Tesla Model Y orders are now open

Customers can already place an order for the Tesla Model Y, a mid-sized crossover SUV that won’t go into production until 2020.

Tesla requires a $2,500 deposit to complete the order for the all-electric vehicle, according to information posted on its website. A disclaimer on the order form states that “production is expected to begin late next year.” Under that timeline, deliveries wouldn’t begin until late 2020 or possibly early 2021.

There are other clues on the order page, including that the seven-seat interior won’t be available until 2021. The Model Y will come standard as a five seater.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Model Y on Thursday night at the Tesla Design Studio in Los Angeles. During the presentation, Musk didn’t mention that customers could order the Model Y. That’s a departure from previous events, notably the Model 3 reveal in March 2016, which prompted thousands of people to put down $1,000 deposits.

The Model Y bears a striking resemblance to Model 3, and for good reason. The Model Y shares about 75 percent of the same parts as the Model 3.

The vehicle, which will come in a standard, long range, dual-motor all-wheel and performance variants, is larger than the Model 3, allowing it to accommodate seven people (for those who opt to pay the $3,000 up charge). The order page of the Model Y shows that it comes standard as a 5-seater. To get the 7-seater configuration, customers have to pay an additional $3,000.

The Model Y also sits higher than the Model 3, a distinction that is more obvious once you’re sitting inside. One of the most distinguishing differences is the Model Y has a panoramic roof.

The standard range version will start $39,000 and have 230 mile range. However, Tesla will first produce the performance, dual-motor and long range versions. Customers who want the standard range version of the Model Y will have to wait until at least spring 2021. The performance and dual motor variants will be able to travel 280 miles on a single charge, while the long-range version will, as it sounds, have the longest range at 300 miles.

All of the variants are designed to have the same kind of performance as its smaller sibling. The performance version of the Model Y will be able to travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 150 mph.

But that kind of performance comes at a higher price. The performance version will start at $60,000. The dual motor variant will start at $51,000 and the base price of the long-range version will be $47,000.

The Tesla Model Y is a 300-mile range Model 3 doppelganger coming in fall 2020

At first glance, it appeared that Tesla Model 3 had a doppelganger.

After years of teasers and hints, Tesla CEO Elon Musk finally unveiled the Model Y, a mid-sized all-electric vehicle that is slated to hit the marketplace in fall 2020.

The Model Y bears a striking resemblance to Model 3. The vehicle, which will come in a standard, long range, dual-motor all-wheel and performance variants, is a bit larger than the Model 3, allowing it to accommodate seven people (for those who opt to pay the $3,000 up charge). It also sits slightly higher than the Model 3. One of the most distinguishing differences is that the Model Y has a panoramic roof.

And that’s where the differences start to fade away.

The Model Y has the same interior as the Model 3, including the same single 15-inch touchscreen interface as well as other features like the door handles.

The photo below is a Model 3. 

And now, the Model Y. Notice a slightly higher stance and shorter front end.

Other important specs

The standard range version will start $39,000 and have 230 mile range. However, Tesla will first produce the performance, dual-motor and long range versions. Customers who want the standard range version of the Model Y will have to wait until at least spring 2021. The performance and dual motor variants will be able to travel 280 miles on a single charge, while the long-range version will, as it sounds, have the longest range at 300 miles.

All of the variants are designed to have the same kind of performance as its smaller sibling. The performance version of the Model Y will be able to travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 150 mph.

But that kind of performance comes at a higher price. The performance version will start at $60,000. The dual motor variant will start at $51,000 and the base price of the long-range version will be $47,000.

Musk didn’t say where the Model Y would be produced, nor did he get into other details beyond the vehicle specs and a vague timeline.

He did provide a bullish forecast for the Model Y, stating towards the end of the event that he expects Y sales to exceed Model S and Model X combined. Tesla has sold more than 500,000 vehicles to date, including the Roadster, S, X and 3.

Elon Musk finally hosted meme review with the co-creator of Rick and Morty

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has been teasing — and his fan base has been making pleas — to host a meme review. And after tweeted hints, meme review has arrived via YouTube star PewDiePie.

Musk tweeted last month a photo and a question “Host meme review?”

On Friday, Musk and Justin Roiland, one of the creators of Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty, appeared on YouTuber PewDiePie’s show for a meme review.

During the segment, Musk and Roiland rate various memes, like the one pictured below. The pair provide commentary and funny quips.

