SpaceX NPR Interview

So, NPR decides to interview Gwynne Shotwell of SpaceX. I was really annoyed by the tone of the guy doing the interview. I’ve met Gwynne on one occasion, and I think she handled the interview pretty well all things considered, but the guy’s attitude still torqued me a bit.

I mean, if you look at how open SpaceX has been so far about things compared to about any other company other than MSS and Armadillo, there just really isn’t any comparison–these guys have been very open. John Carmack is about the only guy I know with the intestinal fortitude sufficient to show off pictures of his pranged vehicles, and I think even he would be a lot more reticent to do that if he had as much invested in his projects as Elon does. I mean seriously, these guys are doing this for a living. Cut ’em some slack. As much as I really am dying to find out what happened, I’m not an investor, an employee, or a paying customer (or potential paying customer). If Elon wants to let the rest of us know what happened, that’s their prerogative…

Anyhow, I feel better now. That is all.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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7 Responses to SpaceX NPR Interview

  1. Anonymous says:

    I remember watching Ira Flatow on a local (Minnesota) public TV science show called “Newton’s Apple”, probably 15 years ago or more. I always wondered what happened to him. I respected him a lot on that show; but now he’s just another rabid journalist interested in making himself look good by tearing into his interviewees.

    I guess that also points out quite clearly how ‘canned’ TV shows are; even TV science shows. Everything scripted ahead of time to make everyone look good… live interviews are much messier.


    p.s. go see ‘V for Vendetta’. Absolutely one of the best movies ever made.

  2. Anonymous says:

    At first, I was a little ticked at Ira Flatow as well. However, I took a look at the new videos that SpaceX uploaded to its site and they indeed are truncated, even though most of us have seen the not overdramatic internal camera through explosion and impact with the water. Why did SpaceX become shy all of the sudden?

    In any event, also Flatow was probably peeved that he had scheduled Musk but got Shotwell at the last minute.

    Dan Schmelzer

  3. Michael Mealling says:

    Because if you make those available they get played over and over and over again. There’s a huge difference between those of us who understand this industry watching the live video and understanding what’s going on and your Joe Average CNN viewer watching the crash video on CNN Headline News every half hour. Yes its sad that this is the way the world works but I’d also like free ice cream every Thursday afternoon. You go to war with the world your given…

    BTW, I preferred the original version, Jon. 😉

  4. Brian Dunbar says:

    Consider that Ira may be expressing some frustration that we all might feel. Sure these things rarely work on first flight but .. damnit it shoulda worked. I doubt he’d be doing science journalism for NPR if he weren’t enamored (at least in part) with science and, perhaps, space.

    And to the press are used to being able to press NASA for something .. anything .. after accidents. Privatizing space flight is going to lead to these conflicts in the future.

  5. Iain McClatchie says:


    I catch “Science Friday” fairly often. Ira is almost always disappointing, regardless of the subject matter. He had Mr. Musk on his show a month or two ago, along with a panel of other luminaries (ex-astronaut, lobbyist, etc), and it was amusing how quickly the rest of the bunch deferred to Musk. Then Elon had to deal with questions about things like space elevators. Grrr.

    Ira seemed to think the big story just now was why the media hasn’t gotten free pictures of exploding rockets. I’m not sure why he cares, given that he fronts a radio show, and the sounds of dismayed launch engineers are probably not salesworthy. Gwynne probably should have had some historical anecdotes about the amount of time it usually takes before NASA, Blockmart, or the Russians release pictures. My understanding is that it’s usually years later. Didn’t we all just get to see 3-year-old movies of the Proton launch explosion?

    Ira may also have had the problem of a 7 minute time slot and a last-minute firm promise that SpaceX would not elaborate on the failure mode, and would not cough up the CEO. What else was he going to ask about? He did ask about the schedule.

  6. Jon Goff says:

    I think you’ve all made pretty good points. As annoying as Ira sounded, there were some extenuating circumstances, and he probably deserved to have some slack cut for him too. That’s what I get for posting without thinking.


  7. Anonymous says:

    Disregarding the fact that I only paid $22 in federal taxes for 2005, I think it’s legitimate to claim that I really am a paying customer for this flight. It is tax-payer funded.

    For that reason, the government should probably be open about what happened. I see no rationale for grilling Gwynne about information that the customer, i.e. DARPA/USAF should be releasing themselves. If Ira Flatow wants it, they’re the ones he should be asking, not the company providing the launch service.

    That said, considering who the customer is, I expect the paperwork to take at least 8 months before any information is released.


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