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Shit Elon Says - Transcript - ISS R&D Conference

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2015 ISS R&D Conference, Boston -- Day 2: 7 July, 2015 -- 0830 - 0930: A Conversation with Elon Musk

Michael Suffredini, Manager, Space Station Program Office, NASA

Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX

00:00 Suffredini: So, it is my great honor to introduce a man who needs no introduction. A gentleman who we can call Elon and everybody, at least in this country, will know exactly who you are talking about, but Mr. Elon Musk. He is the CEO and lead designer of SpaceX. SpaceX is an amazing commercial company. It is the first company to launch a commercial rocket in to low Earth orbit, with their Falcon 1 launch. Then in 2008 they were one of the winners of the contract bring services to the International Space Station. They're the first commercial company to berth with the International Space Station, bringing supplies. They're also the first commercial company to return a sizable return vehicle with all the components still intact, which is very important to us, back to the surface of the Earth. And so, it's an amazing company and it's done a great job and continues to push the boundaries, as you'll hear from Elon, but his interest is really not so much in low Earth orbit as it is going beyond low Earth orbit and making sure humanity will continue to live by exploring beyond Earth.

01:23 Suffredini: Elon has a varied history of things he has been involved in. This is one of the things that makes it so exciting to have this conversation with him today. He's not a one dimensional space guy. He's involved in Tesla Motors, of which he is a co-founder and CEO, and also a major player in the design efforts and what they choose to go build and how. Of course he was the co-founder of PayPal and Zip2. He's deeply involved in a number of other industries as well. And so it's my great honor to welcome Elon Musk to the stage.

02:35 Suffredini: I've encouraged folks to ask a few questions along the way, but I have a few questions I thought to get us started. So the first one, which is probably on everybody's mind is, perhaps you want to discuss a little bit about the recent loss of the Dragon and the Falcon 9 here on SpaceX-7.

02:54 Musk: Sure. Well, I mean I think it's, obviously it's a huge blow to SpaceX. We take these missions incredibly seriously. Everyone that can engage in the investigation at SpaceX is very, very focused on that. And in this case the data does seem to be quite difficult to interpret. Like, whatever happened is clearly not a sort of simple, straight-forward thing. So we want to spend as much time as possible just reviewing the data, also going over it with NASA and with FAA and with a number of other customers, and just sort of seeing what feedback everyone has based on their prior experience to see if we can get to what the most likely root cause is, look at both what we think most likely happened, and then anything that's a close call, and try to address all of those things and maximize the probability of success for future missions.

04:08 Suffredini: Any hints on where you think the problem lies?

04:12 Musk: Well, I know that there's Media in the audience.

04:15 Suffredini: Yeah, so you have to be careful. You're right. I never really learned that, but you really ... That is a lesson I am working on.

04:22 Musk: I think we'll be able to say something more definitive towards the end of the week. At this point, really, the only thing that's really clear is that there was some kind of overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. The exact cause and the sequence of events, there's still no clear theory that fits with all the data. So we have to determine if some of the data is a measurement error of some kind, or whether there is actually a theory that matches what appear to be conflicting data points.

05:13 Suffredini: I'll just make a comment. The tweets you put out regularly, particularly when events like this happen, are really useful to everybody. We really do appreciate it. You'd be amazed at how many folks quote what you said and how glad they are that you just step right out and at least give some sign about what's going on and that we'll get through it and things are going well. So we appreciate that.

05:34 Musk: Absolutely. For sure, as soon as we think we've got a clear line on what happened and we've crosschecked it with as many experts as we can -- and we certainly appreciate the feedback from NASA on these fronts; very, very, very much appreciate it -- we'll certainly put out that story. My only reticence about saying something quite yet is I don't want to say something that subsequently turns out to be a misunderstanding of the situation.

