Peter Diamandis Needs To Apologize (And To His Credit, He Did)

Metaphor misfires, MSNBC

"[Diamandis] tried to recover in a jocular tone: "But I guarantee you that the rest of us would happily be slave labor for that mission." As murmurs of "no" went through the audience, Diamandis instantly realized the misstep. "I should be careful about that," he said. "Can we erase that from the videotapes?"

Editor's note: Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X-prize Foundation, spoke at an award ceremony Friday night in Los Angeles. I was in attendance with hundreds of other people and recorded his comments.

The thrust of his comments had to do with how to open up space to large numbers of people. One of the impediments to getting large numbers of people into space is the cost of the rockets needed. In addressing the need to lower launch costs and come up with more innovative financing alternatives, Diamandis made number of historical analogies.

One analogy in particular regarding V2 rockets, Nazis, and ignoring the use of slave labor was expressed in a rather troubling fashion. A verbatim excerpt from a recording made at this event follows:

DIAMANDIS: If you look back at what von Braun did in Nazi Germany It was incredible what you can do with literally a dictatorship. Look at the numbers. 6,000 V-2s built. 6,000 missiles were built in Nazi Germany. The recurring cost was $13,000 a launch for those vehicles. You can bring the cost down with mass production. We'll come back to what will drive ...

[Multiple audience comments - including me - "SLAVE LABOR"]

DIAMANDIS: Yea, and slave labor, Sorry.


DIAMANDIS: But you know - again to you the rest of us would happily be slave labor for that mission. Can you erase that from the video tape?


DIAMANDIS: But the fact of the matter is that mass production of rockets is possible if you have a real marketplace. And war is not a good one. Moving forward though ...

Immediately after these comments were made it was apparent to many in attendance that Diamandis had crossed the line and had said some inappropriate and offensive comments - to say the least.

Despite multiple opportunities immediately after that event Diamandis did not attempt to explain or apologize to the attendees or media in attendance - thus leaving his words to stand - and speak for themselves.

For Diamandis to not instantaneously recant these remarks serves to cast a pall over the organization that hosted this award event, the X-Prize Foundation and the entities X-Prize Foundation works with including NASA.

Peter Diamandis clearly aspires to be a leader in the space movement and open up space access to a broader range of people. A worthy goal to be certain. However, to be a true leader one should apologize for one's mistakes as fast - if not faster - than they were made in the first place. So far Diamandis has failed that crucial test of leadership.

Email from Peter Diamandis 11:14 am PDT: "I want to apologize for comments that I made last night regarding the 'economies of scale' that the German V2 rocket had. The comments that I made did not recognize that the cost of that launch vehicle were only made possible through the slave labor of thousands of people that were held during one of the darkest periods of human history.

It was a completely inappropriate and insensitive example and I will not use it again. My comments were not consistent with the vision that all of us hold for our future in space. My speech was written in the hours just before, and I didnt think appropriately about what I was writing. I apologize to anyone who was offended by what I said."

  • submit to reddit


In Fury Born by David Weber - Baen Books
Kepler Communications - Aether

Join our mailing list

Commercialization: Monthly Archives

Monthly Archives

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on May 7, 2006 1:37 PM.

China Space Update was the previous entry in this blog.

Uncertain Future for GRC? is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.