Former SpaceX engineer says she was sexually harassed and ‘misogyny is rampant’ at Elon Musk’s rocket company

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule on the launch pad in Florida.
A SpaceX rocket and capsule at Cape Canaveral, Florida, in early November.

  • A former SpaceX engineer published an essay claiming the company is “rife with sexism.”
  • Former SpaceX engineer Ashley Kosak said she experienced sexual harassment from colleagues.
  • SpaceX and Musk did not respond to a request for comment.

A former SpaceX engineer published an essay on Tuesday accusing Elon Musk’s rocket company of fostering an environment “rife with sexism.”

Ashley Kosak, a former Mission Integration Engineer at the space company, said she faced sexual harassment while employed by SpaceX and that supervisors and human resources officials failed to adequately address the alleged incidents.

On Tuesday, The Verge reported that four more former employees said they had experienced or witnessed sexual harassment while at SpaceX. In three of the alleged cases, the former workers told the publication that they did not feel HR’s response was adequate.

A SpaceX spokesperson, as well as the company’s CEO, Musk, did not respond to a request for comment from Insider.

In the essay, Kosak, who said she started working at SpaceX in 2017 as an intern and became an engineer in 2019, alleged that a fellow intern grabbed her backside while she was in the kitchen of the intern housing unit where they were both staying. She said she told a superior and another co-worker.

Kosak also said that in 2018 “a male colleague ran his hand over my shirt, from my lower waist to my chest” at a team-bonding event while she was an intern. She said she told her supervisors and reported the alleged behavior to HR in a meeting “but no one followed up,” leaving her to feel “powerless.”

“Some of the men who work at SpaceX hug women without consent, stare at women while they work, and interpret every company-related social event as an opportunity to date (or hit on) women in the office,” Kosak wrote.

She said that coworkers messaged her on Instagram to ask her out and that she once received a 4 a.m. call from a coworker. She said a different coworker came over to her house and “insisted on touching me even when I repeatedly requested we stay professional.”

Kosak said in the essay that she reported “each incident of sexual harassment I experienced to HR” but “nothing was done.” She said that she was told a company training would be held, but that “matters of this nature were too private to openly discuss with the perpetrators.”

Kosak said in the essay that she attributes the work environment at SpaceX to Musk’s leadership.

“Elon Musk’s behavior bears a remarkable similarity to the behavior of a sadistic and abusive man who had previously been part of my life,” Kosak wrote, saying Musk makes promises, but continually “shifts the goalpost” and pushes people to “the brink of burnout.”

“Elon uses engineers as a resource to be mined rather than a team to be led,” Kosak said in the essay.

The engineer said that after repeatedly making reports to HR, she submitted her complaints to an anonymous Ethics and Compliance tipline, which she said she later realized was a Microsoft form that did not preserve her anonymity. Kosak said she then met with COO Gwynne Shotwell and Head of HR Brian Bjelde, who she said told her they had not been made aware of her complaints and asked for her to submit a list of proposed solutions.

Shotwell and Bjelde did not respond to a request for comment from Insider, but The Verge obtained an email that was sent out by Shotwell over the weekend, reiterating the company’s stance against harassment. The COO reportedly said the company plans to perform a third-party audit of its HR practices.

“We also know we can always do better,” the email reportedly said.

Kosak said her psychiatrist eventually recommended she take a step back from work due to “frequent panic attacks” and “heart palpitations.”

“As I took a week’s medical leave to recover, I received a frantic cadence of calls from HR,” she wrote. 

Kosak resigned in November and has since begun working at Apple, according to her LinkedIn page.

Kosak is not the first person to express concern regarding the work environment at Musk’s companies. Last year, a former SpaceX intern filed a discrimination lawsuit against the company, alleging her decision to report alleged sexual harassment to HR cost her the opportunity for a full-time job. The lawsuit has since been privately resolved and dismissed, The Verge reports.

Over the past four weeks, eight Tesla factory workers have sued Musk’s electric car company, alleging Tesla ignored sexual harassment.

The former SpaceX engineer’s essay also comes only a few months after engineers at Jeff Bezos’ space venture, Blue Origin, expressed similar concerns, alleging the company had a “toxic” and “sexist” work culture.

“The last I heard, new SpaceX interns would receive training on how to better report their harassment,” Kosak wrote in the last lines of her essay. “The harassers, on the other hand, have still not been held to account.”