06:05 Suffredini: One of the questions that I ask myself regularly is, at what point does all this government help hurt? So, this event occurred, and you have NASA folks there from about three different programs that intend to use your services, ISS being one of them. You have the FAA that's involved. The Range folks are there. Without feeling like you're giving your customers a hard time, how is that interaction, and what should we consider doing differently so that in those areas where we can help we are helpful and in those areas where we're really keeping you from getting your job done we can modify ourselves?

07:03 Musk: Actually I think that the interaction with NASA has been great thus far. The biggest challenge is there are a lot of inquiries coming in simultaneously, so it's hard to respond to everyone right away. But actually it seems to have gone fairly well. The biggest thing that's needed in the short term is the ability to gather all the data, create a very precise timeline, so that my the millisecond we know what each sensor was reading, and we can correlate that with the ground video, and actually one of the biggest challenges is matching things to the exact time. Because when you're talking about a matter of milliseconds, being able to say what is the ground track video compared to the data as received by the ground station from the rocket, and then taking into account, for example, the actual time taken to generate a packet of information. When was that sensor read, when was it encoded into a packet, and when was that packet sent to the ground? When you're dealing in milliseconds all that stuff actually make quite a big difference. So that's the biggest effort we've been engaged in thus far, is just putting together a super-detailed timeline and then just making sure that we have the sequence of events down as precisely as possible. That's what we're working on. With the interaction we've had with NASA and with other has actually been quite good thus far. And we've explained that this is what we are doing, and then we very much welcome any feedback or input or review of the data that would lead us to a better understanding of the circumstances.

08:59 Suffredini: I thought we had a very productive discussion back when we had the engine one anomaly, and so I found it to be very useful. But that's a perspective from a NASA perspective, so it's always interesting to know your perspective of that.

09:13 Musk: Yeah, it seems to be quite good, actually, right now.

09:17 Suffredini: So, you're building, in the last couple launches you've had landing legs and you've been working on landing the first stage back, eventually to shore. Can you talk a little bit about that and what your vision is for that and for SpaceX in general as you go forward?

09:34 Musk: Well, the overarching goal of SpaceX is to try to advance the state of space transport, advance space transport technology to the point where, well, get as far along the path as we can to where space travel is hopefully commonplace at some point in the future, and where we can send large numbers of people and cargo to other planets. That's the sort of think that needs to happen for humanity to have a great future in space. So we want to keep pushing that. I think that the key to that future is reusability. So that's why we've worked quite hard on reusability. Unfortunately, we haven't succeeded yet. In fact, the last launch, ironically, we actually had the best chance of landing the vehicle on the drone ship that's keeping station in the Atlantic. So we were actually geared up for, hopefully this would be a really great launch, and unfortunately it ended up being the opposite. On my birthday, of all things. It was a real downer.

10:46 Suffredini: [Laughs] You'll remember it, though.

10:49 Musk: It was definitely a low point. But, I do think in the future launches, that we've got a decent chance of landing on the ship, and then bringing the boost stage back to land. And then the next challenge, of course, is trying to figure out how to efficiently and effectively reuse it. It is designed for easy reuse, in theory, but we've got to see what the stage looks like when it comes back in one piece. We have been able to, over the last few years, do a number of vertical takeoff and landing tests of hardware that's essentially in the flight configuration, so we know we can handle the terminal phase. If things go right we can takeoff and land, no problem. So it's just a question of completing all the pieces and hopefully later this year we will be able to do that. But that's key. But, of course, that doesn't address upper stage reuse, but it addresses boost stage reuse which is sort of seventy percent, eighty percent of the cost. But I think that it would be a great step towards lowering the cost of space transport.

12:10 Suffredini: If you look at your history, you have Zip2, PayPal, these are largely software type efforts. Now you've got Tesla electric cars, you're building a battery plant, you're involved in Solar City. So why space? Space to me, in just what I read from you, seems to be more of a passion and the others are businesses, but I can't tell. Why space? Why do you think it's important for us to have quick access to low Earth orbit?

