TIME CEOs

Check Out This Insane Stunt Elon Musk Just Pulled Off

It will throw you for a hyperloop

It’s probably safe to say Elon Musk isn’t afraid of heights, given that he runs a space exploration startup. But now we have definitive proof. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO posted a picture of himself on Instagram standing atop an airplane as it flies through the sky. The daredevil stunt is known as wingwalking. “What could go wrong?” Musk asked in the photo caption.

Went for a nice wing walk. What could possibly go wrong? Photo by my lovely wife @talulahrm

A photo posted by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on

Musk’s wife, Talulah Riley, also got in on the fun and posted a video of herself wingwalking. The couple was flying with the Breitling wingwalking team in Hampshire, England, according to a comment by Riley on Instagram.

TIME SpaceX

Elon Musk on SpaceX Explosion: It’s ‘Definitely a Setback’

He said it was "definitely a setback"

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Wednesday gave his first televised interview in which he made comments about a recent failed launch of his company’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Speaking with CNBC, Musk called the June 28 rocket failure “definitely a setback”, and said the company was in the midst of a thorough investigation. Until then, he added, SpaceX would refrain from any more launches.

“I think we need to understand exactly what went wrong and be very deliberate at it,” Musk said while attending the Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley.

June’s failed Falcon 9 launch — SpaceX’s 19th — was carrying supplies and experiments bound for the International Space Station. With other resupply missions planned for the near future, the SpaceX rocket’s loss should not put the astronauts aboard the ISS in jeopardy.

“We need to look at the data and see if there were any near-misses,” Musk added. “Could something else have gone wrong and what do we need to do to fix that. Our goal is to have the most reliable rocket ever because it’s going to be launching astronauts soon, so it needs to be super reliable.”

Despite the setback, NASA recently affirmed its support for SpaceX. with agency administrator Charles Bolden saying the explosion should not deter Musk and his team from their spaceflight program.

“SpaceX has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first six cargo resupply missions to the station, and we know they can replicate that success. We will work with and support SpaceX to assess what happened, understand the specifics of the failure and correct it to move forward,” Bolden said in a statement.

TIME space

What I Learned Watching SpaceX’s Rocket Explode

It felt terrible, but lives will be saved in the future

By now, everyone knows the outcome of the story. On the morning of Sunday, June 28, SpaceX CRS-7 launched in spectacular fashion from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Just two minutes and 19 seconds into flight, the Falcon 9 rocket and cargo-laden Dragon capsule exploded above the Atlantic ocean, incinerating approximately 4,000 pounds of supplies to be delivered to the ISS. The cause remains unknown.

Rundowns of the items aboard CRS-7 have been circulated throughout news reports and abbreviated in terse, 140 character tweets: student science projects, privately-funded experiments, food, water filtration systems, hardware, oxygen. The astronauts aboard the ISS are safe until October. The Russians launched a resupply mission last week; the Japanese have one set for August. Surely we can’t all fail.

I watched the Falcon 9 lift off that sunny morning in June while standing atop an empty causeway at Kennedy, as close as any civilian could hope to get to a launch. By the time CRS-7 failed, it was only a small speck of light high above my head. I squinted into the bright sun and craned my neck, turning to the woman beside me and asking: “Was that separation or an explosion?” We weren’t sure.

When the failure was confirmed by nearby NASA employees, I felt a sinking in the pit of my stomach, like waking up from a good dream and feeling it all slip away. Thankfully, there were no humans aboard the Dragon capsule that day. But all American space missions in today’s experimental age of public-private partnerships are defined by a sense of potential, carrying a degree of hope — the hope that one day, blasting equipment and human beings out of Earth’s atmosphere could be as routine as a neighborhood grocery run. While CRS-7’s failure won’t single-handedly kill that dream, it does remind us that future is a little father off than we might have thought.

I was on site at Kennedy to witness the launch that morning thanks to something called a NASA Social, part of a program run by the space agency’s public affairs department that invites high-profile social media users to get the same access to a launch or other major event afforded to the credentialed press.

