Tesla CEO Elon Musk must feel like a human punching bag sometimes, with critics questioning his management style and short-sellers ganging up to forecast Tesla’s downfall.
But Musk has at least one guy in his corner: astrophysicist and science personality Neil deGrasse Tyson, who says we should give the guy a break — he’s going to have a way bigger impact on the future of the world than any of his tech counterparts like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs.
Last month, Musk announced he would be stepping down as Tesla board chairman as part of a settlement with the US Security and Exchange Commission over claims made in August about taking his company private. The move comes as Musk faces increasing concerns over his ability to run not only Tesla but his Boring Company as well as the privately operating Space X, with prominent Tesla investors urging for the addition of independent board directors who don’t have ties to Musk in order to provide stability.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that NASA is ordering a comprehensive safety review of Space X and Boeing, the two companies hired to take astronauts to the International Space Station. Reportedly brought on due to Elon Musk’s cannabis use on a radio show, the review will look into safety culture at the two companies and will involve interviews with hundreds of employees.
“We need to show the American public that when we put an astronaut on a rocket, they’ll be safe,” NASA human spaceflight executive Bill Gerstenmaier said.
But according to Tyson, as unorthodox as he may be, Musk’s eyes are clearly focused on moving humankind forward, which is more than can be said for the other tech CEOs.
“As important as Steve Jobs was — and you have to add him to Bill Gates because they birthed the personal computing revolution together — but here’s the difference: Elon Musk is trying to invent the future not by providing the next app that would be awesome on our smartphone, he is thinking about society, culture, how we interact, what forces need to be in play to take civilization into the next century,” says Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York, to CNBC.
Tyson says that part of that future will involve capturing resources from outer space to be used here on Earth.
“There are unlimited resources in space, resources that we fight wars over,” says Tyson. “In space, you don’t need to fight a war, you just go to another asteroid and get your resources. A whole category of war has the potential of evaporating entirely with the exploitation of space resources, which includes the unlimited access to energy as well. That’s where Elon Musk is.”
Musk is a big proponent of the project to colonize Mars, saying that the red planet can work as a “backup drive” for human civilization.
Tyson says, “I don’t think [Musk] gets his full due from all sectors of society but ultimately he will, when the sectors that he is pioneering transform the lives of those who currently have no clue that their lives are about to change.”
“Go Elon Musk, and I don’t care if he gets high,” says Tyson.