It looks like Musk and Roiland’s appearance has helped push PewDiePie above T-Series, an Indian music company on YouTube that has had the most subscribers. PewDiePie now has about a 20,000 subscriber lead.

The final meme, which pictures what appears to be a dead deer at the bottom of a pool, is what pushes Musk over the edge when he asks, “Jeez is that true? What, that actually happened? Oh my god,” as he bursts into fits of uncomfortable laughter.

You can watch the whole episode that PewDiePie uploaded on February 22 or skip to about minute 13 for Musk and Roiland.

 

Elon Musk finally hosted meme review with the co-creator of Rick and Morty

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has been teasing — and his fan base has been making pleas — to host a meme review. And after tweeted hints, meme review has arrived via YouTube star PewDiePie.

Musk tweeted last month a photo and a question “Host meme review?”

On Friday, Musk and Justin Roiland, one of the creators of Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty, appeared on YouTuber PewDiePie’s show for a meme review.

During the segment, Musk and Roiland rate various memes, like the one pictured below. The pair provide commentary and funny quips.

It looks like Musk and Roiland’s appearance has helped push PewDiePie above T-Series, an Indian music company on YouTube that has had the most subscribers. PewDiePie now has about a 20,000 subscriber lead.

The final meme, which pictures what appears to be a dead deer at the bottom of a pool, is what pushes Musk over the edge when he asks, “Jeez is that true? What, that actually happened? Oh my god,” as he bursts into fits of uncomfortable laughter.

You can watch the whole episode that PewDiePie uploaded on February 22 or skip to about minute 13 for Musk and Roiland.

 

A photo of an egg has toppled reality star Kylie Jenner as Instagram’s most-liked post

Instagram has found something it likes more than a Kardashian-Jenner family baby, and it’s an egg.

This weekend, a photo of a plain egg became the most-liked photo on Instagram, the social app owned by Facebook with over one billion users that’s reflective of internet culture.

The photo, which you can see below in its full glory, currently has more than 23 million likes at the time of writing. That has seen it surpass a February 18 photo from Kylie Jenner — the sister of Kim Kardashian and a reality TV star in her own right — which announced the birth of her baby with rapper Travis Scott and has 18.2 million likes.

Unlike Jenner, who has 21 million Instagram followers, the egg account — “world_record_egg” — is a newcomer that seems to have been created in early January. Nothing is known of its ownership, although it now has 2.4 million followers which could — and I can’t believe I’m writing this… — make it an influencer account.

While much can be said about Jenner’s rise to fame, she’s a pretty successful entrepreneur. Her two-year-old ‘Kylie Cosmetics’ brand is estimated to gross over $600 million in annual revenue. While it is funny that a photo of an egg can take the record on Instagram there might be more to it. Jenner’s company trades on her brand, the egg could be a rejection or protest of today’s reality TV culture… which is best embodied by the Kardashians and, in particular, Kylie Jenner. That certainly seems the case looking at the splurge in new and egg-related comments on Jenner’s birth post from last year.

Maybe that’s wishful thinking and this is just another internet phenomenon that can’t be explained. It could simply be a joke that blew up, but don’t discount the potential that this is a stunt from a company launching a new product or wanting to make a splash.

Showing that she might have a sense of humor, 21-year-old Jenner acknowledged the new record in a video of her smashing an egg.

View this post on Instagram

Take that little egg

A post shared by Kylie (@kyliejenner) on

This is the second social media record set this year after Twitter got a new most-retweeted tweet — however, the roles were very much different.

Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire who is paying Elon Musk’s SpaceX for a trip to the moon, saw a tweet that offered nearly $1 million in prize money for retweets surpass a true internet phenomenon, U.S. teen Carter Wilkerson. Back in April 2017, Wilkerson took to Twitter to plead for free chicken nuggets; his original tweet now has around 3.6 million retweets.

Why Silicon Valley needs more visas

When I hear protesters shout, “Immigrants are welcome here!” at the San Francisco immigration office near my startup’s headquarters, I think about how simple a phrase that is for a topic that is so nuanced, especially for me as an immigrant entrepreneur.

Growing up in Brazil, I am less familiar with the nuances of the American debate on immigration legislation, but I know that immigrants here add a lot of jobs and stimulate the local economy. As an immigrant entrepreneur, I’ve tried to check all of those boxes, and really prove my value to this country.

