HBO has announced plans to film a scripted series about SpaceX. Elon Musk came up with the idea of the series to showcase both the history and the sometimes lively discussion about the pros and cons of the still relatively-new aerospace company. The series will also highlight Musk’s plans to provide the transportation for eventual colonization of Mars.
As recently as Musk’s most recent appearance at the virtual Mars Society conference on October 16, Musk was quick to tout the benefits of future colonies on Mars. While he acknowledged that Mars might never be regarded as a second Earth, he says that Martian colonies would be new and exciting and give humanity a shot at surviving an “extinction level event”.
He says SpaceX could begin sending its Starship spacecraft to Mars as early as 2024 if testing goes smoothly and expressed a little frustration at the limitations imposed by orbital mechanics. An ideal launch window for sending hardware and, eventually, human crews to Mars opens up only once every 26 months. The Perserverance rover took advantage of the last launch window during its launch on July 30 for a February 2021 landing.
On the flip side, many people question why companies are so willing to spend money on space when there are so many problems on Earth. The detractors are often dismissive of the launch of satellites like SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, which is already providing Internet access for Washington State’s emergency services while they fight wildfires and closing the “digital divide” for less advantaged populations like the Native American Hoh Tribe. SpaceX also plans to launch a satellite that can measure the effect of climate change on the ocean on November 10.
There have been very few details on how involved Musk is going to be in the production of this series. With some luck, it will stick to the facts and present a reasonably balanced view of Musk and SpaceX. On the one hand, SpaceX has already overcome obstacles ranging from a near-bankruptcy and exploding rockets, met its goal of demonstrating the viability and especially the cost savings of reusable rockets, and successfully flew two astronauts to the International Space Station on the Demo-1 demonstration of its Crew Dragon.
On the other, Elon Musk may wish to consider hiring a good personal social media manager to prevent the fallout of public meltdowns on Twitter. His unfounded accusations of pedophilia against a diver involved in the rescue of a Thai soccer team that had been stuck in an underground cavern caused some concern about his impulse control. Some of his tweets regarding Tesla’s stock price cost him his membership on Tesla’s board due to accusations of market manipulation.
Will this series reveal new information about SpaceX’s journey and Musk’s ambitions for space and especially Mars? Or might HBO’s handling of the series cause unintended consequences for SpaceX, as Carol Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue says happened with the documentary “Tiger King?” Statements from Big Cat Rescue accuse Netflix of misrepresenting its intentions for the filming of the documentary, which spread the unproven accusation that Baskin killed her estranged husband and fed him to a tiger.
Musk may be interested in avoiding a similar trap in his negotiations with HBO for the SpaceX series. If he’s smart, he’ll be okay with presenting a balanced view of SpaceX. However, he may want to keep at least enough creative control to make certain that HBO keeps its facts straight.