NASA and SpaceX co-launched four astronauts from the Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station on Sunday, November 15, in a historic moment that represents the first real step for commercial space travel. But, Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX and noted COVID skeptic, was forced to witness the Crew Dragon spacecraft lift-off remotely. Why? Because he has apparently contracted COVID-19.
Musk announced on Twitter that he took four rapid antigen tests, with two tests returning from the lab positive and the other two negative. On Thursday, Nov. 12, Musk cast doubt about the legitimacy of the results, writing, “Something extremely bogus is going on. Was tested for covid four times today. Two tests came back negative, two came back positive. Same machine, same test, same nurse. Rapid antigen test from BD.” When asked about his symptoms, he wrote, “Symptoms of a typical cold. Nothing unusual so far.”
NASA won’t admit anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 into its facilities, including Musk. Jim Bridenstine, a NASA Administrator, explained, “When somebody tests positive for Covid, here at the Kennedy Space Center and across NASA it is our policy for that person to quarantine and self isolate,” as per The Independent. These pretty basic requirements for self-quarantining are still a step above and ahead of what many local governments have put into place across the country.
On Saturday, Nov. 14, the day before the launch, Musk seems to have accepted that he has contracted the virus, writing in a Twitter post, “Am getting wildly different results from different labs, but most likely I have a moderate case of covid.”
However, the SpaceX CEO still managed to downplay the severity of the virus, which has thus far killed more than 245,000 Americans, writing, “My symptoms are that of a minor cold, which is no surprise, since a coronavirus is a type of cold.”
Despite Musk’s coronavirus case and a weathering scheduling delay due to Hurricane Eta, the Crew Dragon’s launch appears to be a roaring success so far.
The Crew Dragon is a historic mission for several reasons. One of the astronauts, Victor Glover, will be the first Black astronaut to be a member of the ISS crew. Black astronauts before him had been at the station for shorter periods of time. Plus, the launch will potentially open up more commercial space travel, including even the rumored possibility of a movie production with Tom Cruise, per The New York Times, and it marks the first time since 2011 that the U.S. has been able to send astronauts to the ISS without relying on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
This SpaceX and NASA launch is set to be the first trip of many to bring four astronauts to the ISS for six-month-long periods to conduct research, including exploring whether fungi can break apart asteroid rock and if food can be grown in outer space. And while it might have been bungled by Musk’s COVID case, that only makes it all the more “2020.”
Check out the lift-off at the Kennedy Space Center, below.
Resilience rises. 🚀
— NASA (@NASA) November 16, 2020