On the morning of Friday, June 26th, approximately 48 hours before launch, 30 people assembled in the nondescript Press Annex that sits on site at Kennedy Space Center in direct view of the famous VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building). I was among them, an eager participant in NASA Social. Investment in unconventional social media ambassadors is nothing new for NASA. Its Curiosity Rover has been sending updates from Mars via a colorful Twitter account that boasts nearly 2 million followers, more than most sentient beings. But allowing space geeks with little connection to mainstream news outlets access to an otherwise inaccessible experience is a smart exercise in public relations.

“Our target audience is humanity,” NASA Social Media Manager John Yembrick told us of the NASA Social program. Our group was stuffed with such strange bedfellows as PhDs in theoretical physics and geology, a former wrestling star, a fashion photographer, Florida natives and a woman who flew from Australia. Human beings with vastly different skill sets and social audiences united for three days to furiously tweet, post, share, like and tag every second of the adventure.

We spoke with the likes of NASA Chief Scientist for the International Space Station Dr. Julie Robinson, SpaceX Vice President Hans Koenigsmann, and Microsoft’s Alex Kipman, who arrived carrying a HoloLens augmented reality headset he hopes will revolutionize communication between astronauts and Earth. We met young students who described an experiment they would launch on CRS-7: a genius proposition to use earthworms for trash composting aboard the space station. We toured the facilities where spacecraft are assembled and parts are created. We saw the second of two identical International Docking Adaptors meant to standardize the ISS docking process for different companies and countries; the first was already loaded on the ill-fated Dragon, now lost.

If NASA’s goal with the NASA Social program is to pay service to the Space Believers while cultivating new ones, it’s a rousing success — the sense of potential was palpable among the group. But none of that energy can change this immutable rule: space is hard, and we have much to learn. In his reply to my Facebook post about the loss I felt after watching the Falcon 9 rocket disintegrate into oblivion, NASA Astronaut Ron Garan offered the following: “The lessons learned from the failure will save lives down the road when Dragon launches crew.” He’s right, of course. But it’s still difficult to get swept up in the excitement of space travel, only to be confronted with an explosive reminder of how far the future remains.

Erin Sharoni is a Creative Strategist at biotech startup InsideTracker, a writer for DJ Mag and an electronic dance music DJ and producer.

TIME Elon Musk

Tesla’s Elon Musk Just Had the Worst Birthday Ever

Tesla Elon Musk
Noah Berger—AP Tesla's CEO Elon Musk.

A disastrous weekend for both Tesla and SpaceX

Elon Musk turned 44 on Sunday, but the entrepreneur probably wished he could just crawl back into bed and forget the day ever happened.

It was, to be frank, a disastrous weekend for both Tesla and SpaceX, the two companies Musk leads.

First, the biggie: an unmanned SpaceX rocket on a resupply mission to the International Space Station exploded after it was launched. No one was hurt, and the astronauts on board the Space Station have enough supplies to last until October, but the Falcon 9 rocket that was destroyed represents a lot of lost capital, and it’s always embarrassing for an aerospace company when a craft just, well, explodes.

In news that was slightly less spectacular, but still troubling, reports say Musk said Tesla owners weren’t using the battery swap technology he debuted in 2013. While this doesn’t have quite the visual impact of an exploding rocket, it’s still not good news for a service that Musk and other Tesla execs hoped would help show consumers that electric cars, like Teslas, can be taken on longer trips with minimal wait time.

Musk himself admitted to having a bad day:

We hope your Independence Day weekend is better, Elon.

TIME A Year In Space

How Serious a Setback Is the SpaceX Rocket Explosion?

A dramatic accident just minutes after launch could mean problems for the International Space Station

There are uncountable laws of physics and engineering that govern the launch of a rocket. But there’s one that supersedes them all: Ultimately, stuff will blow up. Always has, always will.

Elon Musk had never come face to face with that rule before — at least not in space travel — but Sunday morning he did in a very big way, when his Falcon 9 rocket and unmanned Dragon cargo vehicle exploded just two and a half minutes after launch. The rocket came undone before its first stage had even shut down and separated, blowing itself to pieces and auguring into the Atlantic just off the Cape Canaveral coast.

NASA, as NASA does, initially framed the failure as clinically as possible, describing it as a “non-nominal” liftoff. But NASA administrator Charles Bolden later described the agency as “disappointed” by the loss of the mission. “We will work closely with SpaceX to understand what happened, fix the problem and return to flight,” he said. “This is a reminder that spaceflight is an incredible challenge, but we learn from each success and each setback.”

