In a much-criticized tweet on Wednesday, US president Donald Trump claimed that "NASA was Closed & Dead [sic] until I got it going again."
A link to a NASASpaceflight tweet detailing SpaceX's successful launch of its Starship prototype accompanied the tweet — which is a striking accomplishment for Elon Musk's space startup, but only obliquely related to NASA.
In fact, the tweet raised the question of whether Trump had accidentally confused SpaceX's Starship with last month's Crew Dragon spacecraft flight to the space station, which was much more closely coordinated with NASA.
The categorically false claim drew widespread ire from the space exploration community, with news outlets like Space.com and Business Insider stating the obvious: NASA never "closed" and it was never "dead."
In fact, many of its recent successes are due to decades of hard work long preceding both Trump and in some cases even the Obama administration.
In a searing reply on Twitter, veteran NASA astronaut Scott Kelly also entered the fray: "Great leaders take blame and pass along credit."
Many others in the space community piled on.
"The Starship test the president is retweeting has nothing to do with NASA; it’s a private effort by SpaceX," tweeted Jeff Foust, a senior writer for SpaceNews.
"Curious where all the NASA employees came from if they agency has been closed for so long," tweeted The Verge senior science reporter Loren Grush.
"This does a disservice to the nearly 17,000 dedicated women and men of NASA," former SpaceX employee Phil Larson wrote.
SpaceX's recent success returning astronauts safely inside its Crew Dragon passenger spacecraft dates back to the establishment of the Commercial Cargo Program in 2006, about a decade prior to Trump's election. The program's development grew substantially during Obama's first term.
NASA's recent launch of its Perseverance rover, destined for Mars, also builds on decades of work, with development of its instruments dating back to 2013, as Space.com points out.
To his credit, Trump did attempt to increase NASA's budget over the last few years, although it's still unclear how much the agency will end up getting from Congress next year.
READ MORE: Trump says 'NASA was Closed & Dead' before he took charge. That's not true. [Space.com]
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