12:48 Musk: With Tesla and Solar City, they're about helping to solve the sustainable energy problem. We're trying to make progress on that front with those companies. With SpaceX, it's trying to help solve the spacefaring problem. I think that a future where we are a spacefaring civilization and a multiplanet species is a very exciting, inspiring, awesome future, and in order for that to happen we've got to dramatically improve the cost of spaceflight. And that's why SpaceX exists, is to try to lower the cost of spaceflight, which we've made some progress in doing, but still, I would call our improvement, thus far, evolutionary, not revolutionary. But with a lot of continued work I think there's the potential for an order of magnitude or greater improvement. Reusability being the key to all that, of course. Hopefully, if we can keep improving the cost of spaceflight, then eventually if that trend is in the right direction, it could be leading to a city on Mars, and certainly along the way a lot of activity in low Earth orbit, and the Moon, and lots of other exciting things.

14:25 Suffredini: One of the things we're trying to do with the International Space Station is, try to figure out which industries will prosper from the use of low Earth orbit, to try to understand or help grow an economy in low Earth orbit. And folks who are doing that are all taking risks today. Our job is to try to reduce the risk as much as we can near term so that they can get the information they need to really have a business case for the future. But everyone's trying to calculate a risk, so is there an Elon Musk philosophy of risk vs. benefit, and when you think is the right time to jump in? What is your thought on how to approach new industry and innovative areas and when's the right time to jump in or not? Is there no crystal ball, or is it a crystal ball, or a ouija board? I mean, how do you figure out what you should go after?

15:29 Musk: Well, definitely the ouija board, of course. Much more reliable tan the crystal ball. I don't really like risk for risk's sake, or anything. And I do think that a lot these things are very risky with a low chance of success, but if you want to try to come up with an innovative breakthrough, that's going to be how it is. Anything which is significantly innovative is going to come with the significant risk of failure. You've got to take big chances in order for the potential for a big positive outcome. If the outcome is exciting enough, then taking a big risk is worth while. It's really how I approach it. But then once executing down a path I actually do my absolute best to reduce risk, or to improve the probability of success, because when you're trying to do something that is very risky, you have to spend a lot of effort trying to reduce that risk as you walk down that path. When I started SpaceX, I thought the odds of success were very low. I thought we'd most likely fail. But I though, well, we should give it a try, none the less. And then I'm not sure if you know what proceeded SpaceX, or why I got into Space.

17:21 Suffredini: I remember you trying to purchase a vehicle or two from our Russian colleagues. Is that what you're talking about?

17:26 Musk: Well, the reason I got into space was to try to increase NASA's budget.

17:36 Suffredini: Well, God bless you, then. [Laughs]

17:44 Musk: So I'll tell you the roundabout way I thought that might be accomplished was, I thought, well, if NASA's budget was larger then we could do more in space exploration, particularly if we could get the public excited about sending people to Mars. And I thought, well, if I could do a small greenhouse and send that to the surface of Mars with seeds in nutrient gel and you hydrate the gel on landing and you have a little miniature greenhouse. The public tends to get excited about precedence and superlatives, so it would be like the first life on Mars, the furthest life has ever traveled, and you'd get people excited about 'But we're interested in people there. To Hell with plants, we should send people.' And then I thought, well if that could get the public really excited about sending people to Mars, then that would translate to into congressional support for a bigger NASA budget. That was the goal. I thought that outcome would have a 100% chance of no commercial success. So a 100% chance of losing all the money. So, compared to that, SpaceX, which I though had maybe a 10% chance of success, that was an improvement.

19:05 Suffredini: [Laughs] There you go. Well that makes good sense. So are you still thinking about that? I do remember that conversation. This was the idea where you use Martian regolith. You send these self-contained habitats, if not habitats then plant chamber kind of things, and then grow ...

19:17 Musk: Well, it would be pretty small, like a meter across, or something like that.

19:22 Suffredini: But just to prove the concept.

19:24 Musk: Yeah, just to get ... I mean the real goal was to get the public excited. You'd get some engineering data about what does it take to maintain a little habitat on Mars type of thing. But the main thing would to be to get the public excited, and get the public to be in favor of a bigger NASA budget. That was the goal.

