Elon Musk won’t be smoking a joint on the video podcast of a famous comedian any time soon, according to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. Speaking with reporters at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC on Thursday, Bridenstine said “you won’t be seeing” Musk publicly smoke marijuana or drink alcohol, as he was seen doing on The Joe Rogan Experience back in September. Bridenstine’s comments were reported earlier this afternoon by The Atlantic.
“I will tell you that was not helpful, and that did not inspire confidence, and the leaders of these organizations need to take that as an example of what to do when you lead an organization that’s going to launch American astronauts,” Bridenstine said in The Atlantic’s report. “I will tell you, he is as committed to safety as anybody, and he understands that that was not appropriate behavior, and you won’t be seeing that again.”
Bridenstine personally ordered a workplace culture and safety review of both Boeing and Musk’s SpaceX earlier this month. Both companies have been tapped by NASA to provide passenger spacecraft for the agency to shuttle astronauts from American soil to the International Space Station, with the first test flights scheduled for next year. The contract is worth a combined $6.8 billion, and it stipulates that both companies “maintain a program for achieving a drug-and alcohol-free workforce.”
Bridenstine says the reviews are an insurance measure to make certain both companies are not prone to accidents that could result in astronaut deaths due to workplace safety, stress, and long work hours. All of those potential issues became a concern for NASA after Musk’s on-camera marijuana use, Bridenstine says, along with very public and transparent admissions from the CEO that he’s been working grueling hours and pushing himself to his absolute limits at his electric car company Tesla.
However, he told the group of reporters that workplace culture and safety assessment was on his agenda before Musk smoked weed with Rogan. Marijuana is now legal in California, where Rogan films his podcast, but Birdenstine says he’s more concerned about drugs like cocaine and opiate use that could seriously impair Boeing and SpaceX employees’ judgement and work performance.
Bridenstine cites disasters like the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, and the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle explosions in 1986 and 2003, respectively. “Every single one of those accidents had a number of complications. Of course, the technological piece was a big piece of it. [But] the other question that always comes up was, what was the culture of NASA?” he said. “What was the culture of our contractors, and were there people that were raising a red flag that we didn’t listen to, and ultimately did that culture contribute to the failure and, in those cases, to disaster?”
Instead of waiting for an incident to occur, NASA wants to review workplace culture at its contractors now, Bridenstine told the press. “We want to get ahead of it. We want to see, right now, today, are they experiencing pressure from schedule, are they experiencing pressure from cost, and are those concerns challenging their thought process in a way that could be dangerous?”
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