Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Elon Musk. To Infinity and Beyond.

I think the future of Humanity is in good hands, as long as the Powers-That-Be listen to Stephen Hawking's wise admonition that we create self-sustaining colonies on other planets, and this guy:

Elon Musk

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Musk at Mission Control
Born June 28, 1971 (1971-06-28) (age 38)
South Africa
Residence Bel-Air, California
Education B.A. in Economics and B.S. Physics from University of Pennsylvania
Occupation engineer/entrepreneur
Net worth US$328 million
Known for co-founder of Zip2, PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla Motors
Title CEO and CTO of SpaceX
Chairman of SolarCity
CEO of Tesla Motors
Spouse(s) Justine Musk (divorced)
Partner Talulah Riley (fiancée)
Children five sons (50% custody)

Elon Musk (born June 28, 1971) is a South African-American entrepreneur and philanthropist best known for co-founding PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors. He is currently the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors and Chairman of SolarCity. According to Jon Favreau, director of the Iron Man movies, Musk is the inspiration for his and Robert Downey Jr.'s interpretation of Tony Stark. [1]



Early life

Musk was born and raised in South Africa, the son of a South African engineer and a Canadian mother who works as a New York City dietitian and model. His father inspired his love of technology and Musk bought his first computer at age 10 and taught himself how to program;[2] by the age of 12 he sold his first commercial software for about $500, a space game called Blastar.[2]

After matriculating at Pretoria Boys High School he left home in 1988 at the age of 17, without his parents' support and in part because of the prospect of compulsory service in the South African military: "I don't have an issue with serving in the military per se, but serving in the South African army suppressing black people just didn't seem like a really good way to spend time."[2] He wanted to move to the US, saying: "It is where great things are possible."[3]

His mother was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and many of his relatives reside in western Canada, so Musk immigrated there in June 1989.[4] He worked at his cousin's wheat farm in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, where he cleaned out grain bins and worked in the vegetable patch. He cleaned out boilers at a lumber mill in British Columbia, later took on the task of cutting logs with a chainsaw. He moved to Toronto and worked a summer in the computer department at a bank while applying to Queen's University. He left Canada in 1992 after getting a scholarship to study business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania. From Wharton he received an undergraduate degree in economics and stayed on another year to finish a second bachelor's degree in physics.[5] His undergraduate degrees behind him, Musk then considered three areas he wanted to get into that were "important problems," as he said later. "One was the Internet, one was clean energy, and one was space."[2]


In 1995, Musk went on to a graduate program in applied physics and materials science at Stanford, in which he stayed exactly two days before dropping out to start Zip2, with his brother Kimbal Musk which provided online content publishing software for news organizations. In 1999, Compaq's AltaVista division acquired Zip2 for US$307 million in cash and US$34 million in stock options.[6]


In March 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services and email payments company. One year later, X.com merged with Confinity, originally a company formed to beam money between Palm Pilots,[7] and the combined entity focused on email payments through the PayPal domain, acquired as part of Confinity. In February 2001, X.com changed its legal name to PayPal. In October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for US$1.5 billion in stock.[8] Before its sale, Musk, the company's largest shareholder, owned 11.7% of PayPal's shares.[9]


In June 2002, Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), of which he is currently the CEO and CTO. SpaceX develops and manufactures space launch vehicles, with an emphasis on low cost and high reliability. The company's first two launch vehicles are the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets and its first spacecraft is Dragon.

On 23 December 2008, SpaceX was awarded a $1.6 billion NASA contract for 12 flights of their Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, replacing the Space Shuttle after it retires in 2010. Initially, Falcon 9/Dragon will replace the cargo transport function of the Shuttle and astronaut transport will be handled by the Soyuz. However, SpaceX has designed Falcon 9/Dragon with astronaut transport in mind and the Augustine commission has recommended that astronaut transport be handled by commercial companies like SpaceX.[10]

Musk views space exploration as an important step in expanding — if not preserving — the consciousness of human life.[11] Musk has said that multiplanetary life may serve as a hedge against threats to the survival of the human species. "An asteroid or a super volcano could destroy us, and we face risks the dinosaurs never saw: An engineered virus, inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, catastrophic global warming or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us. Humankind evolved over millions of years, but in the last sixty years atomic weaponry created the potential to extinguish ourselves. Sooner or later, we must expand life beyond this green and blue ball — or go extinct." Musk's goal is to reduce the cost of human spaceflight by a factor of 100. He founded SpaceX with $100 million of his early fortune. He remains chief executive officer and chief technology officer of the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company.

