There’s nothing like a little friendly competition between two aerospace titans. While defending his company’s space investments and current strategy, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg threw a jab at SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
While speaking at the Politico Space Forum, Muilenburg was asked if Boeing had plans to launch cars into space to compete with rival SpaceX’s Tesla Roadster currently in orbit. Muilenburg joked that he doesn’t but the company “might pick up the one out there and bring it back.”
The cherry-red Tesla Roadster was launched into space from the Falcon Heavy in February. Complete with Starman, the mannequin astronaut behind the wheel, the image of a car in space has solidified SpaceX’s image as the company at the forefront of aerospace innovation. Musk even provided a map of Starman’s itinerary on Twitter, announcing a new route to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Starman’s joyride has launched a bunch of memes and even some fan fiction. Muilenburg’s joke suggests Boeing is sick of that floating advertisement and is ready to be Starman’s tow truck.
Towing Starman wouldn’t be such a bad idea for Muilenburg. Even though Boeing has its own plans for Mars, the Fortune 50 company has made jokes at SpaceX’s expense in the past. The growing celebrity around Elon Musk has already helped SpaceX undercut established rivals in the space race. Musk can also boast government contracts thanks to the company’s focus on sustainability, offering reusable rocket boosters that lower costs.
Boeing and SpaceX now hold government contracts and are currently working on commercial spacecrafts, or “space taxis” to send humans into orbit. Both companies are working on these rival projects under a shared $6.8 billion NASA program, but both companies are currently behind schedule.
If Muilenburg wanted to get more personal, he could have thrown a jab at Tesla’s rumored financial problems, but the aerospace heavyweights are keeping the jokes lighthearted, for now.