Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is celebrating his 49th birthday today, and both the electric car and space community are celebrating a life that has so far been dedicated to the pursuit of dreams and sustainability. Musk’s journey has been arduous, but his sheer determination has played a notable part in accelerating today’s shift towards renewables and interplanetary endeavors.
It is said that discomfort is something that could harness the best in a person. For Musk, this does seem to be the case. As a teenager, Musk fled to Canada with around $2,000 to his name, and he lived off manual labor for some time to make ends meet. Finishing college, Musk was similar to other graduates, being $100,000 in debt. Yet despite this, Musk was a dreamer, and his fascination with space, tech, and sustainability were intact.
Musk’s first successes came in the tech sector, starting with Zip2, a directory service that could, in a way, be considered as a predecessor of programs like Google Maps. He then went on to online banking with X.com, which, after a merger with Confinity, was sold to eBay as PayPal. Musk’s earnings from the sale of PayPal ultimately helped start SpaceX, a private space company. It did not take long before Musk became the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Tesla, an electric vehicle company.
Elon Musk’s successes today prove that hard work is needed for real results. Previous interviews have mentioned Musk remarking that projects such as mass producing the Tesla Model 3 or creating reusable rockets is difficult. And it’s true. Musk is arguably one of the most hands-on CEOs in the industry today, at some points in recent years even bunking on Tesla’s Fremont Factory to help out the company in ramping vehicle production.
But all this hard work also results in a lot of hard-won victories. When Elon Musk joined Tesla as the company’s primary investor, and as he took the reins of the company as its CEO during the financial crisis, the idea of an electric car company being the most valuable automaker in the world by market cap was farfetched. But this is exactly what has happened over the years. It took a ton of hard work with each vehicle release, but there is no denying the fact that Tesla today is a force to be reckoned with in the auto sector.
The same goes for SpaceX. The private space firm could be considered as Musk’s true labor of love, being a company that is currently pursuing Musk’s personal childhood dream of making humans into an interplanetary species. Just like Tesla, the road has not been easy for SpaceX, with the company teetering over the edge of bankruptcy amidst the multiple failures of its first custom-designed rocket, the Falcon 1. The Falcon 1 was a humble rocket, and it took three failures before it was able to reach orbit nominally.
The victory of the Falcon 1 ultimately paved the way for the emergence of SpaceX’s resident workhorse, the Falcon 9. Equipped with nine Merlin Engines, the Falcon 9 marked its place in space history through its sheer reliability, and later on, its unique reusability. The Falcon 9, as well as its upgraded configuration, the Falcon Heavy, stand as the pinnacle of rockets today, with their capability to be reflown and reused after landing on land and at sea.
If there is one thing that is similar among Elon Musk’s primary companies and the CEO himself, it is the fact that they move very fast. Tesla was able to outpace the EV competition since its vehicles, which were the benchmark in performance and tech to begin with, are moving targets for competitors. SpaceX is the same way. Despite the dominance of the Falcon 9 in terms of reusability and cost, the company is now looking towards its next great project — Starship — a massive rocket that is designed for actual interplanetary travel.
Ultimately, it is quite fascinating to see what Elon Musk has accomplished over his 49 years. But what is even more exciting is that there is more to come. Tesla is only getting started in the energy sector, and SpaceX looking to even higher heights. The next few years for Musk would most definitely be even more compelling.