Musk himself was more candid, if a little oblique:

But the most poignant and most apt response came from astronaut Scott Kelly, currently completing the third month of his marathon year aboard the International Space Station:

And so space is—very, very hard, and it’s the International Space Station (ISS) that has recently been paying the price. In April, a Russian Progress cargo vehicle carrying thousands of pounds of equipment and supplies reached orbit but spun out of control and eventually plunged back through the atmosphere, incinerating itself and its cargo. In October 2014, an Antares rocket—built by Musk’s cargo competitor Orbital Sciences—exploded just six seconds off the pad.

But it’s the SpaceX explosion that will prove the most costly. The key piece of cargo the now-destroyed Dragon was carrying was the first of a pair of International Docking Adapters (IDA) that was supposed to connect to the station’s Harmony module and serve as the attachment node for private crew vehicles that are scheduled to begin flying in 2017. Two companies won the contracts to build the new craft—SpaceX, which is modifying its Dragon craft to make it habitable; and Boeing, which is building a new vehicle dubbed the CST-100. Boeing built the lost IDA as well, but both companies are designing their craft to be compatible with it.

How big a setback this will be to the future of station operations is not clear. The current three-person crew—which will increase to six when the next expedition launches from Kazakhstan in July—is in no danger of running out of essential supplies like food, water and breathable oxygen. But luxuries like personal packages from family members and perishables like fresh fruit can make it aboard only as often as the cargo runs succeed.

The docking adapter is another matter, however. One of the biggest action items on the astronauts’ to-do-list for the next few months is reconfiguring ISS’s various modules to ready the station for the new crew vehicles. Kelly and soon-to-arrive crewmate Kjell Lindgren will be embarking on their first spacewalks to help get that job done. Without the IDA, however, the work can only proceed so far.

Worse, the Obama White House and NASA itself have bet their space reps on NASA’s ability to make a smooth transition to private suppliers for trips to low Earth orbit, freeing the space agency to focus on unmanned missions to the planets and, eventually, manned trips to deep space. Serial failures by Orbital Sciences and SpaceX do not do much to boost confidence in that plan.

Geopolitics play a role too. American leverage in the increasingly strained relationship between Washington and Moscow has not been helped by the fact that, since the grounding of the shuttles, the U.S. has been entirely dependent on the Russian Soyuz rocket to carry astronauts to space.

In response to the U.S. and European measures to clamp down on Russian banking and overseas assets in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin snarkily Tweeted, “After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline.”

Rogozin was bluffing. Russia charges the U.S. more than $70 million per seat for trips on the Soyuz and a cash-poor Kremlin is not inclined to say no to the ready pocket money. But it was galling at least for the U.S., and nobody in Washington or at NASA wants America’s dependency on the Russians to go on any longer than it absolutely has to go.

That, however, is for tomorrow. Today, Musk, who is experiencing his first major launch failure, must dig into his telemetry and the remains of his rocket and see what in the world went wrong. He’s not the first to have to conduct such a post-flight autopsy and he won’t be the last. Space is always hard—and on some days it’s too hard.

TIME Innovation

NASA Is Sending Microsoft’s Most Incredible New Tech Into Space

HoloLens is now literally out of this world

NASA will launch two Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality headsets into space, the agency revealed on Thursday. They’re headed to the final frontier in order to bolster communications between astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and technicians back on earth.

The devices are slated to launch on a June 28 SpaceX resupply mission to the ISS.

NASA is touting the HoloLens’ interactive 3D interface as an effective way to replace verbal instructions with holographic illustrations that can overlay directly onto an astronaut’s surroundings.

“HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station,” said ISS Program Director Sam Scimemi in a statement.

NASA released footage of Microsoft’s HoloLens team, including lead designer Alex Kipman, giving the HoloLens a spin (literally) aboard NASA’s Weightless Wonder C9 jet. The space agency estimates that after an extended round of testing, astronauts will be able to use the HoloLens by the end of the year.

The partnership between NASA and Microsoft’s HoloLens team, dubbed Project Sidekick, will be extended to a second test under the water on July 21, when NASA astronauts and engineers will bring the HoloLens down to the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius. The two week trial is meant to simulate an extended mission into deep space.

