SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter on Friday night and told that he may have contracted Covid-19. He took four Covid-19 tests in one day, two of which were positive and two of which were negative. These are the rapid antigen tests, which produce results within 15 minutes and are cheaper but less reliable than polymerase chain reaction tests.
It is however not yet clear if Elon Musk has the virus, but the news immediately drummed up concern about whether a diagnosis will impact the NASA SpaceX mission to the International Space Station on Sunday. At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, four astronauts are preparing to go into space aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.
Musk is now waiting for results from the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in 24 hours. In his tweets, he stated that he had "mild sniffles," a "cough" and "slight fever" for the past few days.
NASA chief Jim Bridenstine told reporters on Friday that per the space agency's policies, he should be in quarantine and SpaceX would be attempting to determine who might have come into contact with Musk. On Friday evening, during another routine press briefing, NASA and SpaceX officials at Kennedy Space Center said the contact tracing was almost complete, and they determined no one who is essential to Sunday's mission was at risk of exposure to Covid-19.
According to NASA's deputy manager of flight operations Norm Knight, the astronauts are almost certainly not at risk. NASA always adheres to strict pre-flight quarantine rules to make sure they don't take any illness into space.
For the SpaceX NASA launch, from two weeks prior, the astronauts have been in "hard quarantine" or are "totally isolated" and are unable to be in close proximity to anyone outside of the launch team, even their families, Knight said.
He added that Musk will not be allowed into NASA facilities on launch day. "It's restricted access. It doesn't matter if you're Elon Musk or Jim Bridenstine... if any [of NASA's Covid-19 protocols] have been compromised, then we're not going to let you near the crew. And again, it's to protect the overall mission," Knight added.
There is no news if Musk had been planning to attend the launch in Florida, though he is frequently seen at SpaceX's launch control at the Kennedy Space Center during important SpaceX missions.
The mission is slated to take off Sunday at 7:27 pm ET. The original launch date was Saturday evening, but officials delayed it due to unfavorable weather conditions.