My tech startup Brex has achieved a lot in a short period of time, a feat which is underscored by receiving a $1 billion dollar valuation in just one year. But we didn’t achieve that high level of growth in spite of being founded by immigrants, but because of it. The key to our growth and to working towards building a global brand is our international talent pool, without it, we could never have gotten to where we are today.

So beyond Brex, what do the most successful Silicon Valley startups have in common? They’re also run by immigrants. In fact, not only are 57% of the Bay Area’s STEM tech workers immigrants, they also make up 25% of business founders in the US. You can trace the immigrant entrepreneurial streak in Silicon Valley from the founders of SUN Microsystems and Google to the Valley’s most notorious Twitter User, Tesla’s Elon Musk.

Immigrants not only built the first microchips in Silicon Valley, but they built these companies into the tech titans that they are known as today. After all, more than 50% of billion dollar startups are founded by immigrants, and many of those startups were founded by immigrants on H-1B visas.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/jvoves

While it might sound counterintuitive, immigrants create more jobs and make our economy stronger. Research from the National Foundation of American Policy (NFAP) has shown that immigrant-founded billion-dollar companies doubled their number of employees over the past two years. According to the research, “WeWork went from 1,200 to 6,000 employees between 2016 and 2018, Houzz increased from 800 to 1,800 employees the last two years, while Cloudflare went from 225 to 715 employees.”

We’ve seen the same growth at Brex. In just one year we hired 70 employees and invested over $6 million dollars in creating local jobs. Our startup is not alone, as Inc. recently reported, “50 immigrant-founded unicorn startups have a combined value of $248 billion, according to the report [by NFAP], and have created an average of 1,200 jobs each.”

One of the fundamental drivers of our success is our international workforce. Many of our key-hires are from all over Latin America, spanning from Uruguay to Mexico. In fact, 42% of our workforce is made up of immigrants and another 6% are made up of children of immigrants. Plenty of research shows that diverse teams are more productive and work together better, but that’s only part of the reason why you should bet on an international workforce. When you’re working with the best and brightest from every country, it inspires you to bring forth your most creative ideas, collaborate, and push yourself beyond your comfort zone. It motivates you to be your best.

With all of the positive contributions immigrants bring to this country, you’d think we’d have less restrictive immigration policies. However, that’s not the case. One of the biggest challenges that I face is hiring experienced, qualified engineers and designers to continue innovating in a fast-paced, competitive market.

This is a universal challenge in the tech industry. For the past 10 years, software engineers have been the #1 most difficult job to fill in the United States. Business owners are willing to pay 10-20 percent above the market rate for top talent and engineers. Yet, we’re still projected to have a shortage of two million engineering jobs in the US by 2022. How can you lead the charge of innovation if you don’t have the talent to do it?

What makes matters worse is that there are so few opportunities and types of visas for qualified immigrants. This is limiting job growth, knowledge-sharing, and technological breakthroughs in this country. And we risk losing top talent to other nations if we don’t loosen our restrictive visa laws.

H1-B visa applications fell this year, and at the same time, these visas have become harder to obtain and it has become more expensive to acquire international talent. This isn’t the time to abandon the international talent pool, but to invest in highly specialized workers that can give your startup a competitive advantage.

Already, there’s been a dramatic spike in engineering talent moving to Canada, with a 40% uptick in 2017. Toronto, Berlin, and Singapore are fastly becoming burgeoning tech hubs, and many fear (rightfully) that they will soon outpace the US in growth, talent, and developing the latest technologies.

This year, U.S. based tech companies generated $351 billion of revenue in 2018. The U.S. can’t afford to miss out on this huge revenue source. And, according to Harvard Business School Professor William R. Kerr and the author of The Gift of Global Talent: How Migration Shapes Business, Economy & Society, “Today’s knowledge economy dictates that your ability to attract, develop, and integrate smart minds governs how prosperous you will be.”

Immigrants have made Silicon Valley the powerhouse that it is today, and severely limiting highly-skilled immigration benefits no-one. Immigrants have helped the U.S. build one of the best tech hubs in the world— now is the time for startups to invest in international talent so that our technology, economy, and local communities can continue to thrive.

Silicon Valley’s year of reckoning

Tech companies have always branded themselves as the good guys. But 2018 was the year that the long-held belief that Silicon Valley is on the right side of progress and all things good was called into question by a critical mass.

As startups grow bigger and richer, amassing more power and influence outside of the Valley, a reckoning has played out in government and business. Mission statements like “connecting the world” and “don’t be evil” no longer hold water.

