Billionaire Elon Musk was taken to task on Chinese social networks on Tuesday after two of his satellites narrowly missed, according to Beijing, colliding with the Asian giant’s space station. The richest man in the world, who has just been elected personality of the year by the American magazine Time, is well known in China for its Tesla electric cars. But his space exploration company SpaceX has now earned him the resentment of internet users.
According to a document sent at the beginning of December by Beijing to the Office for Outer Space Affairs of the United Nations in Vienna, the Chinese space station Tiangong had to twice, in July and October, carry out evasive maneuvers in order to avoid “an encounterwith SpaceX gear. The Chinese space agency had to reactto ensure the safety and survival of astronauts in orbitBeijing added.
SpaceX did not react to this information on Tuesday, which displeased Chinese Internet users. “Get ready to boycott Tesla“Launched a user of the social network Weibo, under a hashtag seen more than 87 million times. “There’s no shortage of irony: the Chinese buy Teslas, giving money to Musk to launch (satellites) and throw them against the Chinese space stationthundered another.
A crucial market for Elon Musk
The Chinese market is crucial for the Canadian-American multi-billionaire of South African origin. Tesla sells around a quarter of its production in China and has a factory in Shanghai. The automaker has, however, come under fire in recent months over crashes and data protection concerns.
In space, SpaceX has launched a constellation of more than 1,500 satellites, Starlink, intended to bring an internet connection to the four corners of the globe. This constellation has noticeably increased the circulation of objects in space. “We have seen an increase in the number of collision risks since the start of the Starlink rollout“, commented for AFP Jonathan McDowell, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the United States.
China this year launched the main module of its Tiangong space station (the “celestial palace), whose construction should be completed next year. Two crews of three astronauts have been there since June.