In seven years, SpaceX has designed the family of Falcon launch vehicles and the Dragon multi-purpose spacecraft from the ground-up. In September 2009, SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket became the first privately funded liquid-fueled vehicle to put a satellite into Earth orbit. NASA selected SpaceX to be part of the first program that entrusts private companies to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. This contract, which has a minimum value of $1.6 billion and a maximum value of $3.1 billion, has become a cornerstone of the Space Station. In addition to these services, SpaceX's goals include simultaneously lowering the price of orbital spaceflight and improving reliability, both by a factor of ten, while creating the first fully reusable orbital launch vehicle. In the coming years, Musk will focus on delivering astronauts to the International Space Station, and even Mars.[12]

Tesla Motors

Musk is perhaps most famous for his role at Tesla Motors, where he was a co-founder and the company's sole product architect and chairman of the board. First investing in April 2004, he led several rounds of financing, and became CEO in October 2008. Tesla Motors builds an electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster, and plans to produce a more economical four door electric sedan.[13] Musk is principally responsible for an overarching business strategy that aims to deliver affordable electric vehicles to mass-market consumers. His vision was to create the Tesla Roadster as a means to that end—a car aimed specifically at affluent early adopters, who would then buy the sports car and subsidize the research and development costs of lower priced models of electric vehicles. From his earliest involvement with the company, Musk has been a champion of the Model S, a four-door family sedan with an anticipated base price of half that of the Roadster. Musk has also favored building a sub-$30,000 subcompact and building and selling electric vehicle powertrain components so that other automakers can produce electric vehicles at affordable prices without having to develop the products in house.[14] Several mainstream publications have compared him with Henry Ford for his revolutionary work on advanced vehicle powertrains.[4]


He is also the primary investor and Chairman of the Board of SolarCity, a photovoltaics products and services startup company where his cousin Lyndon Rive is the CEO.[15][16] The underlying motivation for funding both SolarCity and Tesla is to help combat global warming.[17]

Musk's fortune was estimated at US$328 million in 2005.[18]


Musk is Chairman of the Musk Foundation, which focuses its philanthropic efforts on science education, pediatric health and clean energy. He is a trustee of the X Prize Foundation, promoting renewable energy technologies. He sits on the boards of The Space Foundation, The National Academies Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, The Planetary Society, and Stanford Engineering Advisory Board.

In 2001, Musk had plans for a "Mars Oasis" project, which would land a miniature experimental greenhouse on Mars, containing food crops growing on Martian regolith.[19][20] He put this project on hold when he discovered that launch costs would dwarf the mission development and construction costs for the project, and decided to work on creating interplanetary rockets by founding SpaceX.

His long term goal is that SpaceX helps humanity become a true spacefaring civilization. Musk's philosophy and description of what is needed to solve the problem are provided in the IEEE podcast "Elon Musk: a founder of Paypal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX"[21] and article "Risky Business."[20]

Awards and recognition

Listed as one of Time Magazine's 100 people who most affect the world in 2010. Jon Favreau, director of the Iron Man movies, describes in his article how Musk was the inspiration for the genius billionaire Tony Stark.[1]

Named as one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century by Esquire magazine.[11]

Recognized as a Living Legend in Aviation in 2010 by the Kitty Hawk Foundation for creating the successor to the Space Shuttle (Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft). Other awardees include Buzz Aldrin and Richard Branson.[22]

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics George Low award for the most outstanding contribution in the field of space transportation in 2007/2008. Musk was recognized for his design of the Falcon 1, the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to reach orbit.