Do you work at SpaceX or Blue Origin? Reach out to the reporter from a non-work email at gkay@insider.com

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Elon Musk slams Warren Buffett’s job as ‘super boring’ — but praises the investor’s skills and defends his $100 billion fortune

GettyImages 1229892852
Elon Musk.

  • Elon Musk dismissed Warren Buffett’s job as incredibly boring, and said he doesn’t want it.
  • Yet the Tesla and SpaceX CEO praised Buffett’s investing skills and touted the value of his work.
  • Musk and Buffett have butted heads before, but appear to respect each other.

Elon Musk dismissed Warren Buffett’s job as extremely dull and said he wouldn’t want to do it. Yet he also complimented the investor’s knack for capital allocation, and defended the Berkshire Hathaway CEO’s roughly $100 billion fortune.

“I’m not Warren Buffett’s biggest fan, frankly,” Musk told Time in his Person of the Year interview. “He sits there and reads all these annual reports, which are super boring.”

Berkshire owns scores of businesses including See’s Candies and Geico, and holds multibillion-dollar stakes in Apple, Coca-Cola, and other public companies. Buffett spends his days allocating money within the conglomerate, and identifying undervalued stocks to add to Berkshire’s roughly $300 billion stock portfolio.

“Does anybody want that job?” Musk asked. “I think most people do not. I don’t want that job.”

“But he’s not engaged in insane, conspicuous consumption,” the Tesla and SpaceX CEO continued. “So you have to say, ‘Sure, he’s got a high net worth, but he’s doing a useful job for the economy, and he’s very skilled at it and should probably keep doing it.”

Musk, Buffett, and several other billionaires were named and shamed in a ProPublica investigation earlier this year, which accused them of paying virtually no federal income tax in recent years. The exposé has fueled calls from Democratic politicians for a “billionaire tax” that would target the ultra-wealthy’s fortunes, especially those invested in stocks that currently aren’t taxed until they’re sold.

Buffett defended himself by noting that he’s pledged to give over 99% of his net worth to philanthropic causes, and that he’s already donated about half of his nearly 475,000 Berkshire “A” shares since 2006. Meanwhile, Musk has loudly criticized the politicians pushing for higher taxes on the ultra-wealthy, accusing them of trying to take control of private individuals’ assets.

Musk has expressed his ambivalence towards Buffett in past interviews, but this appears to be the first time he’s applauded the investor’s abilities, or acknowledged the value of his work. The Berkshire boss has praised Musk’s accomplishments before, but has also called out the Tesla chief’s controversial tweets.

Buffett and Musk’s most public clash was over the investor’s concept of competitive “moats” around companies, which the Tesla chief dismissed as “lame” in 2018.

“Elon may turn things upside down in some areas,” Buffett responded when he was asked about the comment. “I don’t think he’d want to take us on in candy.”

“I’m starting a candy company and it’s going to be amazing,” Musk jokingly tweeted in response.

Read more: ‘Richer, Wiser, Happier’ author William Green breaks down the 3 key traits that have fueled Warren Buffett’s success, and explains why they’re so important for investors

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Elon Musk tweets that SpaceX will start program to pull carbon dioxide in atmosphere and use it as rocket fuel

SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk at a news conference
SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk reacts at a post-launch news conference to discuss the SpaceX Crew Dragon astronaut capsule in-flight abort test at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on January 19, 2020.

  • Elon Musk tweeted that SpaceX will be launching a new program. 
  • The program will remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it as rocket fuel.
  • The billionaire encouraged people to join and says that it “will also be important for Mars.”

Elon Musk tweeted Monday that SpaceX is starting a program to remove carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere and use it as rocket fuel. “Please join if interested,” Musk added.

He also tweeted that this program “will also be important for Mars.” 

The billionaire founder of SpaceX and electric car company Tesla was announced as TIME’s 2021 person of the year on Monday.

The Guardian reports that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket uses kerosene as fuel — which emits carbon dioxide, among other chemicals, into the atmosphere.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Musk previously announced XPrize Carbon Removal, which has a prize of $100 million for carbon removal technology. Carbon dioxide, released by the combustion of fossil fuels, is the primary greenhouse gas contributing to the climate crisis.

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Elizabeth Warren slams Elon Musk’s ‘person of the year’ title, saying the tax code should be changed so he stops ‘freeloading off everyone else’

Sen. Elizabeth Warre
Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren slammed Elon Musk’s new title as TIME’s person of the year. 
  • She said he should stop “freeloading” and pay his fair share in taxes as the world’s richest person.
  • Musk is worth $297 billion, but managed to pay $0 in federal income tax in 2018. 

