'Move On': Elon Musk Cuts Into NASA Conference Call During Question About His COVID-19 Lockdown Views

Elon Musk has continued to court controversy this week, interrupting a NASA call during a question about his stance on COVID-19 lockdowns.

The SpaceX boss cut in after agency administrator Jim Bridenstine was asked if Musk's headline-grabbing statements about the ongoing shelter-in-place restrictions had impacted NASA's relationship with the rocket company.

As Bridenstine was taking a cautious approach to the question asked by The Atlantic's Marina Koren, noting he would continue to let SpaceX speak for itself, Musk interjected: "I think this is a different subject. Wrong press conference, move on."

According to CNBC, the agency had not yet introduced Musk on the call, which was set up to discuss the awarding of space contracts worth roughly $967 million. Koren said on Twitter that NASA did not inform reporters Musk would be taking part.

Bridenstine went on to say NASA has taken the COVID-19 outbreak "very seriously" and confirmed that some agency staffers had been killed by the infectious disease.

Yesterday, NASA confirmed Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX were awarded contracts to design and make human landing systems (HLS) for its "Artemis" program, which aims to land the first woman and next man on the surface of the Moon by 2024.

"America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface," agency administrator Bridenstine said. "This is the first time since the Apollo era that NASA has direct funding for a human landing system."

Shelter-in-place orders and lockdowns remain in effect across the U.S. in an attempt to limit the spread of the disease—caused by a novel coronavirus without a cure.

Musk first voiced opposition to orders earlier this week, tweeting: "Free America Now" after news surfaced that California rules would be extended through May. As reported, this had a direct impact on production in Tesla's Fremont factory.

In a Tesla earnings call Wednesday, Musk said the shelter-in-place order was "forcibly imprisoning people in their homes." He said his electric car company will "weather the storm" but that lockdowns will "cause great harm" to smaller companies.

He said: "This is the time to think about the future, and also to ask, is it right to infringe upon people's rights, as what is happening right now.

"I think the people are going to be very angry about this and are very angry, because... if somebody wants to stay in their house, that's great. They should be allowed to stay in their house, and they should not be compelled to leave. But to say that they cannot leave their house, and they will be arrested if they do, this is fascist. This is not democratic. This is not freedom. Give people back their goddamn freedom."

Despite mounting resistance, health experts urge citizens to maintain social distancing and avoid gatherings. The lockdowns were put in place across the U.S. in an attempt to limit person-to-person contact, which is one way the respiratory disease spreads.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC.
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.
Elon Musk
Elon Musk, founder and chief engineer of SpaceX speaks at the 2020 Satellite Conference and Exhibition March 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty