Billionaire genius, inventor and entrepreneur through and through, founder of companies like Tesla, Paypal and more relevant here SpaceX… who is the man they sometimes refer to as “the real Tony Stark” (aka Iron Man)?
Born in South Africa, Musk taught himself how to code and sold a game he programmed – called Blastar – when he was only 12 years old. Leaving home at 17 to avoid military service (this was during the time of the Apartheid), he ended up studying in Ontario, Canada (his mother was Canadian) for two years before pursuing business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania in the US.
After completing both those degrees, Musk then moved to Silicon Valley and started a PhD at Stanford, but dropped out after two days already to start Zip2 (with his brother Kimbal) which provided online content publishing software for news organizations – it got acquired by Compaq four years later for $307 million in cash and another $34 million in stock options!
Musk once said he considered three areas he wanted to get into that were “important problems that would most affect the future of humanity”, as he said later, “One was the Internet, one was clean energy, and one was space.” So, after Zip2, he founded Paypal which changed the way we pay online. After that he founded SpaceX which is now a major player in the race for space, and bidding for NASA contracts. Then came Tesla, which might some day change (or debatably has already changed) the way we all look at our cars, and he is also the chairman and main chairholder of SolarCity… the man has no limits it seems.
Focusing on SpaceX, which he founded with $100 million of his early fortune and of which he remains its CEO and CTO, the company won a major NASA contract in the first program to entrust private companies with delivering cargo to the International Space Station. Worth between $1.6 billion and $3.1 billion, it has become a cornerstone of the Space Station‘s continued access to cargo delivery and return. But aside from cargo missions, Musk’s goal is to reduce the cost of human spaceflight by a factor of 10 and much like Stephen Hawking’s thinking wants to secure the future of the human race by “expanding life beyond this green and blue ball“.
In the coming years, Musk will focus on delivering astronauts to the International Space Station, but as he stated before, his personal goal is that of eventually enabling human exploration and settlement of Mars. At SXSW this year he joked: “I Would Like to Die on Mars, Just Not on Impact”.