An Apollo Tribute to SpaceX

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    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.

    solerena, ~BostonBill~, jeany777, and 41 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    View 20 more comments

    1. PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE 22 months ago | reply

      Amazing idea, gift and feedback Steve !

      I love to see Buzz Aldrin comments and writing on that one :
      And Now, a Giant Leap For Commercial Space ! Buzz Aldrin Apollo XI

    2. fortsonre 22 months ago | reply

      Excellent, and well done! Thank you for posting this, and God Speed, SpaceX!

    3. SolX2010 22 months ago | reply

      If you like Space-X you should check out Sol-X

    4. MHB1974 22 months ago | reply

      How utterly wonderful. Thank you so much, Mr. Jurvetson, for doing this.

      This liberal artist is looking to the stars. They seemed a little closer the day Dragon splashed back down.

    5. Aaron Harper 22 months ago | reply

      This is the single most awesome thing done in aerospace this year that did not directly involve large amounts of fuel and oxidizer. Well done. You have made it possible to build a bridge from our proud legacy to our glorious future, while saving face and dignity of the men who were either uninformed or manipulated by the press.

      My daughter and I were overcome with emotion for what you did. I have no way to thank you adequately. I just wish I could have seen Elon's face. Tears are okay big guy... we were all crying.

    6. Kurstlife 22 months ago | reply

      can't wait to see this in our office in Hawthorne =)

    7. JetForMe 22 months ago | reply

      That is a great story. Nice work!

    8. VancouverDoug 22 months ago | reply

      Words fail me but I'll try. Helping to re-build the bridge between the history of space flight and its logical evolution, the commercialization of space travel, is such a noble and pure thing to do. My compliments Steve and Mohanjit. Huge space-karma no doubt coming your way. :) Thanks!

      Now .... can I order a poster of the signed picture? :)) Please say yes.

    9. jurvetson 22 months ago | reply

      Wow, it's incredible to me to read all these comments. And glad to know I am one of many admirers.

      The SpaceX team posted a photo on fB of it on the receiving side, to the reception of thousands of likes and so many comments and reposts...

      - Here is a full size image.

    10. jitze 22 months ago | reply

      That link to the full size image gives me a "Permission denied"

    11. jurvetson 22 months ago | reply

      thanks for the heads up. I changed my link. Does it work now?

    12. jitze 22 months ago | reply

      We have lift-off - Yes - the link works now - Tx . (Seeing it big just exacerbates the lump in my throat)

    13. Zachary Vex 21 months ago | reply

      That is so very very cool of you, Steve. Thank you!

    14. lrocket 21 months ago | reply

      Thank you so much for this awesome gift to SpaceX! It will be prominently displayed on the wall here where all employees and visitors can enjoy it.
      Tom Mueller, VP of Propulsion, SpaceX

    15. jurvetson 21 months ago | reply


      I am also delighted to see the 60 Minutes addendums, the first two in particular:

      Space News "Clarification, Congratulations Follow '60 Minutes' Segment on SpaceX"

      Space Frontier: "Jurvetson Gives a Truly Great Gift to SpaceX and it includes Gene Cernan"

      NewSpace Journal "Apollo astronauts give thanks to SpaceX"

      Space Politics: "Apollo astronauts, SpaceX, and a special photo"

    16. Kevin Baird 21 months ago | reply

      Alan Stern is speaking about this at LASP as I type this. Very optimistic mood about newspace in this room.

    17. solerena 21 months ago | reply

      To SJ: A very major step in changing people's minds...interesting how one person can make a difference by communicating to the circles of influence. I would love to see space industry trajectory to be J-shaped!:)

    18. ScottKin2001 21 months ago | reply

      @Seatonsnet - The acceleration of technology that was spurned-on by "The Space Race" gave you the the technology you needed to have the capability to make the comment you posted here: the Integrated Circuit is a *direct* outgrowth from the development of the Guidance & Navigation computers used in both the Gemini & Apollo spacecraft. So, if you still feel such remorse for "The Space Race", disconnect from The Internet, toss your Computer & Electronics into an E-Recycling bin or give them to someone who can appreciate them more than you do, and do the rest of the world a favor and try to see a bit farther beyond your own nose. The world's problems that need "fixing" could not be fixed back then and can not be fixed today by throwing money at them - they can only be fixed by a change of heart, a helping hand, a lack of selfishness (which is what the 60's was really all AGAINST: "What ever feels good to YOU, do it!") and a genuine desire to make the opposite side of the world a better place, not just your neighborhood or block or city a better place. More Worldwide Unity was forged by seeing "The Blue Marble" than any single event or act centuries before it, so come down off of your lofty, self-agrandized pedistal @Seatonsnet, drop the "flower-child"/ hippy routine and join the *real* 21st Century.

    19. drona 11 months ago | reply

      What an amazing story...just read it after your FB post on auto-dealerships and followed through the "60 Minutes" thread.

    20. Matt Coop 7 months ago | reply

      I remember someone did this for SpaceX... but I did not know it was you who did this... going to great lengths to help all these Apollo astronauts come to understand and care about Elon's dreams... Not many people can turn things around like this before its too late and these great men leave our presence. This is one of your many great deeds for Elon Musk... and the intangible one here is priceless.

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