“Hundreds of engineers are going to be moving to Tulsa through Tulsa Remote,” said Aaron Bolzle, the program’s executive director. “If Tesla also announces it is going to move here, there is going to be no shortage of people who are excited and qualified to move here and work for that company.”
A three-term congressman from Oklahoma’s 1st District, which includes Tulsa, Bridenstine still lives in Tulsa and is Kouplen’s neighbor. He said he approached Kouplen some time ago about getting Stitt to Cape Canaveral for the launch.
Bridenstine, in a phone interview Thursday, said he was not acting as “matchmaker.”
“That’s certainly not the job of the NASA administrator does,” he said.
Bridenstine said he invited “10 or 15” people to the launch, some of whom did not attend. The Tulsa contingent is known to have included Webco Chief Executive Officer Dana Weber, City Councilor Phil Lakin, George Kaiser Family Foundation President Ken Levit and Nordam Vice President Bailey Siegfried. The dinner party also included astronauts and high-ranking military officers connected to the space program.
Because of SpaceX’s deep involvement in the U.S. space program, Bridenstine has worked closely with Musk. Those interactions have been tense at times, but Bridenstine said Musk “is amazingly intelligent and brilliant. … He is a visionary.”
“He (Musk) asked a lot of questions about Tulsa,” Kouplen said. “We just tried, as always, to make the best case that we could. I believe this, and I shared it with him, I believe this is the best choice for many, many reasons.”
He said Musk asked about the Golden Driller, and a recent attention-grabbing effort in which Musk’s likeness was painted on the giant figure’s face and the Tesla symbol onto its belt buckle.