For its part, SpaceX said it “actively promotes workplace safety and we are confident that our comprehensive drug-free workforce and workplace programs exceed all applicable contractual requirements.”
And Boeing, which is probably wondering what on earth it has to do with this, said it “does maintain a drug- and alcohol-free workplace program. We do this so that we can promote a safe, healthy, and productive work environment, and that program does meet NASA’s and the Department of Defense’s contractor requirements.” (A Boeing spokesperson said NASA did not give a reason for the review and has not provided many details on the process.)
The first test flights with astronauts—which have already been selected—are scheduled for summer 2019 at the earliest. The new review could delay the effort, which has already been set back by technical problems and overly optimistic schedules. According to The Post, the review will be a “months-long assessment that would involve hundreds of interviews designed to assess the culture of the workplaces.”
The Rogan podcast was recorded in California, where recreational use of marijuana is legal. But the federal government still considers marijuana a controlled substance, like heroin and cocaine. And NASA’s contracts with SpaceX and Boeing for the commercial crew program require both contractors to “maintain a program for achieving a drug-and alcohol-free workforce” and conduct “preemployment, reasonable suspicion, random, post-accident, and periodic recurring testing of contractor employees in sensitive positions for use, in violation of applicable law or federal regulation, of alcohol or a controlled substance.”
There is no word on whether Musk was drug-tested after the podcast, but, according to the environment NASA requires of SpaceX, the company certainly would have had “reasonable suspicion.”
In this context, in which SpaceX is a contractor of NASA, officials’ apparent displeasure with Musk’s actions makes some sense. Perhaps for government officials, it is not Musk’s casual use of marijuana that unnerved them, but instead the very public use of it, in a video that gained more than 2 million views in less than a day, months before his company was expected to launch human beings into space using taxpayer dollars.
“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,” Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, 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.”
From this perspective, NASA’s decision to admonish Musk in some capacity may seem wise. Whether Musk’s actions warrant a lengthy and large-scale review of hundreds of employees, at not one but two companies, is another question.