Multi-billionaire business mogul and engineer Elon Musk took to Twitter on Tuesday to say good riddance to Alabama’s former U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa), who officially retired this week.
Alabamians elected Shelby as a Democrat in 1986. He later switched to the Republican Party and chaired several committees during his time in Washington, D.C., including the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Banking Committee and the Senate Rule Committee. On Tuesday, his former chief of staff, Katie Britt, succeeded him.
Musk, CEO of several companies, including SpaceX, Twitter and Tesla, clashed with Shelby in 2010 when Shelby opposed a national space plan that would’ve awarded contracts to SpaceX.
The space plan, proposed by then-President Barack Obama, would have given NASA $6 billion to invest in the commercial space industry. Shelby was a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee at the time and fought to preserve the Bush-era NASA program, Constellation, which employed 2,200 NASA and contractor employees in Alabama.
Musk told AL.com that year that he didn’t understand why Shelby was opposed to the new space plan because it also favored United Launch Alliance (ULA), a spacecraft launch service provider and rival to SpaceX associated with two megalithic defense contractors, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
When ULA was formed as a joint venture of Lockheed and Boeing in 2005, SpaceX challenged its monopoly on anti-trust grounds, but the Federal Trade Commission gave ULA anti-trust clearing in 2006.
ULA’s production and operation of government space launch services is located in Decatur. Both Lockheed and Boeing have facilities in North Alabama as well, revolving around NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
Musk accused Shelby of firing personal attacks on him and refusing to discuss the issue. Nevertheless, a spokesman for Shelby said that Shelby did meet with Musk.
On Tuesday, space journalist Eric Berger shared the 2010 AL.com story on Twitter. Musk replied: “Shelby did his best to hold back SpaceX.”
Shelby did his best to hold back SpaceX— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 3, 2023
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