19:44 Suffredini: Well again, God bless you. That's a worthy goal. I hope you don't stop.

So, Commercial Crew. So, you've been selected as one of the providers for the Commercial Crew. Can you tell us a little bit about where that's headed for you as a company, and perhaps maybe how it's effected your company, if it has? If it's changed anything in how you approach space?

20:07 Musk: Things seem to be going fairly well on the Commercial Crew front. There were small disagreements here and there, but overall I think that we very much agree with the way it is being done. Yeah, I think it's pretty good. I mean, there are a few things where, like, it seems like the amount of mass and volume reserved for poop is too high. Sorry. But there are little things like that. We're like, well, are they really going to do that much poop. It's quite a large volume though, really. But really, they're pretty small disagreements. So I think that it seems to be pretty sensible. And then we did the launch abort test earlier this year at the Cape, which actually went pretty well. And yeah. So things are going along, getting pretty exciting. And yeah, I think there's also some potential use for Dragon 2 as a science delivery platform, delivering payloads to Mars or other places. We're in discussion with other parts of NASA about some of those ideas. Because the propulsive landing, it could really lower the cost of getting science instruments to various places in the solar system. So that's kind of exciting.

21:48 Suffredini: So I'm going to come back to that in just a second, but the crew vehicle, versus the Dragon cargo vehicle, clearly there are some significant differences, fairly innovative approach to abort testing, where traditionally you've seen the jettison rocket on top. It's a puller versus a pusher technique where you utilize fuel which you would otherwise would use on orbit, but of course you are not going there. Very innovative approach. Are there other areas where you feel like you're, from an innovation standpoint, making significant strides with the crew vehicle?

22:28 Musk: Yeah, I think the biggest item, really, for Dragon 2 is the ability to do a propulsive landing. And, it's basically having heavy thrusters onboard. So those same heavy thrusters can then do the abort, but retain the engines. In a normal crewed mission like, take the Soyuz for example, they'd have a tractor motor on the nose of the vehicle, basically a rocket engine on the nose, that would have to be discarded on every flight, which is a potential reliability issue, and then you are obviously unable to reuse the abort system, and it adds a bunch of mass. But then in addition those same thrusters can be used for propulsive landing. So you can achieve a precise propulsive landing, on land or water, which I think is a significant improvement. It also feels more like the future to have that capability. And then as I mentioned before, it can be extended to do payload delivery to the Moon or Mars or other places, because of the generalized capability of propulsive to land almost anywhere.

24:04 Suffredini: So, lets go back to Dragon. At one point you had a conversation, and talked about something referred to as DragonLab, where you go to low Earth orbit and do, what I assume is sortie kind of research, and bring the vehicle back. Are you still pursuing that, or something like that? Is this an area where you think that there is potential?

24:25 Musk: I think that there is some potential for, essentially, to take things to low Earth orbit and then bring them back after a few weeks, or something like that. It's not a huge area of attention, at SpaceX, but I think we might do a few missions like that. But Dragon is very much, it's primary optimization is as a transport vehicle to and from the Space Station, and so things like DragonLab and the science delivery platform are interesting extensions of that, and I think that as Dragon 2 first flies and then gets into regular flight, I think that there probably will be some more applications that people can think of, particularly since with Dragon 2 the reusability of the vehicle should be quite high. So if we have reusability of the Dragon spacecraft and reusability of the booster, and somebody's willing to do a bunch of flights with the fully reused system there the potential for much lower cost access to space. There is a bit of a chicken and egg challenge, cause there's a certain amount of fixed cost that has to be carried no matter what, so the marginal cost of launch or the cost of each subsequent launch can drop quite significantly as long as the launch rate per year is high.

26:00 Suffredini: Of course that add other challenges to the system, trying to fly as often as you need to to make that happen.

Well, let's see. I don't want to bore everybody with all my questions, and we had talked about if folks had any questions in the audience. Let's see. Oh wow! They're not bashful. That's good. So I don't know if we are going to need microphones.