National Space Society's Von Braun Trophy in 2008/2009, given for leadership of the most significant achievement in space. Prior recipients include Burt Rutan and Steve Squyres.[23]

National Wildlife Federation 2008 National Conservation Achievement award for Tesla Motors and SolarCity. Other 2008 awardees include Thomas Friedman, Senator Leahy and Governor Crist.[24]

The Aviation Week 2008 Laureate for the most significant achievement worldwide in the space industry.[25]

R&D Magazine Innovator of the Year for 2007 for SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity.[26]

Automotive Executive of the Year (worldwide) in 2010 for demonstrating technology leadership and innovation via Tesla Motors. Prior awardees include Bill Ford Jr, Bob Lutz, Dieter Zetsche and Lee Iacocca. Musk is the youngest ever recipient of this award.[27]

Inc Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2007 for his work on Tesla and SpaceX.[28]

2007 Index Design award for his design of the Tesla Roadster.[29]

Global Green 2006 product design award for his design of the Tesla Roadster, presented by Mikhail Gorbachev.[30]

Honorary doctorate in humane letters from Amherst College, Massachusetts.

Honorary doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Surrey, UK.

Musk is a Director of the Planetary Society, a Trustee of The X-Prize Foundation and a member of the Stanford University Engineering Advisory Board. He has previously served as a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board.


Musk has described himself as a workaholic who routinely puts in 100-hour work weeks, primarily on his businesses Tesla Motors and SpaceX. In his rare free time, he says he plays with his five children.[31]

The SpaceX factory was used as a shooting location for Iron Man II and Musk has a small part in the movie.[32]

Musk owned a McLaren F1 sports car that he purchased for approximately $1 million and sold in 2007 for $1.5 million, and a Czech-built Aero L-39 trainer worth approximately $250,000.[33] The 1994 model Dassault Falcon 900 aircraft used in the film, Thank You for Smoking (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2006) is registered to Musk (N900SX). Musk is listed as an Executive Producer of the film.[34]



Musk lives in Bel-Air, California, with his fiancée, the British actress Talulah Riley.[35] Riley is best known for playing Mary in Pride and Prejudice.

With his ex-wife, the Canadian-born author Justine Musk, whom he met while both were students at Queen's University, he has five sons.

Elon Musk's sister Tosca Musk is the founder of Musk Entertainment and producer of various movies.[36][37] Elon himself was the executive producer of her first movie, called Puzzled.[38] Elon Musk's brother Kimbal Musk is the CEO of a social search company OneRiot and owner of The Kitchen restaurant in Boulder, Colo.


After Musk had confirmed an earlier report[39] that Tesla Motors only had $9 million cash in the bank,[40] he was reported to have hired an outside IT contractor to go through the company's email and instant messages, then had an investigator take fingerprints off a printout discarded near a copier used to leak the email. The email implicated employee Peng Zhou as the source of the company's status. Zhou had sought to frame other employees at Tesla by claiming in his leaked emails that he was a four-year employee. Musk offered Zhou the option of apologizing to the company and resigning, which he did, rather than face prosecution.[41]

After firing Zhou from Tesla Motors, Musk was reported attempting to catch employees who leak corporate secrets, without prior knowledge by other Tesla Motors executives, by sending each employee a slightly altered version of a memo which Musk expected would get sent to the media. The plan backfired when general counsel Craig Harding forwarded his own personalized copy of the memo along with a new, stricter nondisclosure agreement mentioned in the memo to other employees nullifying the entrapment plan.[42]

On May 26, 2009, former Tesla CEO Martin Eberhard filed suit in San Mateo County, California against Tesla and Elon Musk (Chairman and CEO of Tesla) for slander, libel and breach of contract. The case hinged on the question of who could rightly be called a "founder" of Tesla.[43] On July 29, 2009, a judge in San Mateo County, Calif., Superior Court struck down a claim by Eberhard, who asked to be declared one of only two founders of the company.[43] Tesla said in a statement that the ruling is "consistent with Tesla’s belief in a team of founders, including the company’s current CEO and Product Architect Elon Musk, and Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel, who were both fundamental to the creation of Tesla from inception."[44] In early August, Eberhard withdrew the case,[45], and the parties reached a final settlement September 21. The terms of the settlement are confidential, but the agreement includes a provision that the parties will consider Martin Eberhard, Elon Musk, JB Straubel, Marc Tarpenning, and Ian Wright to be the five co-founders.[46]