A look at a few of this year’s most impactful news themes underscore why; we’ve racked up too many examples to the contrary.

Android co-creator Andy Rubin’s $90 million payout and sexual misconduct revealed

Since the #MeToo movement opened the floodgates on the importance of fighting for gender equality and fair treatment of women and underrepresented minorities at a large scale, the tech industry was rightfully singled out as a microcosm for rampant misconduct.

In October, a New York Times investigation detailed how Android co-creator Andy Rubin was paid out a $90 million exit package when he left Google in 2014. At the time, Google concealed that the executive had multiple relationships with Google staffers and that credible accounts of sexual misconduct had been filed against him during his time at the company. It was an all-too-familiar story recounting how women in tech aren’t safe at work and misbehaved executives are immune from penalty. Google employees didn’t stand for it. 

At a rally in San Francisco, Google staffers read off their list of demands, which included an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination, a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity and a clear, inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously, reported Kate Clark.

Rubin has since taken leave from his smartphone company, Essential.

The first self-driving car fatality occurred when an Uber SUV struck and killed a woman in Arizona

Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive officer of Uber, arrives for a morning session at the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Wednesday, July 10. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In March, the first self-driving car fatality occurred in Tempe, Arizona when 49-year-old pedestrian Elaine Herzberg was struck by an Uber autonomous test SUV. The car was in self-driving mode, and there was a safety driver behind the wheel who failed to intervene.

Investigators determined the driver had looked down at a phone 204 times during a 43-minute test drive, and that the driver was streaming “The Voice” on Hulu, according to a police report released by the Tempe Police Department. Law enforcement determined her eyes were off the road for 3.67 miles of the 11.8 total miles driven, or about 31 percent of the time.

Uber paused all of its AV testing operations in Pittsburgh, Toronto, San Francisco and Phoenix as a result, and released a safety report detailing how it will add precautions to its testing of self-driving cars. Two employees will be required to sit in the front seat at all times, and an automatic braking system will be enabled.

The incident immediately raised questions about insurance and liability, along with the investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board. As mobility companies charge full speed ahead in developing solutions that will shape the future of urban transportation, tragedies like this remind us that while AVs and humans share the roads, these programs are rife with risk. Has Uber learned a lesson? We’ll find out soon, as the company received permission by the state of Pennsylvania to resume autonomous vehicle testing.

Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated by Saudi agents, prompting Silicon Valley to think about how it got so rich

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Silicon Valley companies are used to getting away with a lot. Larger orgs like Uber, Tesla and Facebook rotate in and out of the hot seat as security breaches wreak havoc and sexual harassment scandals are exposed, only to be washed out of the news cycle by a viral image of Elon Musk sampling marijuana the next day.

But one story shocked the public for weeks, after agents of the Saudi government assassinated Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul as he was trying to obtain marriage license papers.

The tech industry was collectively upset by its proximity to a government and funding source that blatantly misused its power. Silicon Valley gets most of its money through SoftBank’s Vision Fund and by proxy the Saudi kingdom. About half of SoftBank’s massive $93 billion tech-focused fund is powered by a $45 billion commitment from the Saudi kingdom. This means the total invested by the kingdom alone into U.S. startups is far greater than the total raised by any single VC fund. Did we see a single example of a startup that refused to work with SoftBank in the aftermath? No. Will we? Probably not. Because Silicon Valley players are mostly only political and activist when it’s convenient for them.

Silicon Valley companies that have accepted money from this source have a vested interest in keeping the peace with Saudi Arabia and its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — the leader known for getting friendly with tech CEOs in the past. But where does this leave us now as Saudi Arabian money continues to distort American venture? SoftBank has sustained countless startups with round after round of funding as it plunges into debt.

With SoftBank money inflating round sizes and therefore valuations, tech founders and CEOs are faced with the age-old question of whether or not it’s okay to use dirty money to do “good things.” SoftBank’s 2018 culminated in a record IPO that saw a 15 percent drop in value on its debut. Regardless, the aftermath of the Khashoggi assassination could signify the end of an era in American venture if founders begin to think critically about the source of their funding — and act on it. 

Facebook’s struggle

UNITED STATES – APRIL 11: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee in Rayburn Building on the protection of user data on April 11, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Facebook’s 2018 kicked off with Zuckerberg’s wishful, vague post about his personal challenge to “fix Facebook.” The social network bowed out of 2017 with critics saying Zuckerberg hadn’t done enough to combat the proliferation of fake news on Facebook or block Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Online abuse had never been so bad. All of this was happening just as people started to realize that mindlessly browsing the newsfeed — Facebook’s core product — is a total waste of time.