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren isn’t pleased with Elon Musk’s designation as TIME’s 2021 person of the year

Musk, who is worth $297 billion, has vocally opposed government involvement in his wealth — something Warren and other progressive lawmakers have slammed given his avoidance in paying what they say is his fair share in taxes. While Warren’s proposal to impose a 2% tax on household net worth has not yet come to fruition, she has been a staunch advocate of taxing the wealthy and didn’t hold back on Monday, after TIME announced Musk’s new title.

“Let’s change the rigged tax code so The Person of the Year will actually pay taxes and stop freeloading off everyone else,” Warren wrote on Twitter.

She also shared a new TIME cover created by Americans for Tax Fairness with the words “TAX ME” placed over a photo of Musk, alongside text that said Musk paid $0 in federal income tax in 2018.

A recent ProPublica investigation found Musk, and others in his tax bracket, did not pay federal taxes as of 2018 because they did not have income, only assets. That’s why Musk has strongly opposed Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden’s “billionaire’s tax,” which would tax wealthy people’s assets.

As Insider’s Juliana Kaplan previously reported, taxing billionaire’s would raise $557 over a decade, per an analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation, and Musk would be on the hook for $50 billion in taxes for the first five years. 

“This makes crystal clear the extent to which the tax code is simply not equipped to tax billionaires fairly, or ensure they pay any taxes at all,” Wyden said in an October statement. “Working Americans like nurses and firefighters are rightly disgusted by the status quo.”

Musk responded to Wyden’s proposal at the time, saying on Twitter: “Eventually, they run out of other people’s money and then they come for you.”

As Insider reported, Musk does not want the government to lay a hand on his fortune even though government subsidies helped him grow that fortune. The government provided subsidies to Tesla, his electric vehicle company, along with a $2.89 billion contract for his aerospace company, SpaceX, to land “commercial” humans on the moon.

Even so, Musk said he opposed that kind of help from the government in his interview with TIME.

“They’re basically saying they want control of the assets,” Musk said. “This does not result in, actually, the good of the people. You want those who are managing capital to be good stewards of capital. And I think the government is inherently not a good steward of capital.”

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Elon Musk thinks investors should pay less attention to his tweets

Photo by BRITTA PEDERSEN:POOL:AFP via Getty Images
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

  • Elon Musk told Time that he doesn’t think his tweets have much of an impact on the markets.
  • “Markets move themselves all the time, based on nothing as far as I can tell,” he said.
  • But there are several examples of Tesla stock rising or falling immediately following a Musk tweet.

Elon Musk doesn’t think his tweets have the power to move markets. 

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO and world’s richest person said as much in a profile in Time — Musk was named the magazine’s Person of the Year for 2021 for his commitment to the environment and to space exploration.

In an interview with Time’s Molly Ball, Jeffrey Kluger, and Alejandro de la Garza published Monday, Musk discussed his Twitter habit, a pastime that makes him easily the most famous CEO on the planet and probably the most adored and most criticized in equal measure. 

But it’s also a habit that has landed him in hot water with the US government: In 2018, Musk faced the ire of the Securities and Exchange Commission over a tweet claiming he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 per share — the share price being a drug reference and a joke to impress his then-girlfriend, Grimes. The tweet sent Tesla’s share price skyrocketing 14%.

The SEC filed suit against Musk, accusing him of making “false and misleading statements” — Musk and Tesla later settled, agreeing to pay $20 million apiece without admitting guilt. Musk also stepped down as chairman of Tesla’s board, and Tesla was required to appoint a new committee that would oversee Musk’s communications.

But Musk told Time that he doesn’t think he bears much responsibility for what happens after he tweets.

“Markets move themselves all the time, based on nothing as far as I can tell,” Musk told Time. “So the statements that I make, are they materially different from random movements of the stock that might happen anyway? I don’t think so.”

But there are several examples of Tesla’s stock moving following a Musk tweet. Last month, Tesla shares dipped after Musk tweeted that the company hadn’t yet signed a deal with Hertz, despite the car-rental firm announcing it had ordered 100,000 Tesla Model 3 sedans, the largest-ever electric vehicle purchase.

Also last month, Tesla dropped 7% after Musk asked his Twitter followers whether he should sell 10% of his Tesla stock — 3.5 million people voted in the poll in 24 hours.

And when Musk tweeted in May 2020 that he thought Tesla’s stock price was “too high,” shares of the automaker dropped by about 9%. 

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Elon Musk rips the political class again, saying ‘government is inherently not a good steward of capital’ even though his companies thrived from government subsidies

Elon Musk
Elon Musk.

  • Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, was named TIME’s 2021 person of the year. 
  • He said in an interview he does not think the government should be involved in people’s assets.
  • But government subsidies allowed him to grow his wealth through electric vehicles and solar power.

Elon Musk — the world’s richest person and TIME’s 2021 person of the year — is biting the hand that feeds him.

With a net worth of $297 billion, Musk is a vocal opponent of increased taxes on the rich, including government involvement in all of his financial assets. He responded to Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden’s “billionaire’s tax” proposal — a tax on wealthy people’s assets — with a vulgar response to Wdyen’s appearance on Twitter. He’s remained firm in his stance that the government should stay out of his wealth.

“They’re basically saying they want control of the assets,” Musk said in a recent interview with TIME. “This does not result in, actually, the good of the people. You want those who are managing capital to be good stewards of capital. And I think the government is inherently not a good steward of capital.”

However, government subsidies are largely to thank for the mountains of money Musk holds today. As the founder of electric vehicle company Tesla, the Wall Street Journal reported that Musk received a $465 million loan from the Energy Department in 2010 that was paid back in 2013. The government’s $7,500 tax credit has also made purchasing Tesla vehicles cheaper for consumers, although that credit phased out for the company last year.

Musk’s space program has gotten a boost, as well. NASA selected SpaceX — Musk’s aerospace company — in April to work toward landing “commercial” humans on the moon with a contract award value of $2.89 billion.  

Despite the early government support Tesla received, Musk has still spoken out against government subsidies, writing in a recent tweet that it “has always been Tesla’s view that all subsidies should be eliminated.”

President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill recently signed into law included $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging infrastructure — something Musk also opposed during a Wall Street Journal summit.

“Do we need support for gas stations? We don’t,” Musk said. “There’s no need for support for a charging network. I would delete it. Delete.”

Despite his resistance to government involvement, it has helped Musk grow his fortune, and his stance remains unchanged even as progressive lawmakers continue to slam his wealth and demand he pay his fair share in taxes. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who spearheaded a tax on the ultrawealthy, wrote on Twitter that when someone like Musk “makes it big,” they should be held accountable for paying all their taxes. 

 

And in response to a tweet last month from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders demanding the wealthy pay what they owe in taxes, Musk responded: “I keep forgetting that you’re still alive.”

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The FAA is giving Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and other private spaceflight passengers official ‘astronaut wings’ before discontinuing the honor

split image richard branson smiling jeff bezos laughing in cowboy hat both wearing blue spacesuits
Richard Branson (left) and Jeff Bezos (right) both flew to the edge of space in July 2021.

Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, William Shatner, and 12 others will be given official “astronaut” wings by the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency announced on Friday. 

The FAA awards its Commercial Astronaut Wings to those who have launched at least 50 miles above the Earth’s surface on an FAA-approved spacecraft.   

The 15 individuals receiving the symbolic honor hail from a SpaceX crew, Blue Origin’s New Shepherd craft, and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, the FAA said in a statement

But this batch of individuals will be the last to hold the accolade, the FAA said. January 1 marks the end of the “wings” program. Space travelers who break the 50-mile barrier will simply have their names listed on an FAA website instead.

All in all, only 24 people will have received the FAA’s commercial astronaut wings.

The news was first reported by CNN.

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A former UPenn student just sold his homework — graded by Elon Musk in 1995 — for $7,753

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

  • College assignments graded by Elon Musk more than 25 years ago just sold for $7,753 at auction.
  • Musk was a teaching assistant at the time at UPenn’s Wharton School of Business.
  • He initialed and marked the papers, commenting “graphic” and deducting points for profanity on one.

A former UPenn student just sold some of his college assignments at auction for a few thousand dollars, but it wasn’t because of the content of the papers. Instead, the cool sum owes in large part to the person who graded the papers: Elon Musk.

The student, Brian Thomas, had dug up the papers from a course called “Entrepreneurship: Implementation and Operations” that was taught at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in 1995, according to RR Auction, which sold the papers. Musk was a teaching assistant for the class. 

Thomas’ auctioned documents from the course sold for $7,753. This includes the buyer’s premium RR Auction receives for the sale.

