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Elon Musk Teases Reddit With Bad Answers About BFR Rocket (reddit.com) 100

Long-time Slashdot reader Rei writes: On Saturday evening, Elon Musk took questions in a Reddit AMA (Ask-Me-Anything) concerning SpaceX's new design for the BFR (Big F* Rocket). But unlike the 2016 IAC conference where many audience questions seemed to be trolling Musk, this time the tables were turned. Asked why Raptor thrust was reduced from 300 tons to 170, Musk replied, "We chickened out." He responded to a statement about landing on the moon by quoting Bob the Builder, while responding to a user's suggestion about caching internet data from Mars by writing simply "Nerd." A question as to whether BFR autogenous pressurization would be heat-exchanger based, Musk replied that they planned to utilize the Incendio spell from Harry Potter -- helpfully providing a Wikipedia link for the spell.

A technical question about the lack of a tail? "Tails are lame." A question about why the number of landing legs was increased from 3 to 4? "Because 4." After one Redditor observed "This is one bizarre AMA so far," Musk replied "Just wait..." While Musk ultimately did follow up some of the trolling with some actual responses, the overall event could be best described as "surreal".

To be fair, Musk provided some serious answers. (And his final comment ended with "Great questions nk!!") But one Redditor suggested Musk's stranger answers were like a threat, along the lines of "Just wait. It will get way more bizarre than that. Let me finish my whiskey."

Musk replied, "How did you know? I am actually drinking whiskey right now. Really."
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Elon Musk Teases Reddit With Bad Answers About BFR Rocket

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Some of these damn nerds need to be straight up told.

    • Elon Musk needs to work on his grammar. He is smart enough to know that BFR Rocket is redundant.
      • And you have to work on your nitpicking.

        We also all know that HIV virus is redundant ... but everyone says so.

        Accept the *unspoken* rules of your own language or join a language definition council and change your language.

      • Elon Musk needs to work on his grammar. He is smart enough to know that BFR Rocket is redundant.

        Some one told him once but he was too busy getting wads of cash out of the ATM machine.

  • Distraction (Score:2, Informative)

    The purpose of that AMA about the BFR was meant to distract the public from the layoffs at Tesla.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      1) Firings != layoffs
      2) Under 2% of a rapidly growing company during performance reviews == "Meh"

    • by hsmith ( 818216 )
      That plus not being able to deliver on the Model 3 that he promised.
      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        Except for the hundreds of people who have already gotten theirs and have been raving about them over on the forums - and the forum members who continue getting them.

        • by Junta ( 36770 )

          It may turn out ok in the end, but as yet 'hundreds' is not better than the Model S situation. What observers are waiting for is for Tesla to prove they can do large scale manufacturing, which is a hugely different game than small scale manufacturing, and a necessary competency to have if going up against the major automakers by themselves rather than in partnership.

          Being behind is not proof they cannot, but neither is shipping the same volume of Model 3 cars as they have Model S cars proof they can. It'l

  • Way overblown (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vinn ( 4370 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @12:25PM (#55373067) Homepage Journal
    I think this story is a bit overblown and sensationalized. I think it was exactly the kind of candid responses people like. In nearly everyone one of those cases he followed up with very technical details of why things were designed the way they were. And to be fair, it was held on /r/space as opposed to /r/spacex and the /r/spacex community sort of invaded the AMA and posted the real technical questions. The nice thing there being a much higher level of technical questions were asked, but it did serve to alienate a lot of the /r/space community who probably isn't used to hearing about deep throttling ratios of methalox engines, etc.
    • I agree, and in pretty much all of the examples cited, after giving an initial funny answer, Musk went back and clarified with more technical detail. Personally, I learned more about the BFR approach, and I enjoyed the jokes as well.
    • As a regular reader on both r/space and r/spacex, I agree completely with your analysis. I do want to make one essentially editorial remark:

      . The nice thing there being a much higher level of technical questions were asked, but it did serve to alienate a lot of the /r/space community who probably isn't used to hearing about deep throttling ratios of methalox engines, etc.

      If one is claiming to like space things, one shouldn't get annoyed if one then has someone else go and ask a more technical question; if people get alienated by that then it is their own damn fault.