  1. ^ a b http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1984685_1984745_1985495,00.html
  2. ^ a b c d Belfiore, Michael (2007). "Chapter 7: "Orbit on a Shoestring"". Rocketeers. HarperCollins. pp. 166–195. ISBN 978-0-06-114902-3.
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  16. ^ Kanellos, Michael (February 15, 2008). "Newsmaker: Elon Musk on rockets, sports cars, and solar power". CNET. http://news.cnet.com/Elon-Musk-on-rockets,-sports-cars,-and-solar-power---page-2/2008-11389_3-6230661-2.html.
  17. ^ The unveiling of the Tesla Motors Electric Car. "Autoblog.com" via YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOl_1S10jTk. Retrieved 2006-07-26.
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  20. ^ a b Musk, Elon (June 2009). "Risky Business". IEEE Spectrum. http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/space-flight/risky-business.
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  40. ^ Thomas, Owen (October 31, 2008). "Tesla CEO admits his carmaker's running out of cash". Valleywag. http://valleywag.gawker.com/5072392/tesla-ceo-admits-the-companys-running-out-of-cash.
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  42. ^ Blanco, Sebastian (March 5, 2009). "Elon Musk reportedly sets trap for loose lipped Tesla employees". Autoblog. http://www.autoblog.com/2009/03/05/elon-musk-reportedly-sets-trap-for-loose-lipped-tesla-employees/.
  43. ^ a b "Martin Eberhard lawsuit as filed in San Mateo County, CA (146 pages)". May 26, 2009. http://openaccess1.sanmateocourt.org/openaccess/CIVIL/civildetails.asp?casenumber=484400&courtcode=A&dsn=&casetype=CIV.
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External links

[edit] Interviews


Andrew Thomas said...

Thanks for that, Steven. I had never heard of him - what a cool guy!

Steven Colyer said...

Hey Andrew, where have you been? Stretching the musical muscles? I like that, I'm trying to teach myself guitar and bass. Now there are strings we can believe in!

What are you up to? For myself, I'm getting back into Gen Rev again, having exhausted my study of Quantum Mechanics. Thanks to you, Hay and Walters, and many others, I've mastered the subject as much as I care to, but have hit a wall in caring about it, and grow weary of the "interpretation" wars. QM leads to QFT, good, which led to QED and QCD, awesome, but as a way to unite itself with gravity, it has failed badly. Except superstrings, or so they claim. So where are the supersymmetric particles? None seen so far, the LHC must come closer to full power. Shrug, we have to wait, I suppose.

In the meantime, it's back to Gen Rev, my original interest as you know. And Paul Dirac's, apparently. I'm currently reading Graham Farmelo's biography of him. Have you read it? I'm only a hundred pages in and I strongly reocmmend it, "The Strangest man." OK, 2nd strangest after Michael Jackson, but close.

You are the one who turned me on to Dirac, thank you very much. The more I read the more I like, and the more unappreciated he becomes, as you've said. A shame, but we know. In the end, that's what counts.

Dirac started out as an electrical engineer; Einstein would have been a fantastic one.

Elon Musk has them to build on, and Werner Von Braun and Robert Goddard too. He's living the life, isn't he?

Andrew Thomas said...

Hi Steven, yes, I've been having tons of fun with my music. And now I'm off surfing again, so just too many distractions from doing physics.

To be honest, it would be nice to go into hibernation for a couple of hundred years and wake up when physics has something really new to say again - progress seems to be really bogged-down at the moment. I don't feel the need to add anything new to my website, so I'm taking a break.

I still keep an eye on your excellent website. It's very entertaining. Bee's site is not so thrilling atm. She seems to have changed its direction.

googols said...

Elon Musk - Christopedia, the Christian news encyclopedia
Mar 31, 2010 – Robinson, Aaron (September 9, 2009). "Ampere Man" (PDF). Wheels Magazine. pp. 68–73. ... Retrieved September 21, 2009. ...

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