Musk issued a brief series of tweets overnight, stating that he had “mild sniffles,” a “cough” and “slight fever” for the past few days. He added that he is expecting to get the results of a PCR test — which are known to be more accurate than the type of rapid test Musk said he took— within 24 hours.
Meanwhile, Musk’s tweets echoed across the country to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where four astronauts are preparing to ride into space aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on Saturday.
NASA chief Jim Bridenstine, who was scheduled to conduct a routine press conference Friday morning, said that, per NASA policies, Musk should be in quarantine and SpaceX should be attempting to determine who might have come into contact with Musk. But it wasn’t yet clear if Saturday’s mission will be affected by the news.
“This news just broke before this press conference,” Bridenstine said, adding that he last spoke to Musk two days ago. “So as far as any contact with the [astronaut] crew, I am unaware of it. That contact tracing should be underway right now.”
When asked if the uncertainty around Musk’s diagnosis might delay the SpaceX mission, Bridenstine replied, “If there are adjustments that need to be made, we will make them.”
It’s not clear if SpaceX has already started contact tracing efforts. The company did not respond to requests for comment from CNN Business, nor has SpaceX responded to email or phone inquiries from CNN Business in about six months.
The astronauts slated to fly on Saturday are likely not at risk, Bridenstine added. Even before the pandemic, NASA has said that astronauts abide by pre-flight quarantine rules to ensure they don’t take an illness into space, where viruses and bacteria could rapidly spread among crew members packed onto a spacecraft. NASA has also implemented stricter measures in response to Covid-19, but the astronauts have been staying with their family members and will have to be in close proximity to some NASA and SpaceX employees on launch day.
But it’s also unclear how a positive diagnosis for Musk could impact the ground crews needed to oversee the launch the weekend. Musk is frequently at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, which is also home to SpaceX’s mission control center. It’s not clear when Musk was last in contact with key SpaceX or NASA personnel that will need to report for duty this weekend.
Why Musk’s tests may have been wrong
Per Musk’s tweets, he expects to receive his PCR test results Friday night. He also noted that he was not currently experiencing symptoms, though he “did take NyQuil.”
Two NASA spokespeople declined to comment about the status of the SpaceX mission beyond what Bridenstine told reporters. SpaceX and NASA officials in Florida, however, are expected to host another routine press conference this afternoon to share updates about checks they’re conducting on the SpaceX rocket and spacecraft.