      • As a former reader on both r/space and r/spacex and as someone who has worked on both manned and unmanned projects for NASA, those people have difficulties differentiating between star trek fantasies and reality.
    • Re:Way overblown (Score:5, Insightful)

      by imidan ( 559239 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @02:25PM (#55373531)

      Slashdot has a contingent of users (particularly ACs, but others as well) who will take any opportunity to bitch about Elon Musk and everything he does. You can see it in the comments to this story, where people are making Tesla's setbacks out to be massive failures, or suggesting that the entire company is some kind of grand con job to absorb government money. They seem immune to arguments that Tesla has ultimately delivered what it promised, or that SpaceX has been quite successful with its launches and landings.

      This story is comment-bait, I think, to stir up these pointless arguments in an effort to drive ad impressions. The summary is misleading and needlessly disparaging. Though the story is only two hours old, the comment count is already near the median number for every older story still on the front page. That counts as a win for the operators of the site, who are motivated in part by generating site traffic.

      • This story is comment-bait
        A story is a story is a story.

        As I'm only on Reddit one a year, I like to see this kind of cross posts. If you don't then "stop falling for the comment bait: and don't comment".

        the comment count is already near the median number for every older story still on the front page
        I would love if people stoped mixing up average with median.

      • by bazorg ( 911295 )

        I liked the way Musk was name dropped in a recent episode of Star Trek: Discovery as a great historical figure. His current day haters must have felt great, having the opportunity to hate the new ST series *and* Musk all in one go. :D

      • This story is comment-bait, I think, to stir up these pointless arguments

        Yes, and it was most certainly submitted by the Russians to stir discontent in the West!

  • by BenJeremy ( 181303 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @12:27PM (#55373077)

    They can't take what they dish out. What a surprise. ...yet Musk provided serious answers after having a little fun. He didn't have to provide real answers, but even doing that hurt the precious snowflakes' feelings.

    Geez, What have we come to?

    • by elistan ( 578864 )

      They can't take what they dish out. What a surprise. ...yet Musk provided serious answers after having a little fun. He didn't have to provide real answers, but even doing that hurt the precious snowflakes' feelings.

      Where do you see that people had their feelings hurt? Muskâ(TM)s comments, both serious and joking, were highly upvoted or even gilded.

  • Stupid summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @12:35PM (#55373115)

    I read through the AMA. Musk answered all of the top level questions in significant detail. He did add a quip here and there. For example his comment about chickening out, which was followed up by a couple of paragraphs about the difficulty of deep throttling engines and the benefits of having multiple engines for failure tolerance.

    The only exception I noticed was when some nerd said "you can't land on the moon with a 3 MN engine" and Musk said "yes you can - Bob the Builder." Seems fair to me.

    • Re:Stupid summary (Score:5, Informative)

      by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @01:01PM (#55373207)

      I'm a space systems engineer (i.e rocket scientist). Of course you can land on the Moon with a 3 MN engine. You just require a 1.5 MN landed weight and 50% throttle capability. The throttle capability is to adjust landing deceleration to make a 0 m/s @ 0 elevation stop. Given the Moon's surface gravity, 1.5 MN --> 900 ton landed mass. That's a *big fucking landed mass* by NASA standards, but that idea is built in the BFR's name.

      If you want to do a suicide burn and higher landing acceleration, the landed mass goes down. For example, 1.3 Earth gravities (which is the Earth takeoff acceleration) works out to 235 tons landed mass given 3 MN full thrust. With a fast landing, you would throttle *down* from max thrust to meet the landing condition. That's a more reasonable landed mass, but still pretty big.

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        You don't have to have a 50% throttle capacity even in that situation; you can hoverslam land it. Of course, hoverslam landing without a pad would be risky to say the least...

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        Yes. The statement in the AMA was silly. Musk dignified it with a humorous response.

        The raptor engines are supposed to throttle to 20%, and elsewhere in the AMA Musk discussed a 1.3 minimum TWR for landing. They've cut the per-engine thrust down to 1.5 MN, but want to have two engines running for redundancy, so still 3 MN max. Which gives you around 285 tonnes (I think). Dry mass of the ship is 85 tonnes, So you'd want to aim to land with at least 200 tonnes of fuel and cargo, fuel being enough to take

  • by SmaryJerry ( 2759091 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @12:54PM (#55373177)
    He made those answers but ALSO responded in full detail to the same questions.
  • There were a few non-answers there -- can't expect most people to go on the record saying "we don't know yet" or similar.

