Musk Reads

Musk’s Starship is "crushingly cost-effective" — until it gets to Mars

SpaceX gets ready for Mars; Tesla’s in hot water; Musk hates hydrogen.

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SpaceX gets ready for Mars; Tesla’s in hot water; Musk hates hydrogen. It’s the free edition of Musk Reads #260 subscribe now to receive two more editions later this week!

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Musk quote of the week

“Mad respect for the makers.” — Elon Musk tweeted on August 14, seemingly unprompted and hopeful.

SpaceX: Musk finds Mars closer than ever

A lot of exciting things are happening for SpaceX, which recently completed stacking its soon-to-be orbital Starship. If we can trust Musk’s timeline (emphasis on “if”), that stacked If the FAA permits, Starship will reach orbit in “a few weeks.”

Musk is looking to that future and beyond, theorizing on Twitter about the “crushingly cost-effective” potential of a reusable Starship, particularly as it pertains to orbital and lunar flights from Earth.

“Mars is a lot harder, “because Earth and Mars only align every 26 months,” Musk wrote, limiting Starship’s capacity for reusability. In any case, Musk is certain Starship will take humanity where it's never dreamed of going before.

Elon Musk responds to a fan on Twitter.

To help it do that, SpaceX is developing Mechazilla, a giant chrome arm designed to gingerly catch Super Heavy boosters and stack Starship.

A fan posts a mock-up video of what Mechazilla might look like; Musk mostly agrees.

Mechazilla will also, according to Musk, pluck Starship out of the sky upon landing, making it so future Starships will need “no landing legs.”

“Those are only needed for [the moon] and Mars until there is local infrastructure,” Musk said.

Until Musk gets those local lunar Starbucks set up, we can look forward to SpaceX getting humans on the moon probably sooner” than 2024, as well as the all-civilian Inspiration4 mission scheduled for September 15 take-off.

Some SpaceX news has much lower stakes — mostly just the news that, like any 16-year-old or self-respecting gossip blogger, Musk has been getting a lot of subtweeting done recently. It’s pretty much all targeted at Jeff Bezos, Musk’s newly sworn nemesis after all the infographics he commissioned.

Here are some selections:

Musk cyberbullies Bezos, part one.

Musk cyberbullies Bezos, part two.

Tesla: Full-Self Driving gets an upgrade — and an investigation

On August 13, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) formally opened a preliminary investigation involving around 765,000 Tesla manufactured from 2014 to now.

The investigation, which involves Tesla’s Model S, X, Y, and 3 vehicles, is motivated by 11 crashes over the last three years involving Tesla’s Autopilot and a first responder scene, like a flashing lights and road cones. Four of the 11 crashes happened in 2021, and three happened in 2020.

This investigation is just getting started, but NHTSA investigations into Tesla’s Autopilot safety is nothing new. In June, the NHTSA had 30 open investigations into Autopilot-related crashes, filing eight of them since March 2021.

But despite the potential danger, many people are still interested in Tesla’s Autopilot technology, and even more of them are interested in Full-Self Driving.

Musk has mostly followed through on his goal of biweekly Full-Self Driving updates, with the most recent one, Beta 9.2, scheduled to come in by August 17. According to Musk, Beta 9.2 will include a few improvements, including a boost through turns onto “major roads,” a faster and “better” vulnerable road user (VRU) model, and a new “shadow mode” for crossing and merging. Musk posted the full (fairly jargon-heavy) list of improvements on Twitter.

The full list of Beta 9.2 improvements.

He also mentioned that the highly coveted FSD download button, often referred to online as “The Button,” that he first announced in March might make an appearance in the next four weeks of updates.

Do you have thoughts on Tesla’s FSD updates so far? Let us know by replying to this email or in the comments below.

In October, Musk hopes to bring Tesla fans (and vehicles) to Germany, announcing a “Giga Berlin-Brandenburg county fair and factory tour” for October 9, 2021. This is perhaps an ambitious thing to announce now — production at the German Gigafactory is currently unapproved due to the building’s unfortunate positioning over a protected drinking water zone. But what is Musk if not ambitious?

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To those heroes working for our future, I am honored to be a very small part of this great adventure by the genius of Elon Musk and company. I’m a retired American Airlines pilot and former Naval Aviator. Elon is my hero. He makes life so much more exciting and interesting with his world of fantastic and incredible ideas and projects to benefit all mankind. Thank you Elon, God’s speed.”
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In other Musk news…

T-minus the internet

A ranked list of everything Musk-related and online, handpicked weekly with bionic precision.

10. No one’s immune to conflict, not Elon Musk’s most dedicated fans. An innocent FSD test driving video tweet spawned a lengthy discussion over FSD’s flaws and whether they exist. They do! It’s Beta software, people!

9. Musk and his fans have also been dunking on hydrogen cars a lot recently. YouTuber Physics Girl posted a (sponsored by Toyota) video promising to tell “The Truth” about driving a hydrogen car. What do you think?

8. I think we might need to consider all our options as the climate crisis becomes the new normal. Read more.

7. Every day, regular people are figuring out regular ways to press pause on climate change’s worst effects. Or, at the very least, ways to make ourselves feel better about all the corporations and gas tanks gunning for our heat death. Some of those people are the journalists running Hothouse, a Substack dedicated to “simple climate action.” Read more.

6. But enough about that, enjoy a moment of escapism by pretending like your Starlink order finally shipped. Watch now.

5. Are brain implants the new pacemaker? One day, they could be.

4. One day, Starship will put humans on the moon. But first, its astronauts need to sort out their outfits. May I suggest a Barbarella-type influence in the delayed spacesuit design?

3. Musk hates Jeff Bezos, and Bezos hates unions. Read more.

2. Actually, they both hate unions, and so does Musk’s brother Kimbal. Vice reports that his pro-gardening non-profit, Big Green, is one of many “outwardly progressive institutions” to violate worker’s rights. Class solidarity!

1. And a piece of Musk history: Take a look at the letter Tesla Motors sent to Musk upon offering him a CEO position in 2008. Tesla offered Musk $33,280 a year, no overtime, and at-will employment. So he’s been there, I think.

The ultra-fine print — This has been Musk Reads #260, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Ashley Bardhan, assistant to Musk Reads.

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