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An Apollo Tribute to SpaceX | by jurvetson
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An Apollo Tribute to SpaceX

When I saw Elon Musk tear up on 60 Minutes facing the verbal assault from one of his heroes — Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan — I knew what I had to do.


It has taken a bit of effort over the past months, but today I gave this to Elon and all of the SpaceX team, and it was very well received. =)


This is the last photo, with my colleague Mohanjit Jolly, just before we gift-wrapped it.


The Apollo astronauts composed and signed the following tributes:


“And now, a giant leap for commercial space! Buzz Aldrin, Apollo XI


“A real breakthrtough – much success on many flights to come! Fred Haise, Apollo 13 LMP”


“Congratulations! A big dream fulfilled! Charlie Duke, Apollo 16 LMP”


“We are so excited to see your great success in an endeavor that demands the very best from each member of the SpaceX team ☆ Alan Bean, Apollo 12 LMP”


“Congratuatlons on a job well done – now the challenge begins. Gene Cernan, Apollo 17 & Apollo X


“The first of the next giant leap… Dave Scott, Apollo 9 CMP”


“The beginning of an entirely new era! Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 LMP”


“Keep up the good work – Walt Cunningham, Apollo 7


“Congratulations on your success! Al Worden, Apollo 15


When I saw 60 Minutes, my first thought was to get Gene Cernan (the last man to walk on the moon) to visit SpaceX as Elon had implored. I have been buying space artifacts from Gene over the past year and knew how to reach him. I tried to encourage him to visit SpaceX, but to no avail. So I flew out to talk to him face to face. I waited until SpaceX became the first private company to bring a spacecraft back from orbit, and the first to bring cargo to the space station, and the first to bring science experiments back. I also gathered signatures and congratulatory sentiments from the other Apollo heroes first.


Some, like Charlie Duke and Al Bean, were effusive in their praise of SpaceX and the next generation of space explorers. Charlie Duke was excited about a future mission to Mars. Al Bean spent 20 minutes writing rough drafts and crafting each word of his message with the SpaceX team in mind.


Then I approached Gene Cernan, and held my breath. I figured it would be a bit more difficult to break from the social proof of his esteemed colleagues. And so he listened. As with every Apollo astronaut who signed this photo, I was able to talk about SpaceX and answer his questions. Gene was interested in who financed SpaceX — what big money interests got it going. I told him that Elon Musk personally financed the company for all of its first $100 million, when no one else would bet on the venture, and he saw it through thick and thin, including the first three launches of the Falcon 1, all of which failed spectacularly. As I told him these stories of heroic entrepreneurship, I could see his mind turning. He found a reconciliation: “I never read any of this in the news. Why doesn’t the press report on this?”


Cernan was the last hold out. Neil Armstrong wrote a strongly worded letter to 60 Minutes saying that he was taken out of context. The program editor agreed: "Armstrong wrote us to say we had not been complete in our description of his testimony. He's right.


Armstrong is, arguably, the greatest explorer of the 20th Century. I suspect he has admiration for anyone in science or business who sees new possibilities. He may not be confident in a particular federal policy, but I imagine Neil Armstrong stands squarely on the side of those who dare to dream."

— from the CBS Editors Blog


Well, it’s Nikola Tesla’s birthday today, and Elon Musk’s was a few days ago. It seems like a good time to raise a glass to those who think different.

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Taken on July 9, 2012