Today, when asked about Elon Musk’s pessimistic attitude toward the economy, President Joe Biden made a dismissive little quip: “Lots of luck on his trip to the Moon.” It’s a funny aside — but there’s one tiny hitch. Technically, a good chunk of SpaceX’s funding to return people to the Moon comes from the Biden administration.
Biden was asked about Musk’s opinions today during a press conference at the White House. Specifically, a reporter wanted to know what Biden would say to the Tesla and SpaceX CEO “around his feeling about the economy.” The question was in reference to a recent report that Tesla would be freezing hiring and cutting its workforce by 10 percent because of Musk’s “super bad feeling” about the economy, according to an email he wrote to Tesla executives.
In response, Biden listed off companies like Ford, Stellantis, and IBM that are making investments in the US at the moment, before making his Moon comment. But here’s the thing: SpaceX’s “trip to the Moon” is a key part of NASA’s Artemis mission, the space agency’s initiative to send the first woman and the first person of color to the lunar surface. Artemis was a creation under the Trump administration, but it was one of the few programs that survived the transition of power. And in 2021, Biden’s NASA selected SpaceX to develop the company’s next-generation rocket, called Starship, as a lunar lander for Artemis. The agency awarded the company $2.9 billion to turn Starship into a vehicle that can transport humans to and from the lunar surface, and as of now, the plan is for SpaceX to conduct the first Artemis landing as early as 2025.
So, the Biden administration should definitely hope SpaceX has good luck with its Moon trip, seeing as it’s a critical part of NASA’s flagship human spaceflight program. Perhaps Biden’s comment was completely genuine in that way? In any case, Musk has since responded:
To be fair, there’s precedent of presidents making space-related gaffes. President Trump didn’t quite understand the Artemis program that his administration started either. And it’s also something that perhaps the general public doesn’t really keep tabs on. During a recent episode of Jeopardy, contestants were provided with the $1,000 clue that read as follows: “The NASA program named for this sister of Apollo looks to land a woman (& a man) on the Moon by 2024.” None of the three contestants knew the answer.