Two-and-a-half months ago, the billionaire industrialist who Reason's Zuri Davis accurately described as a "real-life Tony Stark figure" smoked a little weed during an appearance on comedian Joe Rogan's podcast.
There really wasn't a whole lot to say about this outrageous incident. Musk took a puff of the joint, exhaled, then picked up a glass of whiskey and pointed out that alcohol is a drug that's "been grandfathered in." The CEO of like Tesla and SpaceX wasn't even breaking the law. As Space.com noted at the time, Rogan tapes his podcast in California, where marijuana is legal for recreational use.
Apparently, Musk's behavior "rankled" some high-level officials at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), The Washington Post reported yesterday, citing three officials. The paper said his actions "prompted the agency to take a close look at the culture of" two companies it contracts with: Musk's SpaceX, as well as Boeing.
That "closer look" will take the form of a safety probe of both companies, which plan to help NASA fly astronauts to space starting next year. Unsurprisingly, the space agency wouldn't exactly confirm that Musk's behavior prompted the probe. But NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine did seem to hint at it. "If I see something that's inappropriate, the key concern to me is what is the culture that led to that inappropriateness and is NASA involved in that," he told the Post. "As an agency we're not just leading ourselves, but our contractors, as well. We need to show the American public that when we put an astronaut on a rocket, they'll be safe."
NASA's "requirements for workplace safety," of course, include "adherence to a drug-free environment," agency spokesperson Ben Jacobs told the Post. And SpaceX insists that its "comprehensive drug-free workforce and workplace programs exceed all applicable contractual requirements," according to a statement from the company.
News of the safety review prompted an incredulous response on Twitter from Rogan:
— Joe Rogan (@joerogan) November 21, 2018
It doesn't appear as though Musk has responded to the report, though Rogan's reaction seems about right. There's no evidence to suggest that Musk or any of his SpaceX employees go to work high. Plus, Musk was merely lighting up (and legally doing so) on his own time.
Ultimately, the only thing Musk did wrong was smoke and drink on camera, which meant millions of people would see him do it. Had he done the same in private (maybe he does, who knows?), NASA probably wouldn't have found out or cared.
Musk's behavior might be a bit unconventional, but there's really no reason to believe that he oversees a dangerous workplace. Instead of probing his company, NASA should chill out. Here's a hint: Some weed might do the trick.