Chapter 11: The Smell of Musk

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 001, Sur Two, Wednesday, Sol 14 (001.2.14)  06:33 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Friday, 18 March 2016  2:00 PM PDT
  • Distance traveled:  76,604,040 kilometers   Time Delay:  3 mins 16 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  315,805,712 kilometers

The Command team had gathered in Jenna’s quarters for the morning briefing from Megan. Morning shift did not begin until 8:00 AM NST, but because Jenna was now the ESEP Director, they had to be ahead of the Earthside ESEP administrators, so the day now started at 6:00 AM for her team.

Megan was going over the status updates she had received,

“The target date for launch of the Mars Computer Complex is now Sol 51 of this month. All three segments will be launched on that day. Claude told me yesterday that they will have the ship ready to leave orbit by Sol 58. It will arrive at Mars at Sol 4 of Sur Four, or July 7th. 

Because they need to follow human stress protocols for the G-load of the computer systems, that ship will have a crew. It now has been reclassified as Mission Two instead of Mission One B. Claude is working with the engineers on the configuration, but it looks like the ship will be about the size of the QE II. The name of the ship?…are you ready for this?…it is to be called Data…after the Star Trek android character. 

On board the Data should be most of the replacement and administrative personnel you’ll need. They won’t have much time to train. A suggestion was made late yesterday to put the entire crew of the initial Mission Two on the Data Mission. If that happens we will have about sixty people on the new Mission Two. They are doing the math and will let us know today.

Earth Prime’s Computer Complex will launch on Sol 56 and should be operational by Sol 10 of Sur Three.

As for my personal assistant staff, thank you. It’s going to take some time to get used to, and I still think this is a revenge thing on your part, Jenna, but I suppose it is necessary. I’ve never felt so safe or pampered.

Regarding the new Mars schedule, Earthside seems to be in agreement that everything on the accelerated plan can be done on time. The target date for the Mission Three is now Sol 2 of Sur Four or July 5th. We are now looking at an early or mid-August launch for the Mission Four, and Mission Five in late October or early November.

This is pushing our launch facilities up to capacity with two to three launches per day. Chile is moving forward to building two more launch pads and we are about to break ground on our Nippon launch facility.

Quill manufacturing is ramping up. Our biggest problem has been the American-owned, investor-run, companies. We are fortunate that the former Director established a policy of minimizing our relationships with investor-run companies. Oour suppliers in France, Germany, Spain, Nippon, Great Britain, and Korea have stepped in to pick up the slack. Earth Prime has been using the new procedures in assembling the ships and it is shaving months off the schedule. Tell Zeke that Claude is very happy.

Elon Musk is upset about your SpaceX remarks on Charlie Rose. Apparently, your point that his entire program is based on reinventing thirty-year-old space technology sent his stocks into free fall. I think he’d like to come up and give you a good lecture…if he had a craft that could get out of low Earth orbit.

NASA is not too happy with you either, but I suspect their employees know that your analysis of their program is spot on.

That’s all for now. I’ll talk to you later this morning, unless you have something more urgent. Have a great day!”

Ken looked at Jenna and said, “We need to talk about Musk.”

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 001, Sur Two, Thursday, Sol 15 (001.2.15)  05:55 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Saturday, 19 March 2016  2:00 PM PDT
  • Distance traveled:  80,208,936 kilometers   Time Delay:  3 mins 30 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  312,200,816 kilometers

“What did you find out about Musk?,” Jenna asked. Ken replied, “We’ve confirmed he is talking to the Russians. He also contacted at least two of our suppliers and tried to work out an exclusive arrangement with them if they dropped our account. He’s actively working to sabotage us, but I think there is more to it than what we’ve found so far.”

Roman had just walked in to Jenna’s quarters for the morning briefing from Megan. He asked, “Who are we talking about?” Jenna said, “Elon Musk. We’re on his enemies list.” Roman replied, “That’s not good. He doesn’t like to play fair.” “What do you know?,” Jenna asked.

Roman replied, “I know he’s smart, and he likes taking advantage of the stupid. He played several states against each other when he was making noise about building his lithium battery plant, but the only place that had an active lithium mine in the North America was in Nevada. Nevada already had no income, corporate, or income tax, but he managed to sucker them into over a billion dollars in additional tax breaks, even though it made no sense to build the factory anywhere in but Nevada. Then he contracted with a minor lithium mine in Mexico to put pressure on the Nevada lithium mine. He bullies people, and he seems to enjoy it.”

Ken added, “He is talking to the Russians about a partnership with SpaceX, and he’s trying to interfere with our suppliers.” Roman replied, “That sounds like Musk. If he follows his pattern, he’ll make a big show of it and try to manipulate people by scaring them.”

Naomi broke in to the conversation, “Director, I have Megan’s briefing ready.” Jenna said to everyone, “Let’s get started.”

Naomi started the recording and Megan’s image came up on the large monitor,

Good morning. The first item today is Elon Musk. We have learned that he is trying to create a private-based, joint space venture with Russia, China, and the United States. He is asking the United States and China to cut off funding to ESEP immediately, even though they have a five-year commitment. He has been working on this for some time, but has been aggressively pursuing his goal since your remarks on the Charlie Rose show. He also has contacted almost half of our suppliers and is offering them eight percent more per contract than what ESEP is offering. He also is posting bail and providing legal assistance to the ESEP engineers that were involved in the management coup. Apparently, he plans to tap them for their knowledge. He also is talking to Donald Trump. We don’t know what that is about, but I suspect ESEP is going to become the target of U.S. conservatives. We’re following the situation and our PR team is coming up with some ideas. I’ll be interested to see what your reaction is to this…

Jenna suddenly interrupted, “Naomi, pause that, please.” Naomi paused the playback, and Jenna continued, “I know what we need to do, but I want to hear everyone’s thoughts. Let’s deal with this now and get ESEP Earthside to start moving on it.

Ken said, “His whole game is to bluff people into doing something. We need to be careful at how we react.” Naomi added, “But we can’t ignore it. That also plays into his game.”

Jenna said, “We’re not going to play his game, we’re going to play ours.”