26:25 Audience member 1: I came from Italy, from [unclear], just for this speech, and I would like to ask you a question which is, well, I'm coming from the solar energy [unclear], but my question is [unclear]. [receives microphone] Because you are like a kind of mentor and a visionary and you give hope to a lot of people around the globe because when they see you they realize that they can realize their dreams. But my question is different. When you are a dreamer, when you are a visionary, of course you have your vision, but there are moment that sometimes maybe you stop believing in this vision. Especially in the moments of some problems or failure. So, could you tell me, and could you tell also to thousands of people who may be motivated by your answer, what keeps you fighting for your vision? What helps you to reach your dream?

27:34 Musk: Well, I think I'm kind of constitutionally just geared to just keep going. I don't know. Certainly there are times where things don't go well, and then that's quite disparaging, for sure, and so, then it's difficult to proceed with the same levels of enthusiasm. But I do think that the things we are doing are pretty important to the future and if we don't succeed, then it's not clear what other things would succeed, and if we don't succeed then we'll be certainly pointed to as a reason why people shouldn't even try for these things. So, I think it's important that we do whatever is necessary to keep going.

28:34 Audience member 1: OK, and last question. In 2004 when you are going to Burning Man with your cousin, you are thinking there is a sun, and lets make energy out of it, and I would like to ask you, why do you believe so in solar energy and clean tech energies and also in sustainable energy? And the last question, I will not ask any more questions, what will be the role of solar energy in the exploration of Mars.

29:06 Musk: Sure, I think solar energy is probably fairly significant for Mars. And what's going to be quite important is having a very lightweight solar system, both volumetrically and gravimetrically dense. So actually, we're sort of playing with different concepts like, you know that thing, like that party thing where you inflate it and it rolls out, the thing? [laughs] One of the solar concepts is to have like a big roll that you just basically inflate and it rolls out with really like thin solar panels on it. But it's going to be pretty important because really, you either got to do that or nuclear, and nuclear has its challenges, but for solar it's pretty straight forward. So I think solar is very important to the future exploration of Mars, for sure.

30:11 Audience member 1: So thank you, and I wish you that your next birthday is very successful. Thank you so much.

30:15 Musk: Thanks.

30:22 Audience member 2: My name is Valentin Uvarov. I am from the United Rocket and Space Corporation which shortly will become part of State Corporation Roscosmos. So I made this one quest to the West because I'd like to ask one question of Elon Musk. What is his secret to become successful business man in space industry? And then, coming back to Russia to tell Russian business men there is way to become a tycoon in space industry. So, seriously speaking, I'd like to ask you, when you started you business, was the government your partner? Was it useful? In what areas? And so, there are always two sides of the coin, as there were times when you had to fight bureaucracy? Thank you.

31:20 Musk: Sure. Well, I should say, with respect to starting a space business, it's definitely not the easiest environment to start a business. I think if most people were to rank order, what's the highest return on investment, space would not be very good. I mean, I'm very pro-space, but it's just true like if you start a hedge fund or if you are in like many other industries, then it is much easier to make money than the space industry. This is not the easiest one to make money in. Car industry also quite difficult. [laughter] When starting SpaceX, I heard this joke so often it was ridiculous. The joke was, 'How do make a small fortune in the space industry?' The punch line, of course, being 'Start with a large one.' [laughter] I got to a point that I heard the joke so many times that I would just get to the punch line and say, 'Well, I want to figure out how to turn a large fortune into a small one. That was my goal.' And they're like, 'Wow! How did he know that?' I do think that there is opportunity in space, but it's tough going. But I think if SpaceX and other companies can lower the cost of transport to orbit, and perhaps beyond, then there's a lot of potential for entrepreneurship at the destination. You can think of it like the Union Pacific Railway. Before there was a Union Pacific Railway is was real hard to have commerce between the West Coast and the East Coast. It'd go by wagon or a really long sailing journey, but once there was the transport, then there were huge opportunities, and now look at California and Washington State and all the industries that have been created in Silicon Valley and Hollywood. But you've got to have that fundamental transport element, otherwise it's really tricky. So we're trying to establish that transport element, make it easier to get to low Earth orbit, and hopefully in the future make it easier to get to the Moon or Mars. And I do have this long term vision of like, if there was affordable transport to a place like Mars, I think the entrepreneurial opportunities would be phenomenal, cause there'd be people who'd want to create everything from the first pizza joint to the first iron ore factory to, ... there'd be like just an enormous amount of opportunity for people to create things on Mars. And then it'd be different things on Mars. Some of the things on Mars would be different than we'd even imagine on Earth. It'd be very exciting. So I think that's really key to making things happen in space, is you've got to have some place to go and some way to get there.