“Sidekick is a prime example of an application for which we envisioned HoloLens being used – unlocking new potential for astronauts and giving us all a new perspective on what is possible with holographic computing,” said HoloLens designer Kipman in a statement.

TIME space travel

Watch Explosive New Video of SpaceX’s Rocket Landing Test

The April test ended unsuccessfully

SpaceX on Thursday released new video of an April landing test of the Falcon 9 rocket that nearly ended in success — until it tipped over and exploded.

Unlike previous footage, this video comes from a tracking camera that followed the first stage Falcon 9, or the part of the rocket that detaches from the cargo vessel bound for the International Space Station, according to SpaceX. A rocket’s first stage normally falls back into the ocean — a harmless but expensive loss. If the Falcon 9 could land successfully, it would mark a huge step towards SpaceX’s goal of more efficient spaceflight.

Another landing test is scheduled for June 28 shortly after the Falcon 9 launches at 10:21 a.m. ET from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The event is subject to weather and other delays.

TIME SpaceX

Elon Musk Wants to Build the Comcast of Outer Space

Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk Unveils New Generation Of Batteries
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Elon Musk

It wouldn't be the first attempt

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has ambitions beyond space travel.

The company has lofty ambitions that would provide Internet to all corners of the world from space.

The Washington Post reports that Musk has been in talks with the federal government to get permission to launch 4,000 satellites with the capacity to beam Internet signals to Earth. If the plan works, SpaceX could set itself up in direct competition with telecom giants such as Comcast and AT&T.

It “would be like rebuilding the Internet in space,” Musk has said of the project, according to the newspaper.

But this isn’t the first or only venture of its kind. The publication reported that Bill Gates had a similar idea in the 1990s, and Richard Branson’s Virgin has its own plan in the works; Facebook recently shelved a project to build a $500 million satellite.

Musk’s FCC filing shows that he’d like to begin testing his satellite plan as early as next year, according to the newspaper.

“Some people might say the idea of satellite broadband has come and gone. But the cost structure of the business is so much better than when Bill Gates tried it,” said Paul Gallant, an analyst at Guggenheim Partners, in an interview with the Post. “I think Musk’s track record of disruptive innovation would make this a really attractive business for the . . . FCC to support.”

TIME Tesla

Here’s How You Can Play a PC Game Elon Musk Wrote When He Was 12

Elon Musk

It's pretty simple, but it's also more than 30 years old

Elon Musk is most famous these days for his electric car company Tesla, and for the spaceships he created with his private spaceflight company SpaceX. When the inventor was much younger, though, he tried his hand at creating video games.

At age 12, as a kid living in South Africa, Musk created Blastar — a space-themed PC game that is heavily influenced by classic arcade games such as Space Invaders and Asteroid, according to The Verge. You play the game as a space pilot who has to “destroy [the] alien freighter carrying deadly hydrogen bombs and status beam machines.”

Musk sold the code for $500, and now you can play it here.

TIME SpaceX

SpaceX Has a Radical New Invention Idea

The company has filed an application for satellites that would beam down Internet access

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is planning a new network of satellites, and they’ll come with an interesting function: an Internet connection.

According to an application filed with the FCC last week and first spotted by a Reddit user, the Hawthorne, Calif.-based space company wants to launch a network of satellites that will beam down Internet access to regions with little or no connection to the web.

The application describes two satellites, the first of up to eight trial satellites that are each expected to last up to 12 months.

The satellites will likely be built using the $1 billion that SpaceX raised mostly from Google earlier this year.

For these first tests, the launch location will likely be Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast rather than Cape Canaveral in Florida, according to the orbital parameters in the application.

The test satellites will beam Internet broadband to three locations: Redmond, Wash., (as Musk has said he wants to build satellites and plan launches in Seattle); Fremont, Calif., where Musk’s Tesla factory is located; and Hawthone, Calif., which is SpaceX’s hometown.

Whether we’ll truly be able to connect to a SpaceX-provided Internet connection someday (it will likely take a long time before that gets approved) is still unclear. But Musk has said in the past that he believes such a communication system will be necessary for travel to Mars, his ultimate goal for SpaceX.

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