Starship 15 Lands: Risk is the key to all things in life

I felt great pride and was delighted to see that SpaceX managed to land their Serial Number 15 at their Boca Chica facility in Texas this past week.  It was quite a week, on May 4th, “Star Wars Day,” SpaceX launched successfully more of their Starlink satellites only to have the Falcon rocket land on a small platform in the Atlantic Ocean, right on the X painted on the surface.  Then the next day, with all the public scrutiny hoping for failure toward the Starship program in general, SpaceX took a big-time chance on a cloudy day to launch Serial Number 15.  A failure would have been a big hit on an otherwise triumphant week for the company, and nobody blamed them.  Most companies wouldn’t have taken that risk, but that is why SpaceX is so good.  They are highly competent, they are constantly striving for tomorrow, and they aren’t afraid of risk.  Much of that comes from Elon Musk, a guy who works 80 to 100 hours a week, showing in his products—and his employees.  Even with his pot-smoking incident on that radio show a few years ago, he has won me over because he has guts; he has a great imagination. He has injected into his companies great youthful ambition.  He loves what he does, work is not a nuisance to him, and we are all benefiting as a result.  So, when that Starship Serial Number 15 nailed their landing on a Wednesday afternoon in May, as four astronauts had just splashed down from the International Space Station on Sunday in the middle of the night, then they had the Falcon rocket launch and triumphant return on Tuesday. The Starship launch on Wednesday, I was more elated not just at all the successes but in the bold ambition of it all. 

Maybe even more than all that, though, during the previous week, Elon Musk warned enthusiastically that once these Starships start going to Mars and the Moon, that there would be accidents, that people would die as a result of the various adventures that are yet to unfold.  That was an important thing to do especially given the target on the back of himself and his companies.  The media parasites are looking for any slight stumble to cripple Musk in perpetual court battles. Yet, Elon has managed to stay in front of that ankle-biter mentality with some focused warnings that indicate danger and even death is not the worst thing in the world.  Then I might add, which is implied in Musk’s position, which he could never afford to endorse, that stagnation and yielding to crippling governments are far worse than death.  When Musk said that the Moon missions and going out to Mars would be volunteers who would know what they were getting themselves into before climbing on a Starship to head into space, it is fair and should be understood.  The media representing the government’s control of society through fears of safety is far more dangerous than a stagnant society. That is a conversation we need to be having.  Its time.

All the great leaps of the human race involve risk.  Most great things that we do in life involve risk.  Even asking someone out on a date requires risk; the fear of rejection can be paralyzing.  In this age of online dating and matchmaking, even that is being taken away from us as human beings, the thrill of facing down risk and enjoying the fruits of the rewards when you hit it big is the primary driver of human behavior.  We can blame the government for overstepping its bounds in assuming that averting risk is their direct way of measuring the value of government.  From their point of view, sure, it seems logical.  Make it so people never die and protect them from everything, and the government thinks they can justify their existence.  But the payment for that incursion is that our society stagnates dramatically.  A safe world is a boring world.  Now we’ve managed to simulate danger in our society with amusement parks, zip lines all over the place, MMA sporting events.  We understand the need for risk and threat that is a part of all our lives.  But there is nothing like real risk in a rickety airplane that we built at the start of the Age of Aviation or NASCAR drivers who risk a great deal every weekend on national television.  NASCAR is a lot safer than it used to be.  Drivers can crash at over 200 MPH all the time and now walk away.  That is because the trail of tragedy that led to that safety record did have many people who died, specifically drivers like Dale Earnhardt.  Now, who thinks the old “Intimidator” would take back his life to avert that risk?  It’s only the weak people who are timid in the world who believe in such a way that they would put safety over risk.  Risk is what drives the world forward and makes everything better.

Back in the day, every space launch from NASA would be broadcast on live television.  People understood the risk, and they wanted to watch the space race.  But when NASA did have an accident here and there, the federal government would lockdown on the safety aspects and kill the momentum of innovation needed to advance us into the stars.  SpaceX was barely covered with all the mentioned activities just over this past week because people have become used to the excellent safety record that SpaceX has.  But there will be accidents; people will get hurt.  People will die eventually.  Yet that doesn’t mean we should stop doing anything risky.  People die every day in car accidents, and we do not stop driving cars.  We deal with the risk because we value the benefits.  Now the government would love to get rid of cars and put us all on public transit where they can manage the risk by going 20 MPH and stopping at all railroad crossings.  But that is boring and not good for our lives.  It might be good for the government to measure things, but it’s not suitable for the species of the human race.  We need risk, we need danger, and we need adventure.  We must push ourselves in challenging ways, and we must strive to succeed even if the blood of failure has been spilled on us.        

Anyway, a big congratulations to SpaceX for such a fantastic week; significant risks were taken. Still, the hard work and thousands of important decisions that went into these programs certainly paid off, even if most people don’t understand the relevance.  They will eventually.  Watching Starship 15 stick that landing was a marvelous thing to see.  The door to the future was kicked open, and I liked the glimpse of what I saw on the other side.  It was breathtaking to watch. It’s been a long time since I was that happy to see someone else accomplish something, but that’s what I felt for the entire SpaceX team.  And Elon Musk, a billionaire who has never lost his way, sets the example of what hard work looks like by often sleeping on a couch in the middle of the shop floor of his companies because he doesn’t even have an office.  The result shows in all these successes, and I am proud to be in a culture that shares space with him.  I share with him the same work hours, and there is no way to cheat the system.  And it’s good to see other people working hard and always finding the positives no matter how challenging the problems are. 

Cliffhanger the Overmanwarrior


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