Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's top space official, threatened Elon Musk, but he didn't seem too concerned.
Musk posted on Twitter yesterday a note he said Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, had sent to the Russian media. According to the note, U.S. military equipment had been delivered to Ukrainian marines and "militants of the Nazi Azov battalion."
"Elon Musk, thus, is involved in supplying the fascist forces in Ukraine with military communication equipment," Rogozin wrote, according to an English translation that Musk posted. (He also tweeted out a Russian version.) "And for this, Elon, you will be held accountable like an adult — no matter how much you'll play the fool."
If I die under mysterious circumstances, it’s been nice knowin ya— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 9, 2022
This sounds very much like a threat, as Musk acknowledged in a follow-up tweet on Sunday.
"If I die under mysterious circumstances, it's been nice knowin ya," he wrote.
Mumma Musk, Maye, didn't appreciate that glib response, tweeting, "That's not funny" along with two angry-face emojis. The billionaire entrepreneur responded, "Sorry! I will do my best to stay alive." (It was Mother's Day, after all.)
Considering Rogozin is prone to bluster and hyperbole, Musk doesn't seem to be too concerned about his safety. For example, Roscosmos's chief has repeatedly said that Russia may leave the International Space Station (ISS) program if sanctions are not lifted, but things continue to function more or less as usual.
Musk and Rogozin have gotten into it before. Rogozin said in 2014 that the United States should use a trampoline to get its astronauts to the ISS - a reference to the fact that that country was, at the time, entirely dependent on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for crewed orbital missions. At the time, Rogozin was mad about sanctions that were imposed after Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, which was Ukraine's territory.
With its landmark Demo-2 mission in May 2020, SpaceX ended that reliance. Musk responded to Rogozin right after liftoff: "The trampoline is working!"
During the ongoing Russian invasion, SpaceX, Musk and the US Agency for International Development have been open about sending Starlink terminals to Ukraine. In late February, shortly after the invasion started, Ukrainian officials asked for such equipment. And Musk replied in kind.
Time will tell what becomes of this heated rivalry.
And whether it's more bluster, or something more.