The former SpaceX-antagonist and current NASA chief Bill Nelson has come up with a statement that is now everywhere.
“When there was the beginning of the space cargo and crew [programs], the two serious bidders were SpaceX and Boeing, and everybody poo-pooed SpaceX and said, ‘Oh, Boeing is a legacy company,'” he said in a new interview with Newsweek. “Well, guess who is about to make its sixth flight after its first test flight with astronauts, and guess who’s still on the ground?”
It was an obvious take at Boeing, which has, in short, been absolutely behind SpaceX’s for more than a decade. But it was directed to himself as well, seeing as how, by many accounts, Nelson himself was one of those early SpaceX “poo-pooers.”
This isn’t the first time that the head of NASA has done this, either. At his NASA nomination hearing back in 2021, Nelson stated that through a series of laws from the mid-80s, he’d personally “laid the foundation for the emergence of the modern commercial space sector.”
But according to former colleagues and US Senate minutes, Nelson hasn’t always been such a big fan of the privatized space travel industry or SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
Back in 2010, when Nelson was still a senator, he was extremely against a Senate push to fund Commercial Crew missions into the cosmos, as corroborated by allegations from former NASA second-in-command Lori Garver in her recently published memoir. In that same memoir, Garver also claimed that Nelson once “screamed at me to ‘get your boy Elon in line.'”
Nelson’s save-face efforts aren’t terribly surprising given SpaceX’s prominent successes.
“I think the private space industry is extremely beneficial,” Nelson told Newsweek. “Just look at what SpaceX has already accomplished.”