Billionaire Elon Musk is taken to task this Tuesday on Chinese social networks. It is implicated after two of its satellites narrowly missed, according to Beijing, the Chinese capital, colliding with the space station of the Asian giant.
The richest man in the world, who has just been voted personality of the year by the American magazine Time, is well known in China for his Tesla electric cars. But his space exploration company SpaceX has now earned him the resentment of Internet users.
According to a document sent in early December by Beijing to the Office for Outer Space Affairs of the United Nations (United Nations) in Vienna, Austria, the Chinese space station Tiangong had to carry out maneuvers twice, in July and October, to to avoid “an encounter” with SpaceX machines. The Chinese space agency had to react “in order to ensure the safety and survival of astronauts in orbit”, added Beijing.
A quarter of Tesla’s production sold in China
SpaceX has not yet reacted on Tuesday to this information, which has displeased Chinese Internet users. “Prepare to boycott Tesla,” laced a user of the Weibo social network, under a keyword seen more than 87 million times. “It’s not lacking in irony: the Chinese are buying Teslas, giving money to Musk to launch (of satellites) and throws them against the Chinese space station,” complained another.
The Chinese market is crucial for the Canadian-American multi-billionaire of South African origin. Tesla sells about 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.
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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 deployment,” commented Jonathan McDowell, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the United States.
China this year launched the main module of its Tiangong space station (the “heavenly palace”), the construction of which is due to be completed next year. Two crews of three astronauts have been there since June.