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Friday 28 November 2014

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Musk’s Space Talk Wows Crowd at South by Southwest

AUSTIN, Texas — Elon Musk delivered an hour long keynote Saturday before an overflow audience of several thousand at South by Southwest. Musk covered a wide variety of topics including his efforts to build a spaceport in South Texas, an initiative he testified about before the Texas House Appropriations Committee a day earlier.

Media representatives reported those in attendance seemed somewhat starstruck by the billionaire entrepreneur. The SpaceX founder talked about subjects ranging from space-travel technologies to solar power to electric cars. But what the SXSW Interactive attendees were mostly there to hear about were his exploits in outer space.

Referring to the spaceport’s potential location: “Texas is the leading candidate, but we need certain legislation to pass that’s supportive of space launch,” Musk said. “One of the things we need for example is we need to be able to close the beach while we’re doing a launch. And Texas has the ‘open beaches act.’ So it’s like ‘Okay…we can’t launch if there’s someone right next to the rocket on the beach,’” He also said they also need some legal protection from nuisance lawsuits, such as that one person that will complain about a space-port being built — so they won’t spend all their time in court.

Noting that the two operational spaceports in the U.S. (Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg are Air Force Bases, Musk said: “There’s an important need for Air Force space launch bases as there is for Air Force airports. But then there’s also a need for commercial airports,” Musk said.

Musk disputed the notion that his firm is competing with NASA, which he said is his space venture’s largest customer. Instead, he said that he started SpaceX as part of an effort to get Congress to increase NASA’s funding so it could afford to send man to Mars.

“We lost the will to explore and lost the will to push the boundary,” Musk said. But “the United States is a nation of explorers; the United States is a distillation of the human spirit of exploration.” ‘The US is a country of explorers and people need to believe that [space travel] is not going to bankrupt them,’ he said.

Referring to SpaceX’s efforts to develop a fully reusable rocket, Musk unveiled a video of the newest Grasshopper test. Musk said this was the first time anyone other than he and the video editor had seen the footage and, referring to the Grasshopper, stated, “It can land on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter.”

Re-usability is important, said Musk, “If on Star Trek they got a new ship after every mission it would be silly … if we want a space beyond Earth, it’s critical we solve this problem.”

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