34:45 Suffredini: So along those line, have you read Andy Weir's book, the Martian? What did you think?

34:50 Musk: Yeah, yeah, it was good. I thought it was pretty excellent. Certainly one of the most realistic books on Mars that I've read. There were a few things, like the wind force on Mars is not really that high. It's not going to knock you over or anything. It's high velocity but low force. But overall I thought it was pretty cool. And apparently it's being made into a movie and everything.

35:17 Suffredini: You don't have a cameo in that one too?

35:19 Musk: I don't have a cameo in that one. I'm a little worried that it might not make people too keen on going to Mars. [laughter] It's like, 'This just looks really hard.' [laughter] I think we need a show about how Mars is also more, it's like the Wild West and you got the gun slingers and like the cool cowboys and that kind of thing.

35:40 Suffredini: Alright. Maybe you've got to write a book too.

Let's see, there's a question over here. Go ahead.

35:46 Audience member 3: Hi there. My name is Anita Goel. I'm here at out of Harvard and MIT. Run a company called Nanobiosym. So, in your vision and dream to achieve low cost space travel, how do you allocate your investments between engineering and essentially driving down the cost of existing technology versus investing in new breakthrough physics? Things like breakthrough propulsion physics, anti-gravity. What's your vision in the bifurcation of those two kinds of portfolios?

36:18 Musk: Well we don't spend a ton of time on new physics. I think with current physics there's huge potential. So rather than rely on a breakthrough, which really it's difficult to envision what that breakthrough would exactly be, or even inexactly be, I'm quite confident that with what we know of current physics, sort of just going with where the standard model of physics is today, that there are dramatic improvements possible in spaceflight. And I think with the, certainly with Falcon 9 I think we're making improvements, and then with our next generation rocket system, which is still many years away, that'll be a deep cryo methalox system, I think we will achieve full reusability. And that's really a huge potential for maybe a two order of magnitude reduction in the cost of spaceflight. So, as far as R&D is concerned, we hire great engineers as fast as we can find them. It's not that easy to find ... . I should say great engineers with the right mindset and everything. We hire at the maximum rate that we can find people that we think would really be an asset to the team. So there's no limitation on that.

38:01 Audience member 4: Hi. My name is Zachery Malt [unclear]. I'm a student from Babson College. I just want to say it's an honor to be here. I read Ashlee Vance's biography about you. One thing that was really intriguing to me was the SuperDraco engine for the Dragon V2 that used printed out 3D technology. Do you envision using that technology more in the future for space exploration, and how will that affect the costs in terms of getting to Mars?

