Elon Musk’s Viral Joint Hit Prompted Expensive NASA-Funded Safety Review

Last year, NASA ordered SpaceX to complete a mandatory review of workplace culture after CEO Elon Musk took a hit of marijuana on “The Joe Rogan Experience,” one of the most popular podcasts in the world, as previously reported by The Washington Post

But on Tuesday, Politico reported that NASA actually paid SpaceX $5 million to perform the review, which includes interviewing employees, educating them about drug policies, and making sure that they follow federally required drug policies. 

According to Politico, an industry official called it “odd for NASA to pay a contractor millions to tell its employees not to do drugs.” While Politico notes that Boeing was also ordered to complete a safety review, Boeing didn’t receive any additional money for it.

Greg Autry, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California, told the news agency that “the idea of NASA ever giving SpaceX preferential treatment over Boeing is simply giggle-inducing to industry insiders,” explaining that Boeing receives more money than SpaceX “at every step of the way.”
According to the NASA website, Boeing and SpaceX are both under contract with the federal government to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station. In 2014, Boeing received a $4.2 billion contract to participate in the program and SpaceX received a $2.6 billion contract.
But in recent years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has sounded the alarm on NASA’s spending habits, warning in its June 2019 report that the space agency’s major projects “will be strained as cost and schedule performance continues to deteriorate and new projects begin.”
The report also found that NASA’s major projects had a cost growth that was 27.6% over the baseline, up from 18.8% the previous year, and that the agency was experiencing the longest schedule delays for its major projects since 2009 — when the GAO first began reporting on them. 
According to the report, “this deterioration in cost and schedule performance is largely due to integration and test challenges on the James Webb Space Telescope,” as well as the cost growth associated with the production challenges for the Space Launch System program. 
The James Webb Telescope, a powerful telescope that travels into space, was initially projected to cost between $1 billion and $3.5 billion, and scheduled to launch by 2011 at the latest. But now the telescope is expected to cost $9.663 billion and isn’t expected to launch until March 2021. 
Jim Muncy, founder of the space policy consulting agency PoliSpace, told The Verge last year that “there was no one on the planet who knew how to build [the telescope] when they started,” and that NASA “tried coming up with a good faith estimate for cost, but you don’t know how much it’s going to cost because you haven’t done it before.”
A report published by NASA’s Office of the Inspector General last year found that NASA’s spending problems can be attributed, in part, to a culture of optimism.
Our past work has found that this outlook causes NASA to view the success of projects primarily in technical rather than cost and schedule terms,” reads the report. More specifically, NASA’s at times overly optimistic culture contributes to development of unrealistic plans and performance baselines, particularly with respect to its largest programs and projects.
Elon Musk’s Viral Joint Hit Prompted Expensive NASA-Funded Safety Review Elon Musk’s Viral Joint Hit Prompted Expensive NASA-Funded Safety Review Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 05:05 Rating: 5

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