He has been called the real life Tony Stark. He runs a private space travel corporation, the world’s leading electric car company, and recently a tunnel boring company that gained attention for manufacturing a flamethrower. It�s hard not to have heard about Elon Musk these days, so here�s the story of Elon, Tesla, Space-X, and beyond. Elon Reeve Musk was born June twenty-eighth, nineteen seventy-one to Maye Musk and Errol Musk in Pretoria, South Africa. His mother, Maye, was, and is still a model originating from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. His father, Errol, was a South African born electromechanical engineer, sailor, and pilot. He also has a younger brother and sister. At the age of seventeen, Elon left South Africa to attend Queens University in Ontario, Canada.
This was in part to avoid mandatory service in the South African military as required after high school. As a child, Elon accelerated quickly in learning and reading. By the age of ten, he was learning basic computing and at the age of twelve, he developed and sold a game for the Commodore VIC-20 called “Blastar” for five-hundred dollars. Elon has also cited Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” series of sci-fi novels as a strong childhood influence. In the novels, author Isaac Asimov illustrates the story of a scientist and a form of science called psychohistory in which the researcher predicts future societal events and catastrophes by studying patterns of the past. He was quoted on the topic of the book while speaking with Rolling Stone, saying “Asimov certainly was influential because he was seriously paralleling Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, but he applied that to a sort of modern galactic empire.” He also said, “The lesson I drew from that is you should try to take the set of actions that are likely to prolong civilization, minimize the probability of a dark age, and reduce the length of a dark age if there is one.” During this time and up until Musk reached the age of fifteen, he was bullied severely by many of his classmates and peers. He was quoted on the subject saying, “For the longest time, I was the youngest and the smallest kid in the class because my birthday just happens to fall on almost the last day that they will accept you into school, June 28th. And I was a late bloomer. So I was the youngest and the smallest kid in class for years and years.
The gangs at school would hunt me down – literally hunt me down!” It didn’t take him long to step away from his studies and begin to pursue Karate, wrestling and Judo in order to defend himself. Eventually, he was fighting back against his aggressors and they soon left him alone. His relationship with his father was also in poor shape at this time. Elon has recalled his father verballing berating him in the time leading up to his departure from college to go to Canada. He would call him an idiot and telling him that he would never make it. His parents divorced in nineteen eighty. When Elon did eventually move, however, it wasn’t long before things started to look better for him. He arrived in Canada in nineteen-eighty-nine and began classes at Queens. After his time in Canada, Musk left to study Business and Physics at the University of Pennsylvania in nineteen-ninety-two. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Economics and staying for a second bachelor’s in physics, he moved on for further education. He enrolled in and began classes at Stanford University in California but after only two days, decided to drop out. His move to California had been timed perfectly with the internet boom of the mid to late nineties and in nineteen-ninety-five he and his brother Minbal Musk founded tech startup, Zip2. This company created and sold city guides to newspaper publishers, including The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune. In February of nineteen ninety-nine, Zip2 was sold to Compaq for three hundred and seven million dollars and thirty-four million in stocks.
At twenty four years old, with seven percent of the sale, Elon Musk had just made twenty two million. Four years later in nineteen-ninety-nine Elon founded ‘X.com’. The website offered an online money transfer service via email. Not long after, in two-thousand, ‘X.com’ merged with ‘Confinity’ another online money transfer service. Under the ‘Confinity’ umbrella was a service they called ‘PayPal’ which the company was later renamed to. Elon was pushed out of his CEO position in two thousand due to internal disagreements. This turned out not to be so bad for Elon as Ebay later acquired ‘PayPal’ for one point five billion dollars in stock. Elon Musk was the company’s largest shareholder with over eleven percent, allotting him roughly one hundred and sixty-five million alone. Utilizing his new found fortune, Elon proceeded to found another venture, this time closer to his heart. Space-X, or Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, was founded in two thousand and two. By two thousand and eight, the company was awarded a contract for cargo transportation to the International Space Station by NASA. And in two thousand and twelve Space-X did just that. Their fledgling rocket, the Falcon Nine, was launched from Cape Canaveral early that year.
