard.

[Audience question about Elon going to space.] Actually, that's not why I started SpaceX, but - I mean, the easiest thing for me to do would have been to buy a ride on the Soyuz and for that I would have been able to go to the space station as a number of other people have done but the thing that I was trying to get at was how to get us back on the track of extending life beyond Earth. That's the reason for starting SpaceX, and I expected it to fail, and people say, oh, well why would you even start that in the first place, but if you go to before I started SpaceX, I wanted to this philanthropic mission to send a small greenhouse to the surface of Mars and try to get the public excited about sending life to Mars, because people respond to precedents and superlatives and this would be the first life on another planet, the furtherest that life's ever traveled and I thought that that would get people excited and that would result in NASA's budget getting increased and then we could resume the dream of Apollo. My initial goal was just to try to figure out how to get NASA's budget higher, but then I came to the conclusion that if we don't make rockets way better then it won't matter. We can get a budget increase but then we'd just send one mission to Mars and then maybe never go there again. The goal of SpaceX, really, was to make as much progress as possible, to advance rocket technology to the point where hopefully we can establish a colony on Mars, or at least get as far along that way as we can. We'll just try to go as far as we can.

[Audience question about forming own astronaut corps.] Well.. yeah. I don't know, we're probably - we're building a ship that NASA's going to use and that other people will use. In terms of an astronaut corps, I mean, I kinda think, like, what we should be transporting are scientists and engineers. Not pilots, really. Dragon doesn't need pilots. It obviously goes there now with just cargo. We just sent up 40 mice. They were not piloting the craft. So really, it's a means of transporting people to the Earth-Moon orbit region in order to do science, basically. Potentially to the Moon to do some exploration there, but I kind of think it should be easy to go on a spacecraft. Like, you should be able to just get on with no training and go. It shouldn't be hard.

[Audience question of Dragon vs CST-100.] Well, Boeing is a fine company of course. What we're trying to do with Dragon 2 - or the new crew Dragon design - is be able to land propulsively with precision. Which I think is kind of the next generation. If you consider the first generation was parachutes to a water landing then wings and gear landing on a runway, the third generation is propulsive landing with precision. If you saw a movie about the future with aliens landing, how do they land? Like that. Okay? Obviously it'd be kind of weird if the aliens landed in the ocean with parachutes, we'd be like okay, nothing to fear. Boeing's design is like slightly improved because it's got airbags but it's still and imprecise landing somewhere in a huge expansive desert and it's basically landing on airbags and crashing in the desert. Okay, that's one way to land. I think the future has to be precise propulsive landing because that's what you need to go to the Moon or to Mars or anywhere else in the solar system and that's the thing we should be focusing on. We're already going to the space station and back, by the way, Boeing isn't doing that. [Comic books are the future.] Well, a lot of things that are envisioned in sci-fi, books, it's a wide range of course, a lot of things that are envisioned do make sense and like I said, there isn't some other way to land on the Moon. You can't land on the Moon with parachutes and airbags. Due to the lack of atmosphere over there.

[Audience question about International cooperation.] I don't know. I think it's - I'm hopeful there will be multiple colonies on Mars. There's certainly - from a SpaceX standpoint, we don't mean to do anything on an exclusionary basis, we're just trying to get there. We'd love to have that debate. Oh, is it too American? Okay, maybe, but we've got the base on Mars, who cares. But, I think, if there was an American base on Mars it would certainly prompt other countries to want to establish their own base on Mars too, but I do think it would be better to have competition than cooperation. Yes, I think we'd be better off with competition rather than insisting - like, in the space station we got the international space station but when governments are all forced to go in lockstep, it tends to not make things go faster. We want some sort of positive competitive element, I think. So, we don't want people going to war of anything, just some positive competitive element like the Olympics. If people compete hard and it's good sportsmanship and everything, then the net result is better than if ...


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