If the idea is to see beautiful images from space and understand the complexity of space missions, Back to Space (2h 08min), available on Netflix since the beginning of the month, is a great documentary to learn while having fun.
Now, anyone who thinks this is the best way to get to know one of the heroes of the business, South African entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, is wrong.
Return to Space begins at the end, showing the launch of the first commercial manned spaceflight toward the International Space Station, operated by SpaceX, in 2020. It goes back in history to give context to the failure of the United States’ shuttle program. The space.
Musk to the rescue
The US space agency decided to stop the space shuttle program in 2011 because it was too expensive and caused accidents that killed many astronauts. Netflix itself has a series called “Challenger – The Final Flight”, which talks about one of these tragedies, back in the late 80s.
In doing so, the state began sending astronauts with Russian Soyuz rockets and opened a discussion with the private sector for space exploration, until then it was limited to NASA.
In the documentary, attention is drawn to the exhilarating nature of the exhibit, as if the end of the space program marked the end of children’s dreams in the United States of becoming astronauts.
In this context, Elon Musk appears, a businessman who became a millionaire with PayPal (a payment company) and decided to create SpaceX for space flights. At first, he claimed that he had the money to fire only three missiles. (The first three were even failed and exploded).
The big difference for SpaceX was the development of a system for reusing thrusters (which reduced the process by up to a tenth of the amount spent by NASA, according to the data mentioned in the same documentary), as well as the creation of a capsule that would protect astronauts in the event of a rocket explosion.
No one doubts that Musk is a visionary. In addition to SpaceX (founded in 2002), he’s also behind Tesla, an electric car brand founded in 2003, whose market value has already outpaced traditional manufacturers.
At SpaceX, he has proven that he can spend all of his fortune on his childhood dream: exploring space and visiting Mars.
However, the documentary ends by highlighting the ambitious part of Musk so much and leaving aside (or citing many at the top) controversies involving the entrepreneur.
Although the feature film cites some controversial issues, everything passes very quickly, which may not give a real idea of the eccentricity of the entrepreneur.
- NASA was the mother of SpaceX
The US space agency SpaceX simply saved by concluding a $1.6 billion contract in 2008. According to Musk, the company’s money was already running out.
From this decade, which included sending cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), the company began to gain strength and perform several successful missions, as well as improve the technology for making rockets land in the middle of the ocean.
In 2021, NASA signed a new $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX to make moon landing modules. They will be used in the Artemis mission, scheduled for 2024.
The Los Angeles Times estimates that the entrepreneur’s companies have already received $4.9 billion in subsidies from the US government.
Musk opposes the fees, but has benefited from US taxpayer money, whether from NASA-paid SpaceX missions or from state subsidies for clean energy to make electric cars or Tesla’s solar panels.
The documentary, for example, mentions the controversy surrounding him smoking marijuana while participating in the Joe Rogan Experience podcast in 2018.
It might be an unimportant fact, but at the time NASA had a contract with SpaceX, one clause states that the company must “maintain a program so that the workforce is drug- and alcohol-free” — which, in this case, also includes Company owner.
After all the backlash, NASA said Musk promised he wouldn’t use marijuana in public.
In 2018, the entrepreneur invented a new company called A Boring to advertise a flamethrower. He decided to call it “this is not a flamethrower”, because that was the only way customs agencies would accept shipping items to buyers.
There was no direct impact on SpaceX, but the fallout from the flamethrower drew everyone’s attention to the billionaire’s weirdness. Out of nowhere, he invented a company and began selling guns.
- Cloth passage of differences
In the documentary, astronaut Doug Hurley, who was on the first commercial manned flight from SpaceXAttributes the events carried out by its founder.
“He’s a human being like all of us,” he says. “Musk has a greater vision not just for society, but for the planet. That has never changed.”
Is it worth it?
A side note about the SpaceX founder, “Back to Space” is worthwhile for anyone minimally interested in the topic. The narrative focuses heavily on the astronauts who made the first manned flights from American soil and on the history of Elon Musk’s space company.
It’s also good to see the complexity of building an effective rocket, such as the “mandinga” that employees and astronauts (mostly professionals trained in engineering) do to avoid misfortune during launches (such as colorful stockings, amulets, and color-coded clothing) and the beautiful photographs that have been made. Captured from the mission and everyday life of the International Space Station.