The first document, an exam booklet with nine pages filled out, bears Musk’s initials on the front cover and some light markings throughout the rest of the exam. For one answer, Thomas defined an exit strategy in part as “a viable way to end operations if shit hits the fan.” Musk underlined the latter phrase, wrote that it was “graphic,” and deducted two points for the profanity. 

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO checked off key points in the second paper included in the auction, a case study on a mail-order specialty gardening tool idea, but didn’t leave comments. He also wrote his initials and Thomas’ score on the front of this document.

The papers come with the course syllabus listing Musk as a teaching assistant and a letter from Thomas, in which he describes Musk as “a tough grader.” Thomas also wrote in the letter that he kept the papers as souvenirs out of his “esteem” for late professor Myles Bass, who taught the course. He added that he was surprised when he stumbled upon his notebook from the class this year and found the exam booklet, paper, and syllabus inside.

Thomas told CNN, which previously reported the sale, that he has no specific memories of Musk from the course, saying, “I cannot conjure an image of him being in the class.”

You can view the papers, complete with Musk’s annotations, here.

 

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SpaceX launched a $214 million NASA satellite into orbit to study black holes and dead stars

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off on December 9, 2021 carrying NASA's Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off on December 9, 2021 carrying NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft.

  • NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) launched into space early on Thursday morning.
  • The IXPE was launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, NASA said in a statement.
  • It will study high-energy celestial objects such as black holes.

A NASA satellite designed to examine some of the most fascinating objects in the cosmos, including black holes, was successfully launched into orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, NASA said in a press statement.

The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) observatory is a spacecraft developed by NASA in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency. It carries three telescopes designed to measure the polarization of X-rays from high-energy celestial objects. These include black holes and the remnants of supernovas.

This means it will be able to probe the physics behind these mysterious objects.

“IXPE is going to show us the violent universe around us — such as exploding stars and the black holes at the center of galaxies — in ways we’ve never been able to see it,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, said in a statement.

The IXPE was launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 1 a.m. EST on Thursday, NASA said in its statement. CBS reports the IXPE cost $214 million.

SpaceX shared footage on Twitter of the IXPE separating from the Falcon 9 rocket, floating off into orbit

“It is an indescribable feeling to see something you’ve worked on for decades become real and launch into space,” Martin Weisskopf, IXPE’s principal investigator at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said in a statement.

Space.com reported that at a pre-launch press conference, Weisskopf said IXPE’s first target will be the Crab Nebula, which is the remnants of a dead star.

crab nebula green orange yellow web
The Crab Nebula as imaged by Hubble.

SpaceX has flown multiple missions for NASA, including two fully crewed astronaut missions to the International Space Station. 

NASA also awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract in April to help the agency return to the moon. The contract was legally challenged by Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin, but the US Federal Court of Claims ruled against Blue Origin in November.

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Elon Musk says SpaceX is building a launch pad for Starship orbital flights on Florida’s eastern coastline

spacex starship sn15 landing success happy elon musk
SpaceX’s Starship and CEO Elon Musk.

  • SpaceX has started building a launch pad in Florida for Starship rocket flights, Elon Musk said.
  • It will have a better launch tower and ground systems than SpaceX’s launch pad at Starbase, per Musk.
  • SpaceX has leased Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center from NASA since 2014.

Elon Musk said on Friday that SpaceX is constructing a launch pad for its Starship spaceship in Florida ahead of the rocket’s first orbital flight.

“Construction of Starship orbital launch pad at the Cape has begun,” Musk tweeted.

He confirmed later in the Twitter comments that the pad was located at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on the east coast of Florida. 

Musk said in the tweet that the Florida launch pad will have a better launch tower and improved ground systems compared to the facilities at Starbase, SpaceX’s planned city in South Texas where the company has tested out its Starship rocket prototypes.

SpaceX first signed an agreement with NASA in 2014 to use Launch Complex 39A for 20 years. Concrete foundations for the launch pad were put down in 2019, but nothing has happened since then, CNBC reported.

NASA told CNBC in a statement that SpaceX is “within the rights of their lease agreement to make launch infrastructure improvements within the boundaries of the pad.”

SpaceX only has approval to build the launch pad, and will need further authorization for launches and landings, NASA told CNBC, adding that it’s not providing funding for the pad.

SpaceX and NASA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment made by Insider outside of operating hours. 

SpaceX is planning to launch its Starship spaceship into orbit for the first time in early 2022, but Musk warned during a video call with members of the National Academy of Sciences that the initial flight might not succeed.

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