What better timing for not one, but two massive security scandals?

Zuckerberg answered to Congress after Facebook was infiltrated by Cambridge Analytica, a data organization with ties to the Trump administration. In the beginning of 2014, the organization obtained data on 50 million Facebook users in a way that deceived both the users and Facebook itself. 

If that weren’t enough, just months later Facebook revealed at least 30 million users’ data were confirmed to be at risk after attackers exploited a vulnerability allowing them access to users’ personal data. Zuckerberg said that the attackers were using Facebook developer APIs to obtain information, like “name, gender, and hometowns” linked to a user’s profile page. Queue #deletefacebook

A Pew report detailed how Facebook users are becoming more cautious and critical, but they still can’t quit. News and social networking are like oil and water — they can’t blend into coexistence on the same news feed. In 2018, Facebook was caught in a perfect storm. Users started to understand Facebook for what it actually is: powered by algorithms that coalesce fact, opinion and malicious fake content on a platform designed to financially profit off the addictive tendencies of its users. The silver lining is that as people become more cautious and critical of Facebook, the market is readying itself for a new, better social network to be designed off the pioneering mistakes of its predecessors.

Apple hits a $1 trillion market cap and celebrates the anniversary of the iPhone with design changes

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – OCTOBER 22: Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple announcement. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

This was a hardware-heavy year for Apple. The MacBook Air got Retina Display. The Apple Watch got a big redesign. The iPad Pro said farewell to the home button. We met the new mac Mini and an updated Apple Pencil. In September, Apple held its annual hardware event in Cupertino to announce three new iPhone models, the XS (the normal one), XR (the cheap one) and the XS Max (the big one). We also learned that the company went back to the drawing board on the Mac Pro.

In August, Apple won the race to $1 trillion in market cap. It wasn’t the frayed cords or crappy keyboards that boosted the company past this milestone, but rather price hikes in its already high-margin iPhone sales. But while Apple remains wildly profitable, growth is slowing notably.

Tech stocks took a beating toward the end of the year, and although Apple seems to have weathered the storm better than most companies, it may have reached a threshold for how much it can innovate on its high-end hardware. It may be wise for the company to focus on other methods of bringing in revenue like Apple Music and iCloud if it wants to shoot for the $2 trillion market cap.

As the biggest, richest companies get bigger and richer, questions about antitrust and regulation rise to ensure they don’t hold too much economic power. Tim Cook has more authority than many political leaders. Let’s hope he uses it for good.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk sued by the SEC for securities fraud

CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 14: Engineer and tech entrepreneur Elon Musk of The Boring Company listens as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks about constructing a high speed transit tunnel at Block 37 during a news conference on June 14, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Musk said he could create a 16-passenger vehicle to operate on a high-speed rail system that could get travelers to and from downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport under twenty minutes, at speeds of over 100 miles per hour. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

In August, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced in a tweet heard around the internet that he was considering taking Tesla private for $420 per share and that he’d secured funding to do so. The questioning started. Was it legit? Was it a marijuana joke? The tweet caused Tesla’s stock price to jump by more than 6 percent on August 7. Musk also complained that being a public company “subjects Tesla to constant defamatory attacks by the short-selling community, resulting in great harm to our valuable brand.”

Turns out, Musk had indeed met with representatives from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, and that the fund’s lead rep told Musk that they’d bought about 5 percent of Tesla’s stock at a stake worth $2 billion, were interested in taking the company private and confirmed that this rep had the power to make these kinds of investment decisions for the fund. However, nothing was written on paper, and Musk did not notify the Nasdaq — an important requirement.

At the end of September, the SEC filed a lawsuit against Musk for securities fraud in regards to his “false and misleading” tweets, seeking to remove him from Tesla. Musk settled with the SEC two days after being charged, resigning from his chairman position but remaining CEO. Musk and Tesla were also ordered to pay separate $20 million fines to “be distributed to harmed investors under a court-approved process,” according to the SEC.

Public companies are supposed to value the interests of their shareholders. Pulling the trigger on an impulsive tweet breaks that trust — and in Musk’s case, cost $40 million and a board seat. This is why we should never put too much fear or faith in our leaders. Musk is brilliant and his inventions are changing the world. But he is human and humans are flawed and the Tesla board should have done more to balance power at the top. 

