28th, 1971, in the city of Pretoria, the administrative capital of
the country of South Africa, a child was born into a small, poverty-stricken
family (Bix). Little did they
realize, this child would grow up to be a world-renowned entrepreneur and a
modern captain of industry. This child was Elon Musk.
From a young age, Elon was obsessed with electronics, and by
the time he was 12, he had taught himself multiple computer programming
languages, and even began to sell his own software to provide for his
under-privileged family, even going as far as to create a video game and sell
it to the now defunct computer magazine PC
and Office Technology (O’Kane). Earlier in his
life, Elon was enrolled at private schools, such as the English-speaking
Waterkloof House Preparatory School, and he completed his secondary education
in Pretoria Boys High School (Davis).
After completing high school in 1988, Musk obtained Canadian
citizenship and a passport through his mother, who is a Canadian national,
because he ethically disagreed with supporting apartheid through the compulsory
military service in effect in South Africa. Musk attended Queen’s University in
Kingston, Ontario for a short while, before transferring to the University of
Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1992, where he attained two bachelor’s degrees
in physics and economics by 1995 (Gregersen). After achieving his
bachelor’s degrees, Musk enrolled in the graduate program for applied physics
at Stanford University that same year, however, he decided to drop out after
only two days, because he believed that the “next big thing” would be the
internet, thus he believed investing his time and money into it would be more
worthwhile for both him and society than if he became a physicist (Gregersen).
After leaving Stanford, Elon decided that, with his brother
Kimbal, and with the help of another one of Musk’s friends, Greg Kouri, they
developed and founded Zip2, a company that created and marketed city maps and
business directories to newspapers, assisting them with their impending
“digitalization” (Sh*t Elon Says). The company was
eventually purchased in 1999 by Compaq Computer Corporation (now defunct;
acquired by Hewlett-Packard) (Bix) for a whopping sum
of $307 million (Gregersen). Upon the merger of
Zip2, Musk utilized his newly-acquired fortune to help co-find X.com, an online
bank that enabled the transfer of money via e-mail. Through many mergers of
business and corporate transitions, X.com became what it’s today known as, PayPal (Bix). Musk’s intellectual
property was bought once again, this time by the online auction site eBay for
the sum of $1.5 billion in 2002, leaping Elon to billionaire status (Gregersen).
Musk was a huge proponent of space exploration, and was
convinced that in order for life as we know it to carry on, humanity had to
become a multi-planet species. He realized, however, that the cost of rockets,
propellant, and launchers was so exorbitant that it simply wouldn’t be possible
to 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 for
use in space travel (Bix). SpaceX’s first
rocket, the Falcon 1, was launched in 2006, about 4 years after SpaceX’s
initial 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 to
carry 117,000 pounds of payload, which is nearly twice as much as SpaceX’s
closest competitor Boeing’s Delta IV Heavy, for nearly one-third of the price.
SpaceX has also developed the Dragon spacecraft, which is designed to carry
supplies to and from the International Space Station while carrying as many as
seven astronauts along with the payload (Gregersen).
At about the same time Musk was investing in SpaceX, he also
has a profound interest in the possibility of electric cars. Thus, in 2004, he
began investing in Tesla Motors, eventually becoming one of its largest
funders. Two years later, with the assistance of Musk’s funding, Tesla released
the Roadster, which could travel nearly 250 miles on a single charge (Gregersen). Musk in also
interested in other ventures in alternative energy in transportation, such as
his suggestion of a Hyperloop being constructed in California in 2013. This
Hyperloop consists of a pneumatic tube in which a small capsule-like pod
carrying 28 passengers could hypothetically travel the 350 miles from Los
Angeles and San Francisco in 35 minutes at a top speed of 760 miles per hour,
or nearly the speed of sound (Gregersen). Musk claimed that
this Hyperloop would cost only $6 billion, as opposed to the much larger cost
of $68 billion that would be required for a conventional rail system.
Unfortunately, Musk stated that between running SpaceX and Tesla, he can’t
possible devote sufficient time to the Hyperloop’s development (Gregersen).
Apart from Elon’s work ventures, he has been married and
divorced three times, first by Justine Musk, whom Musk was married to from 2000
to 2008. Musk was then married and was divorced by his second wife, Talulah
Riley, twice, their first marriage lasted from 2010 to 2012, and their second
from 2013 to 2016. Musk also has 6 children, all with Justine. Their names are
Griffin, Xavier, Damian, Saxon, and Kai (Forbes). Unfortunately,
their first son, Nevada, died of sudden infant death syndrome only 10 weeks
after his birth (Junod), however all of
Musk’s other children are healthy and well.
Among all of Musk’s ventures in life, though, I believe his
greatest achievement is SpaceX. Personally, I agree with Musk on the notion of
humanity requiring a more advanced space program to sustain ourselves. I feel
that by him making space travel more efficient and affordable for the lower
classes, Musk is not only doing a service for a singular nation or
conglomerate, but instead for humanity as a whole. What I would say surprised
me the most about Musk would be his complicated love life. I wouldn’t have
expected someone so intelligent, talented, and exponentially rich to have such
an issue with women that they’ve been divorced three times (Junod). Despite the many
hardships Musk has faced in his life, I would love to be him, however I don’t
think I could ever have the drive that he had. Musk singlehandedly came from virtually
nothing and made a name for himself across the world. While many of his
ventures haven’t worked out, such as the many unfortunate failures of the
Falcon rockets (SpaceX), but he’s managed to
succeed many more times than he’s failed.
All in all, I feel that Elon Musk is a profound person and a
model citizen. Against all of the odds, he rose from the depths of poverty and
made 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 the
slightest. He has invested in, and I believe, will continue to invest billions
in projects benefitting the common man, and society overall.