The rocket contained half a ton of cargo for the astronauts on board, making history as the first ever private company to send a rocket to the ISS. Since then, Space-X has launched over sixty more rockets privately and commercially. But we will get back to that soon. One year later, in two thousand and three, after founding Space-X, Elon set his sights on the motor industry and hopped on board with Tesla Motors during their series A financing round. The company was originally incorporated by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. Martin was later pushed off of the board of directors following the two thousand and eight financial crisis which lead to internal conflict at Tesla. Elon took the chair as the company’s CEO and Product Architect following Martins Departure. He laid off twenty five percent of Tesla’s employees, and borrowed almost half a billion dollars from the US government in order to save the company from bankruptcy. Tesla went public in two thousand and ten with sales for their yet to be built ‘Roadster’ already in the thousands. They were the first American car company to have gone public since the Ford Motor Company in nineteen fifty-six. But again, we will get back to this. Musk either personally or through these companies has been involved in a great deal more ventures as well. In two thousand and six, he conceptualized and funded ‘Solar City’ which was then run by his cousins Peter and Lyndon Rive. In less than eight years, SolarCity was the second largest provider of solar tech in the US. Tesla has since absorbed the company which operates as a subsidiary under them. In two thousand and thirteen, Elon announced that he intended to build a high-speed transportation system that he called “the Hyperloop.” He wanted to have his first underground pressurized super train run from the Greater Los Angeles area to the San Francisco Bay area. Musk has also been involved in the creation of two artificial intelligence based companies, ‘OpenAI’ in twenty fifteen, and ‘Neuralink’ in twenty sixteen.
The former of which is a not-for-profit. Later on, in twenty sixteen, Elon announced “The Boring Company”. The intent of the company was to create new industrial tunnel boring technology because the current cost per mile of drilling made his HyperLoop tunnel economically unfeasible. He tweeted on December seventeenth, twenty sixteen, that he was “going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging.” Elon Musk is many things: he’s been called a genius, compared to Marvel’s “Tony Stark”, and has claimed to dream of living on Mars one day. But evidently, above all, he is someone who gets things done. Let’s jump back to Space-X. Following their first government contract, Space-X continued to launch its rockets out of our atmosphere. They soon also successfully launched a satellite into geosynchronous orbit. But this wasn’t the only intent of Space-X. Musk has a vision of colonizing Mars and part of his initial reasoning behind founding Space-X was to do just that. In September of two thousand and sixteen, Space-X published a video of 3D renderings depicting their intended mission to Mars. Elon was quoted as saying, “I think that a future where we are a space bearing civilization and a multi-planet species is very exciting.” He went on, “In order for that to happen, we’ve got to dramatically improve the cost of space flight.” The concept he envisioned required reusable rockets.
And because Space-X is private, they do not have to adhere to the same level of red tape that government organizations generally have to follow. Space-X also manufactures around ninety percent of their parts in house. To put it in perspective, on average, for NASA to launch a comparable rocket it would cost between one hundred and two hundred and sixty million dollars. Space-X can manufacture and launch a Falcon Nine rocket for under three hundred thousand dollars. The fuel alone per launch costs two hundred thousand dollars. Space-X hasn’t slowed down either. On February sixth, twenty eighteen, they successfully launched the ‘Falcon Heavy’ rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. In a glamorous display streamed live on YouTube, Space-X showed off their larger than one hundred and forty thousand pound payload capability by unveiling a Tesla Roadster in earth orbit. This stunt instantly bolstered the Falcon Heavy’s status to that of the most powerful operational rocket on the planet. They’ve also announced plans to build a new rocket, which they’ve called the ‘BFR’ for ‘Big Falcon Rocket.’
