Is the US Paying $300 Million Too Much to Launch Rockets? Elon Musk Thinks So.

Is the government overpaying by $300 million? Elon Musk of SpaceX has long argued that there needs to be greater competition with the awarding of space launch contracts. New reports indicate that SpaceX may be $300 million less than the US government is currently paying.

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX (Credit: Getty Images)
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX (Credit: Getty Images)


Special deal: buy a SpaceX flight and get a satellite (cost: $300m) for free!

That appears to be the deal that SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk is offering the US government, with the newfound competition in the national security payload launch market. Since SpaceX received approval by the US Air Force in 2015 to utilize its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX has received contracts to launch GPS III satellites into orbit. What the government has been paying SpaceX may be $300 million less than what US taxpayers will be paying the Colorado-based United Launch Alliance (ULA), jointly owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to do a similar launch in 2020.

$300M cost diff between SpaceX and Boeing/Lockheed exceeds avg value of satellite, so flying with SpaceX means satellite is basically free https://t.co/CaOulCf7ot

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 16, 2017

Titanosaur footprints discovered on the roof of a French cave

Scientists discovered footprints made by some of the largest creatures ever to walk the Earth.

Dinosaur tracks in the ceiling of Castelbouc Cave in France.

Credit: Jean-David Moreau et al./J. Vertebr. Paleontol.
Surprising Science
  • Paleontologists published a paper on the discovery of dinosaur footprints on the roof of a French cave.
  • The prints are deep underground and were made during the Middle Jurassic period.
  • The footprints belonged to titanosaurs, the largest land animals ever.
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The science behind ‘us vs. them’

Humans may have evolved to be tribalistic. Is that a bad thing?

Videos
  • From politics to every day life, humans have a tendency to form social groups that are defined in part by how they differ from other groups.
  • Neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky, author Dan Shapiro, and others explore the ways that tribalism functions in society, and discuss how—as social creatures—humans have evolved for bias.
  • But bias is not inherently bad. The key to seeing things differently, according to Beau Lotto, is to "embody the fact" that everything is grounded in assumptions, to identify those assumptions, and then to question them.

Catacombs of Paris: The city of darkness finds its new raison d'être

Ancient corridors below the French capital have served as its ossuary, playground, brewery, and perhaps soon, air conditioning.

Excerpt from a 19th century map of the Paris Catacombs, showing the labyrinthine layout underground (in color) beneath the straight-lined structures on the surface (in grey).

Credit: Inspection Générale des Carrières, 1857 / Public domain
Strange Maps
  • People have been digging up limestone and gypsum from below Paris since Roman times.
  • They left behind a vast network of corridors and galleries, since reused for many purposes — most famously, the Catacombs.
  • Soon, the ancient labyrinth may find a new lease of life, providing a sustainable form of air conditioning.
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