astroengine writes: According to NASA's new science chief Thomas Zurbuchen, the U.S. space agency doesn't see SpaceX as a competitor in a race to Mars and that if any private company gets there before NASA, it will be cause for celebration and a huge science boon. "If Elon Musk brought the samples in the door right now I'd throw him a party out of my own money," Zurbuchen told reporters on Monday. He also said that polarizing topics, including science issues, need to be tackled with empathy for and patience with people who have opposing viewpoints. "Just because somebody doesn't agree with us the first time we open our mouths doesn't mean that they're stupid, or we're smart, or the other way around. I think it's really important to create, bring some empathy to the table," he told Seeker. "There's a lot of stuff that can be learned by just talking to people." The report adds: "Before joining NASA, Zurbuchen was a professor of space science and aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His areas of expertise include solar and heliospheric physics, experimental space research, innovation and entrepreneurship, NASA said in a statement."