It’s intended to stand at over one hundred meters tall and carry over five hundred and fifty thousand pounds. Today Space-X is the largest private producer of rocket engines in the world and holds the world record for thrust to weight ratio in a rocket. Tesla meanwhile is also making great strides in the motor industry. Following their fledgling vehicle, the Roadster, Tesla released the ‘Model S’ sedan type car in two thousand and twelve. The announcement of the ‘Model X’ SUV style vehicle came shortly after. However, its release was delayed until two thousand and fifteen. Tesla revolutionized the entire world of electric cars when they entered the market. Other companies in the past have tried and failed to do what Tesla has achieved in recent years. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome that their predecessors hadn’t been able to leap was the car’s range on a charged battery. Tesla’s offer a two hundred and fifty mile range per charge which helped consumers begin to wrap their minds around the concept of electric cars. On top of that, the Model S is a desirable sports car boasting an acceleration rate of zero to sixty in two point five seconds. Its electric engine gives the car a torque advantage over most traditional engines allowing the Model-S to outperform many cars far beyond its price.
Musk also has plans to create a car for the masses. The ‘Model 3’ is intended to have a base price of thirty five thousand dollars according to Tesla’s blog. Even more interestingly, Elon stated in two thousand and fourteen that Tesla would provide any of its technology patents in good faith to corporations with the intent of creating more affordable electric car solutions for the world. He has an agenda to shift the status quo in the motor industry. They also have plans to double the amount of charge stations currently in place in both the east and west coasts of the US. And it doesn’t stop there, Tesla has has also expressed a keen interest in tackling the semi truck and trucking industry. It has conceptualized and tested electric shipping trucks and is taking the idea further with the intent of introducing antonyms driving systems in them as well as their other vehicles. One of the larger hurdles that Tesla had to overcome when they started the company was the immense cost of lithium ion batteries which are used to power their vehicles. In response, Musk announced plans to build an enormous lithium ion battery factory called the ‘Gigafactory’ in twenty thirteen. The end goal; to make electric cars more economically viable than fossil fuel powered cars.
After the beginning of production on the ‘Gigafactory,’ Tesla also revealed the ‘power wall,’ which was devised as a wall mounted lithium ion battery that could power your home through solar and other clean energy integration. By the end of twenty seventeen, Tesla had surpassed Ford’s market value after only seven years of being public. Elon Musk has also derived a great deal of attention around himself as a person, both negative and positive. Many of the videos and posts about him that are abundant on the web herald him as a genius with a plan to save humanity, and in many ways it can seem that way. He has an obviously strong motivation to push for more green forms of transportation, both on the road and in space. Combined with his home battery initiative, the future can feel greener. Interestingly, despite being involved in numerous AI based or related companies, Elon has been a strong opponent of developing hyper intelligent artificial intelligence. He has been interviewed and has spoken about his fears of robotic uprising multiple times. He’s not been free of controversy either.
In two thousand and eighteen, Musk appeared on the very popular ‘Joe Rogan’ podcast, which is streamed live on youtube. During the two and a half hour long interview, Musk puffed on what was described as a combination of tobacco and marijuana offered to him by host, Joe Rogan. Following the interview, Tesla stocks dropped and worries of a United States Air Force investigation in regards to his ties with Space-X started circulating the web. Following that, on the seventh of August that year Elon allegedly tweeted while driving, “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” This shocked many people, namely the company’s shareholders and by August twenty fourth Elon abandoned the plan.
He was also criticized in media for his attempted involvement in the crisis of the trapped children in a Thai cave system in June, twenty eighteen. Musk tweeted about creating a submersible tube to assist in the evacuation of the children but when his plans were presented to the divers at the scene, they were quick to dismiss its viability. Musk’s response was to personally attack the diver in question with an unwarranted accusation. The diver in question has since filed a lawsuit against Mr. Musk following further battery on twitter. Elon has spoken a great deal about his ideas of the future. From a colony on Mars to mechanical implants in humans to interface with computers. The future of both Tesla and Space-X also both seem bright, not to mention the boring company. Only time will tell what is in store. From rocket ships in space to high performance electric sports cars, Elon Musk has gotten the world’s attention. He seems to have an innate ability to do whatever he sets his mind to.