38:27 Musk: As you alluded to, we actually print the SuperDraco engines. So they're printed out of titanium and Inconel, and that actually allows us to reduce the cost of those engines quite a bit. In particular because we can print integral cooling channels. So when you've got an hourglass chamber and you've got cooling channels in the wall of the chamber where the whole wall consists of cooling channels, it's normally quite difficult to create that thrust chamber and nozzle because you've got to create an inner jacket, outer jacket, kind of machine the inner jacket, and then braze the whole thing together. It's a real pain. And you've got a bunch of joints in there to make it all work. So with printing you can print something that you can't make by any other means. So it actually ends up being lighter and cheaper than if we had built it by traditional methods. For our next generation engine, which we call the Raptor, which I mentioned it's a deep cryo methalox, so what I mean by that is that the methane and oxygen are cooled to close to their freezing points, so not far from their freezing point, as opposed to not far from their boiling point, which is normally the case. With that engine, we are trying to print as much as possible. The biggest limitation on 3D printing right now is the size envelope. So there's a limit on how big we can print something. But we're able to print the turbopump components and much of the injector. Not the whole thing, but many of the critical parts, we can print. So that actually helps up in speeding up the development, so instead of waiting for castings to be developed, which can take several months, and then if the casting is wrong you've got to iterate in the casting. And each iteration can take several months. With printing, those iterations can be reduced to a matter of weeks or months. So that actually helps with the speed of development as well.

40:48 Audience member 5: Hi. I'm Ross Buntrock with a company called High Orbit. I wondered if you could give us a little bit of an update on what is going on with the Hyperloop, and is there any overlap between the work you are doing with SpaceX and Hyperloop technology?

41:02 Musk: Neither I nor SpaceX are doing anything to try to commercialize the Hyperloop. There are I think at least two, maybe more than two companies that have formed that are completely independent of me or SpaceX that are working toward commercializing the Hyperloop idea or design. What SpaceX is doing is we're going to just create a little student competition for Hyperloop ideas. So, kind of like around the way that Formula SAE works, where students can come up with a design and compete against each other to design the best pod. So what SpaceX will do is just construct about a mile long low pressure tube, nearly vacuum tube, basically, in which students can kind of race their pods. So it's just basically to support and get students excited about engineering. That's the only involvement of SpaceX and myself with the Hyperloop at this point.

42:17 Audience member 6: Hello. I'm Paula Castao, I'm a sociologist, and I'm writing a book about the International Space Station. How would you describe the scientific value of the International Space Station, and where would you draw the line between luxury and need when it comes to space exploration?

42:35 Musk: Well, for space, I really spend all of my time thinking about just how to get to the Space Station. To be honest, I actually hadn't even really seen a proper movie of the inside of the Space Station until I went to see a preview of the new IMAX thing that's coming out, and it's amazing. Like when that Space Station IMAX movie comes out people are going to get blown away. It's awesome. I actually brought my whole team at SpaceX to go see the preview of the IMAX movie. It is a very unique laboratory, because it's the only thing that's in microgravity, that's above the Earth's atmosphere, and you can learn a lot about basic human physiology and do experiments that you can't really do in any other lab. And you can bring scientists up and they can actually work in this incredibly unique lab. So I think that there's a lot to be gained there. And I think that you can't ignore the coolness factor of it. People think it's pretty cool. I think it's pretty cool. And the public want to have something going on in space that involves people. It's the coolest thing going on in space, and there is a lot of value to that.

44:22 Suffredini: You know, we try to, ... sell is the wrong word, it's the word we use, but sell is really the wrong word. We're trying to get people to recognize that there's a platform in low Earth orbit and that this is important. What's done in low Earth orbit has benefits to those of us on Earth that will never actually go to space. But, in doing that, you're trying to get their interest level, and part of their interest level is the cool factor that you talked about. And I've always kind of struggled with that, being sort of black and white, I understand the purpose in my head. That's why I joined NASA, right? But, over the years this is one of the things that I've started to recognize is important. So, my question to you is, I've heard a rumor that for the suits for Commercial Crew, that you wanted to play a roll in that, and so is that true, and is there some reason behind the design of the suit that you want to personally be involved in, other than crew safety?

45:26 Musk: Yeah. I think that we've actually spend a lot of effort on the spacesuit design, on both the functionality and the aesthetics. It's actually really hard. Because if you just optimize for functionality it's one thing. If you optimize for aesthetics it doesn't work. [laughter] Live those things you see in movies, they don't work. So it's like, 'OK. How do we make something that looks cool and works?' With the key goal here being that when people see that spacesuit, we want them to think, 'Yeah. I want to wear that thing one day. That looks awesome.' So that's the reason for it.

