Why T-shirt Sellers Aren't Happy About NASA's SpaceX Launch
A trip to Cape Canaveral to see a space shuttle launch is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many. It’s still mind boggling that we, as a civilization, are able to launch ourselves into space safely, so being able to watch that happen is something worth commemorating.
If you go down to Cape Canaveral to watch a typical NASA launch, you’ll see all kinds of merchandise sellers hawking commemorative apparel. But, if you go today to see SpaceX launch astronauts to the International Space Station—the first time American astronauts are launching from U.S. soil since NASA’s Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011—you’ll come back empty-handed. And that’s irritating to a lot of local merchandise sellers.
“We can’t sell SpaceX [merchandise] because they’re a private company,” Brenda Mulberry, owner of Space Shirts in Merritt Island, Fla., told The Jakarta Post.
Mulberry has been in business since 1987, and has sold T-shirts for every manned U.S. space flight since then. Since the NASA logo and images representing each of the manned flights are in the public domain, she has had carte blanche to make as much merchandise as she wants. But SpaceX, owned by eccentric billionaire Elon Musk, is privately owned. So even though NASA has asked the public to come down to its launch site to watch the incredibly advanced SpaceX flights, commercial entities like Mulberry’s aren’t able to get in on the action.
Mulberry has even asked permission from SpaceX to put its logo on merchandise so she can keep her streak alive.
“I’ve respectfully asked permission,” she said. “But I can’t get it.”
What’s wild here is that Musk, whose Tesla branding and promotional savvy is something we’ve written about more than a handful of times, is severely lacking when it comes to SpaceX.
The SpaceX online store is fully stocked, but virtually bereft of all things related to the Demo-2 launch, or even anything mission-specific, unless you count “Nuke Mars” as an actual guiding principle in Musk’s quest for space exploration. But, now that we think of it, Tesla was sort of like this with its Cybertruck merchandise, too.
There’s plenty of stuff related to the spacecraft themselves, like the Dragon and Falcon 9, but it’s clear that SpaceX is going for more evergreen branding than timely items. That makes sense to some degree, but you have to think a guy like Musk who loves doing things on a whim would want to boast about his own success here, even if the shirts do become a little outdated tomorrow.