The great Amazon HQ2 swindle

Chief Executive Officer of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, tours the facility at the grand opening of the Amazon Spheres, in Seattle, Washington on January 29, 2018. Amazon opened its new Seattle office space which looks more like a rainforest. The company created the Spheres Complex to help spark employee creativity. (Photo: JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images)

Tech jobs bring new wealth to cities. Amazon set out on a roadshow across America in what the company described as a search for its second headquarters, or “HQ2.” The physical presence of Amazon’s massive retail and cloud businesses would undoubtedly bring wealth, innovation, jobs and investment into a region.

There was initial hope that the retail giant would choose a city in the American heartland, serving as a catalyst for job growth in a burgeoning tech hub like Columbus, Ohio, Detroit, Mich., or Birmingham, Ala. But in the end, Amazon split the decision between two locations: New York (Long Island City) and Arlington, Virginia, as the sites for its new offices. The response? Outrage.

Jon Shieber noted that cities opened their books to the company to prove their viability as a second home for the retailing giant. In return, Amazon reaped data on urban and exurban centers that it could use to develop the next wave of its white-collar office space, and more than $2 billion worth of tax breaks from the cities that it will eventually call home for its new offices.

Danny Crichton argued that Amazon did exactly what it should have with its HQ2 process. Crichton wrote that Amazon is its own entity and therefore has ownership of its decisions. It allowed cities to apply and provide information on why they might be the best location for its new headquarters. Maybe the company ignored all of the applications. Maybe it was a ploy to collect data. Maybe it wanted publicity. Regardless, it allowed input into a decision it has complete and exclusive control over.

Let’s hope that in 2019, Silicon Valley will hold on to some of its ethos as a venture-funded sandbox for brilliant entrepreneurs who want to upend antiquated industries with proprietary tech inventions. But let it be known that sleeping at the wheel while your company gets breached, turning a blind eye to the evil doings of your largest funding sources and executive immunity from sexual misconduct violations no longer have their place here. 

SpaceX announces plan to announce plan to send someone around the moon in planned spaceship

It’s been too long without any kind of outlandish news from any of Elon Musk’s companies, but SpaceX has filled the void with the announcement of a newly redesigned BFR spacecraft and the news that it will fly around the moon with a soon-to-be-named first passenger. Whenever they get around to actually engineering and building the thing, anyway.

In a tweet Thursday evening, SpaceX (though it was clearly Musk) announced that it has “signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle.”

Attached to the tweet was an image of the BFR itself (above), much changed from its last appearance. It used to look like this:

And now it looks like this:

The old version was also two-toned, as you can see if you look closely at the ISS render, with the darker part likely corresponding to a heat-resistant surface. But this new one is more reminiscent of the Space Shuttle thanks to considerably lengthened fins and the addition of a top one. Perhaps the cool, smooth two-fin style simply proved impractical; flight stability in atmosphere probably makes that top fin necessary. There’s also what appears to be a front stabilizer of some kind.

The engine cluster is also different; the original design had 4 Raptor engines in a square, with two smaller “sea-level” engines for landing operations in-between them. This new render has 7 Raptors in a honeycomb formation. We can only speculate why that might be: the engines may have been scaled down a bit for some reason or another, or the 7-thruster formation might be more robust to failures.

Since this is all basically concept work, it’s hard to say how much is real and how much is fantasy. Considering how early the craft is in production, it’s not surprising that major changes like these would be made.

A commentator on Twitter noted that the whole thing is very “Tintin-esque,” no doubt referring to the rocket flown by the beloved Belgian comic book hero in “Destination Moon” and “Explorers on the Moon.”

Although Musk responded with “Intentionally so,” the similarities are actually pretty few. Perhaps he meant the whole concept of a private lunar mission. At any rate, Musk is clearly a fan of the comics, and any Tintin reference is a good reference.

There are also 6 rows of windows behind the cockpit, up from 3, suggesting SpaceX has expanded the seating in the planned craft. That fits with the passenger-related nature of the announcement.

As for that: This first circumlunar tourist will be announced at an event on Monday, September 17th. Who will it be? Likely a billionaire. Unfortunately, they’ll have a long time to wait. By the time the BFR is up and running, space tourism (though perhaps not round-the-moon trips) may very well have been going on for years. So if it will be this intrepid, extremely rich person’s first trip to our satellite, I doubt it will be their first trip above the Kármán line.