Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has launched rockets, spaceships and electric cars, and after his stint on CBS's "The Big Bang Theory" last night, he can add TV sitcom to his epic list of achievements. On Thursday (Nov. 19), Musk became the latest real-life space personality to make a cameo on "The Big Bang Theory," joining the likes of Stephen Hawking, Leonard Nimoy, NASA astronaut Mike Massimino and others who have also appeared on the show. Musk steals the show in a scene with engineer and one-time astronaut Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) while volunteering at a homeless shelter to help out with Thanksgiving dinner.
"You gotta be kidding me. You're Elon Musk!" Wolowitz exclaims. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm washing dishes," Musk deadpans. "I was on the turkey line, but I got demoted for being too generous with the gravy."
During their kitchen sink conversation, Musk asks Wolowitz how he enjoys helping others and the engineer launches into the insights he gained from his trip to the International Space Station (his character spent two months in orbit with Massimino).
"Nothing better than helping people, which is something I realized when I was viewing Earth from the deck of the International Space Station," Wolowitz says. "Where I spent two months as a payload specialist - a job I was qualified for because I'm an MIT-trained engineer."
Says Musk: "And I thought I ladled the gravy on thick."
Musk ultimately asks Wolowitz if he ever thinks about going back into space.
"Is that a job offer," the engineer fires back. "Because I really want to go to Mars."
Sadly, says Musk, SpaceX isn't ready yet: "We're not quite there yet, but we're always looking for engineers, so let me give you my email and we can stay in touch." They even share a slice of pumpkin pie.
While we don't know if Wolowitz will ever reach Mars, Musk and his private spaceflight company SpaceX certainly have the Red Planet in their sights. Musk has publicly discussed his vision for a Mars colony, with NASA scientists independently studying the potential of using SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft for future Mars landings under a project code-named "Red Dragon."
If you're looking for more cameos by Musk on TV and in film, Alan Boyle over at GeekWire has a great list.
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Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.