46:31 Audience member 7: I there. I'm Alex Pearlman. I'm with Boston Magazine, and I'm writing for Vice today. I was hoping that you could give us a little bit of an update on the most recent news with the idea of putting satellites to provide Internet to developing countries and unconnected people.

46:52 Musk: Sure. So, we're still at the early stages of a big LEO constellation communication idea, and we're hopefully going to launch a test satellite next year. I think the long term potential of it is pretty great, but I don't want to overplay or overstate things quite at this or any stage of the game, really. The long term goal is to create a comprehensive global communication system that provides high bandwidth, low latency, connectivity anywhere in the world. And provides cross-links through the satellites, so that you can have improved long distance Internet. One of the things that you realize when you look at this is that you can actually have a more direct path through space and photons move faster. Depending on what fiber optic material they are running through, photons actually move about forty to fifty percent faster in vacuum than they do in fiber optic cables. And if you look at way that the fiber optic cables go, they trace the outlines of the continents, and they go through many repeaters and routers and everything. So, if you want to, say, communicate from a server in California to one in South Africa, it's a very, very long route, and sort of very round about path, and it's high latency, low photonic speed. And you could actually have that communication be quite a bit faster if it's in space. So I think there's the potential for doing a fair bit of long distance Internet activity as well a providing bandwidth [unclear]. It's also worth saying that a lot of companies have tried this and kind of broken their pick on it, and I think we want to be really careful about how we deliberate about how we make this thing work and not overextend ourselves. So we're being fairly careful about it, but I do think this is something that should be built and would be quite good to have.

49:22 Audience member 7: What are you looking to do differently than others have done previously?

49:27 Musk: Well, in our case the communications technology would be substantially more advanced. In the past, with say attempts like Teledesic, the electronics of the day were very low bandwidth, I mean really analog or barely digital, and they weren't very high bandwidth. So it didn't really compete with, say terrestrial phones. In the case of Teledesic they were looking to compete with or to address cellular needs. The system we're talking about would not attempt to compete with cellular needs. So, for example, it wouldn't compete directly with, say Iridium, which can talk directly to a handset. Our system would seek to talk to a small user terminal that's about the size of a pizza box or much like current satellite dishes, but it would be flat because we have a phased array antenna that's tracking the satellites. But you could mount it in a window or just anywhere outside. As long at it can see the sky it would work.

50:42 Audience member 8: Hey Elon. Thanks for coming out. I'd like to show you, we brought a virtual reality camera here to record for the first time. We have a small startup in San Francisco called SpaceVR, and we believe that virtual reality is the future of space exploration because you can put people on the very front of every exploration mission. Is that something that you've given much thought or have any opinions on?

51:11 Musk: I've received the virtual reality demos at Oculus and at Valve, and it's pretty impressive. I can sort of imagine if that's extrapolated into the future, it's really going to super feel like you're there. And I wonder if some people are never going to want to take that off, honestly. [laughter] It's pretty entrancing. But I do think it would be quite exciting to do that for space as well. Yeah. Do you have a setup here? OK, it's right there? Wow! OK. Cool.

51:52 Audience member 8: If you have time [unclear] [laughter] We have the SpaceX launch, the last one, so if you want to come by the booth you can see it in VR.

52:01 Musk: OK. Where are you based?

52:06 Audience member 8: [unclear] San Francisco.

52:08 Musk: OK. I think, maybe, today is going to be tricky, but [laughter] but maybe, since you're based in California we could arrange something in the coming weeks.

52:24 Suffredini: Let's see Elon. We'll call it a conference. I wanted to first thank you very much. You've been generous with your time. And we, you know from the moment I called you you were all in and it's really this open conversation and your thoughts on what's in front of us that really excites us all in this room. So thank you very much for your time. We really appreciate it.

52:51 Musk: Thank you. Thanks for having me.


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