    OTOH, some of those answers in the AMA were excellent and really interesting. Like what he had to say about the metallurgy required to build the oxygen turbopumps for Raptor (which is REVOLUTIONARY in itself; the US didn't manage to do this throughout the Cold War whereas the Russians did); or the aerodynamics of the BFS.

    • Re:It was alright (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @01:38PM (#55373333) Homepage

      I've noticed that "better metallurgy" often seems to be the go-to solution in Musk's companies - use more exotic/expensive alloys in key areas in order to save a lot of money down the road, and developing the experience working with these alloys. Part of the same thing behind Boring Company, for example - rather than simple, passively cooled steel cutting discs, they plan to use high temperature / high strength alloys and actively cool them. They'll still have to replace then, and the replacements will cost a lot more, but that's nothing compared to the amount of cost savings involved in being able to run the cutting head many times faster.

  • to be fair... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    To be fair, Musk provided some serious answers.

    This mischaracterizes the whole thing. Musk provided serious answers as a followup to almost every one of his quips. The serious answers were insightful, usually a full or several full paragraphs with meaty details suitable for the audience, and honestly impressive that a CEO could do that off the top of his head. Many CEOs have no idea about the technical details of their own company. Musk can speculate intelligently about the nature of an interplanetary packet network and answer questsions about metal

    • Re:to be fair... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @01:31PM (#55373305)

      The serious answers were insightful, usually a full or several full paragraphs with meaty details suitable for the audience, and honestly impressive that a CEO could do that off the top of his head.

      There's a reason Elon Musk self-identifies as SpaceX's Chief Designer more frequently than he self-identifies as CEO. He's making very technical decisions after learning and understanding the ramifications of the options. He has a physics degree, which alone makes him a far cry from most MBA CEOs today, who choose among technical options they literally can't understand based on how much they like the person presenting them.

      • by Hodr ( 219920 )

        He has a physics degree, which alone makes him a far cry from most MBA CEOs today, who choose among technical options they literally can't understand based on how much they like the person presenting them.

        Not to go completely against the grain here, but some intelligent people actually choose to go into business and get an MBA. Many even get one after already being successful in a technical field, as they need business bonafides in order to make upper management.

        I know several CSCI BSs/MAs with MBAs, and I am sure there exist some Physics PHDs with MBAs.

        Hell, my Physics teacher in college was a brilliant SOB but didn't even go to college until he was 35. Spent 18 years as a manual laborer first. He would a

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Many others are saying the same. If you read the AMA, you'll see that his pattern was to first reply with a playful troll, and then spend the next few minutes typing an actual thoughtful answer in reply to his troll comment. He was just playing around. This post is COMPLETE MISINFORMATION. A disgrace.

  • Thanks, Elon Musk, the answer to trolling is trolling.

  • by Omeganon ( 104525 ) on Sunday October 15, 2017 @04:42PM (#55374095)

    OP seems a bit disingenuous. For every one, he followed up minutes later with a more fleshed out and responsive answer. It seems obviously to me that his original comments were markers to track which ones he wanted to come back to.

  • by bettodavis ( 1782302 ) on Monday October 16, 2017 @12:12AM (#55375275)
    Who are always conventionally serious and plain in their communiqués, specially in a platform with so many readers.

    Musk was clearly being nonchalant with the audience, not disrespectful or insulting.

    But the anti-Musk brigade will never be satisfied no matter what. So, take it as you please.
  • Why shouldn't Musk be yakking it up?
    All those millions from NASA are plumping up his dividends and his bonus so he can go to sizes where no yacht has been before.
    US taxpayers give NASA billions, NASA gives SpaceX millions, SpaceX pays out bonuses and uses some of it to try and reinvent the last 50 years of space exploration by smashing rockets into the ground and occasionally into the water. If NASA asks nicely SpaceX uses some of it to buy Russian rockets which it uses to launch payloads for NASA.

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