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Why did Rocket Lab chief Peter Beck eat his hat?

Introducing Neutron

In a video (above) posted online this week, Rocket Lab chief Peter Beck destroyed his hat in a blender before taking some of it out and eating it.

“This hat is not tasty,” he said while chewing hard on the demolished fibers.

So, why exactly did Peter Beck eat his hat?

To be clear, the boss of Rocket Lab does not have a history of eating blended items of clothing, nor does he have anything against hats that prompts him to destroy them (as far as we know).

The reason he ate his hat, you may not be surprised to learn, is linked to the age-old idiom where you promise to eat your own head covering if something happens that you once said couldn’t possibly occur.

In Beck’s case, he once said he would eat his hat if Rocket Lab ever moved toward making its boosters reusable.

A change of heart

The ambitious space-launch company, seen by many as an emerging rival to SpaceX, has been enjoying success with its Electron rocket, with 18 launches so far deploying nearly 100 satellites in low-Earth orbit.

In August 2019, some time after his hat-eating promise, Beck announced that Rocket Lab was looking toward reusing its Electron rocket instead of using each booster just the once. But instead of landing it upright in the style of SpaceX, Beck said his team was looking to use a helicopter to pluck it from the sky as the booster fell back to Earth.

“Unfortunately, I find myself in the position of eating my hat,” the CEO said in response to Rocket Labs’ move toward reusability, though at the time he didn’t actually put any part of any hat into his mouth.

While the company continues to develop the technology to catch the booster in midair (watch a practice run), it recovered a booster for the very first time in November 2020 by taking it from the ocean soon after it returned to Earth following a successful satellite-deployment mission.

Beck still didn’t eat his hat, though comments at the time certainly suggested he was coming around to the idea: “I think a blended hat should be just fine, but apparently it’s not particularly good for you,” he said, adding that “it’s a topic of much discussion at Rocket Lab right now.”

But then, earlier this week, the company made a major announcement that meant Beck could no longer put off his hat-eating promise. The company revealed it’s working on Neutron, its most powerful rocket to date that will have the capability of carrying astronauts into Earth orbit and possibly beyond. Furthermore, it will be fully reusable, returning to terra firma and landing upright — just like SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.

 A promise kept

This week’s announcement clearly left Beck feeling that he could no longer put off the inevitable. It was time to follow through on his long-held promise and finally eat his hat (though perhaps he could’ve avoided it by saying: “It’s just an expression, guys!”).

After stuffing some of his shredded hat into his mouth, he spent a few seconds munching away.

“For the avoidance of all doubt, this hat is not tasty,” he said with a look on his face that suggested he was about to retch.

Clearly not an enjoyable experience, it’s likely this will be the last time Beck makes a promise of this nature regarding other predictions for Rocket Lab. Unless he can find a hat that tastes good.

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Trevor Mogg
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