Musk Reads: Elon Musk dismisses coronavirus “panic”

Starlink's low latency could unlock funding and another launch gets delayed. What about hyperloop?

Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Starlink’s low latency could unlock funding and another launch gets delayed. What about hyperloop? It’s Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #151.

A version of this article appeared in the “Musk Reads” newsletter. Sign up for free here.

Musk quote of the week

“Occupy Mars.”


Musk told SpaceX employees they were more likely to die in a car crash than from coronavirus, BuzzFeed reported Friday. Musk told employees in an email that COVID–19 was “not within the top 100 health risks in the United States,” explaining that “there are about 36 thousand automotive deaths per deaths [sic], as compared to 36 so far this year for C19.” The report came after Musk described the coronavirus “panic” as “dumb” on March 6, adding two days later that the fatality rate was “greatly overstated.” Brandon Brown, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Riverside, told the publication that Musk’s logic was “crazy” at a time when governments are encouraging social distancing. The World Health Organization, which advises people to take measures to prevent the spread, claims that around one in five people that catch the disease need hospital care.

There will be “no chance” of a city on Mars unless the rate of innovation improves, Musk claimed last week. Speaking at the Satellite 2020 conference in Washington, DC, Musk explained that he might not live long enough to see his city take shape without a change in fortunes. Musk is aiming to build a city on Mars by 2050, using the Starship rocket currently under development at the Boca Chica facility in Texas. Read more.

SpaceX could launch its first astronauts in May, company president Gwynne Shotwell declared last week.

SpaceX Starlink

Is Starlink low latency? The answer could unlock up to $16 billion in rural broadband subsidies. The Federal Communications Commission has earmarked the money to improve connections over the next 10 years, but an earlier draft suggested SpaceX would have been disadvantaged as a satellite broadband provider. These firms have typically offered high latency services up to 20 times slower to respond than land-based providers. SpaceX is aiming for a latency below 20 milliseconds, ideal for video games. Read more.

Astronomers are growing increasingly concerned about Starlink, which could see the agency launch up to 42,000 satellites as part of the constellation. A study published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics found that up to 50 percent of exposures from the United States National Science Foundation’s Vera C. Rubin Observatory could be ruined. SpaceX has been working with the astronomical community to mitigate the effects. Read more.

What’s next for SpaceX: SpaceX is scheduled to launch its sixth batch of 60 Starlink satellites on March 18 at 8:21 a.m. Eastern time from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the fifth scheduled date for launch. It was most recently scheduled to launch March 15, but SpaceX aborted the launch hours before flight. SpaceX completed the static test firing last week.

Musk Reads mailroom

Earnest Thompson writes:

I live near a polluting airport [Seattle-Tacoma International Airport] whose jets pollution is literally killing us. I’m fighting for Hyperloop. Hyperloop = No Noise - No pollution- The Solution! How can we push this technology forward more effectively than my limited means allow?

It may take a while for hyperloop to serve as a viable airport replacement. A European standards body has only just been set up, and a track from Pune to Mumbai has been left with an uncertain future. The best way to contribute may be to join an existing team or company if you have relevant skills for an open position. Virgin Hyperloop One is hiring in Los Angeles.

John Nye writes:

When will this SpaceX offering be available? I’m retired but I would like to buy five shares for each of my grand daughters. I believe that Musk has seen the future. Even though it’s too late for me, I want my girls to benefit from some timely investing by Grandpa.

Unfortunately, Musk poured cold water on the prospect of a Starlink IPO at a recent convention. At the Satellite 2020 conference in Washington, DC, Musk said he was putting “zero” thoughts into the idea.

Got any comments or queries? Don’t forget to send them over to

Video of the week

Starship SN2’s test tank survives its cryo proof test.

Got any photos or videos you’d like to share? Feel free to send them over to

The ultra-fine print

This has been Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #149, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Mike Brown, an innovation journalist for Inverse.

A version of this article appeared in the “Musk Reads” newsletter. Sign up for free here.

Related Tags