OnJune 28th, 1971, in the city of Pretoria, the administrative capitalof the country of South Africa, a child was born into a small, poverty-strickenfamily (Bix). Little did theyrealize, this child would grow up to be a world-renowned entrepreneur and amodern captain of industry. This child was Elon Musk.From a young age, Elon was obsessed with electronics, and bythe time he was 12, he had taught himself multiple computer programminglanguages, and even began to sell his own software to provide for hisunder-privileged family, even going as far as to create a video game and sellit to the now defunct computer magazine PCand Office Technology (O’Kane). Earlier in hislife, Elon was enrolled at private schools, such as the English-speakingWaterkloof House Preparatory School, and he completed his secondary educationin Pretoria Boys High School (Davis). After completing high school in 1988, Musk obtained Canadiancitizenship and a passport through his mother, who is a Canadian national,because he ethically disagreed with supporting apartheid through the compulsorymilitary service in effect in South Africa. Musk attended Queen’s University inKingston, Ontario for a short while, before transferring to the University ofPennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1992, where he attained two bachelor’s degreesin physics and economics by 1995 (Gregersen). After achieving hisbachelor’s degrees, Musk enrolled in the graduate program for applied physicsat Stanford University that same year, however, he decided to drop out afteronly two days, because he believed that the “next big thing” would be theinternet, thus he believed investing his time and money into it would be moreworthwhile for both him and society than if he became a physicist (Gregersen).
After leaving Stanford, Elon decided that, with his brotherKimbal, and with the help of another one of Musk’s friends, Greg Kouri, theydeveloped and founded Zip2, a company that created and marketed city maps andbusiness directories to newspapers, assisting them with their impending”digitalization” (Sh*t Elon Says). The company waseventually purchased in 1999 by Compaq Computer Corporation (now defunct;acquired by Hewlett-Packard) (Bix) for a whopping sumof $307 million (Gregersen). Upon the merger ofZip2, Musk utilized his newly-acquired fortune to help co-find X.com, an onlinebank that enabled the transfer of money via e-mail. Through many mergers ofbusiness and corporate transitions, X.
com became what it’s today known as, PayPal (Bix). Musk’s intellectualproperty was bought once again, this time by the online auction site eBay forthe sum of $1.5 billion in 2002, leaping Elon to billionaire status (Gregersen).Musk was a huge proponent of space exploration, and wasconvinced that in order for life as we know it to carry on, humanity had tobecome a multi-planet species. He realized, however, that the cost of rockets,propellant, and launchers was so exorbitant that it simply wouldn’t be possibleto colonize other worlds with our current methods of travel.
Because of this,he resolved to found a new company, and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX)was created in 2002 for the purpose of developing more affordable rockets foruse in space travel (Bix). SpaceX’s firstrocket, the Falcon 1, was launched in 2006, about 4 years after SpaceX’sinitial inception, and their second rocket, the exponentially larger Falcon 9,was first launched in 2010, nearly 10 years after the founding of SpaceX.SpaceX also has a third rocket, currently in testing, named the Falcon Heavy.It’s slated to be launched sometime in December of 2017, and is designed tocarry 117,000 pounds of payload, which is nearly twice as much as SpaceX’sclosest competitor Boeing’s Delta IV Heavy, for nearly one-third of the price.SpaceX has also developed the Dragon spacecraft, which is designed to carrysupplies to and from the International Space Station while carrying as many asseven astronauts along with the payload (Gregersen). At about the same time Musk was investing in SpaceX, he alsohas a profound interest in the possibility of electric cars. Thus, in 2004, hebegan investing in Tesla Motors, eventually becoming one of its largestfunders. Two years later, with the assistance of Musk’s funding, Tesla releasedthe Roadster, which could travel nearly 250 miles on a single charge (Gregersen).
Musk in alsointerested in other ventures in alternative energy in transportation, such ashis suggestion of a Hyperloop being constructed in California in 2013. ThisHyperloop consists of a pneumatic tube in which a small capsule-like podcarrying 28 passengers could hypothetically travel the 350 miles from LosAngeles and San Francisco in 35 minutes at a top speed of 760 miles per hour,or nearly the speed of sound (Gregersen). Musk claimed thatthis Hyperloop would cost only $6 billion, as opposed to the much larger costof $68 billion that would be required for a conventional rail system.
Unfortunately, Musk stated that between running SpaceX and Tesla, he can’tpossible devote sufficient time to the Hyperloop’s development (Gregersen).Apart from Elon’s work ventures, he has been married anddivorced three times, first by Justine Musk, whom Musk was married to from 2000to 2008. Musk was then married and was divorced by his second wife, TalulahRiley, twice, their first marriage lasted from 2010 to 2012, and their secondfrom 2013 to 2016. Musk also has 6 children, all with Justine. Their names areGriffin, Xavier, Damian, Saxon, and Kai (Forbes). Unfortunately,their first son, Nevada, died of sudden infant death syndrome only 10 weeksafter his birth (Junod), however all ofMusk’s other children are healthy and well.
Among all of Musk’s ventures in life, though, I believe hisgreatest achievement is SpaceX. Personally, I agree with Musk on the notion ofhumanity requiring a more advanced space program to sustain ourselves. I feelthat by him making space travel more efficient and affordable for the lowerclasses, Musk is not only doing a service for a singular nation orconglomerate, but instead for humanity as a whole.
What I would say surprisedme the most about Musk would be his complicated love life. I wouldn’t haveexpected someone so intelligent, talented, and exponentially rich to have suchan issue with women that they’ve been divorced three times (Junod). Despite the manyhardships Musk has faced in his life, I would love to be him, however I don’tthink I could ever have the drive that he had.
Musk singlehandedly came from virtuallynothing and made a name for himself across the world. While many of hisventures haven’t worked out, such as the many unfortunate failures of theFalcon rockets (SpaceX), but he’s managed tosucceed many more times than he’s failed.All in all, I feel that Elon Musk is a profound person and amodel citizen.
Against all of the odds, he rose from the depths of poverty andmade a name for himself, accruing billions of dollars before even turning 40.Despite his immense wealth, he hasn’t forgotten where he’s come from in theslightest. He has invested in, and I believe, will continue to invest billionsin projects benefitting the common man, and society overall.