Elon Musk: Inventor, Innovator, Genius


Elon Musk: Inventor, Innovator, Genius

When you think of Elon Musk, do you think of PayPal, SpaceX or Tesla? Yes, he has all of those hugely successful companies to his name, but he faced a long journey to get to this success. At the age of 17, Musk departed his home country of South Africa in order to escape the injustice of an apartheid system which he strongly opposed.

Now, this titan of industry is known as a developer of pneumatic high speed rail, electric vehicles and space travel technology.

Elon Musk at SpaceX

Born in 1971, Elon Musk grew up in Pretoria, South Africa with his two siblings, Kimbal and Tosca.

His mother, a model and dietitian, had family ties to the U.S. and Canada, which could have influenced his very early global mindset.

Musk’s entrepreneurial spirit showed itself quite early as, at the age of 12, he created a video game that he called Blastar and sold it to a computer magazine.

Due to his opposition to apartheid and compulsory military service in South Africa, in 1988, Musk hatched up a haphazard plan to emigrate to Canada, where his mother had some distant relatives. After traveling over 1,900 miles throughout Canada, he finally reached a second cousin’s house and began his life as an ambitious, young immigrant.

He attended Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, transferred to the University of Pennsylvania. Even in college, Musk’s mind was always thinking to the future of innovations. His college mentor’s daughter recounted this story about the first time she met Musk in the 1990s:

“I believe the second sentence out of his mouth was ‘I think a lot about electric cars.’ And then he turned to me and said, ‘Do you think about electric cars?'”

— Christie Nicholson

Musk graduated with a double major in physics and economics. After this, he moved to California, and spent two days in a Ph.D. program at Stanford University before realizing that at that time, he needed to be capitalizing on the “fad” of the Internet.

Capitalize on the Internet, he did. Musk and his brother Kendal started a maps and business directories company called Zip2 that they sold to Compaq Computer, netting Musk $22 million.

His next venture was X.com, which evolved into PayPal. A few years later, in 2002, eBay purchased this business from Musk, which coincided with Musk’s success that year in attaining a U.S. citizenship.

Musk believes humankind’s survival will depend upon living on other planets in addition to Earth.

So, with the $250 million he received from the sale of PayPal Musk had enough to pave his way in the space and green technology fields. He demonstrated his passion for space exploration by learning all he could about it, including reading Soviet-era spacecraft manuals.

Due to his dissatisfaction in the high price of rocket launchers, in 2002 Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies to produce rockets more affordably. At the beginning, investors balked at the idea of a privately held space exploration company. The company faced many failures and near bankruptcies, but is now one of only two privately held companies that have actually docked with the International Space Station.

SpaceX’s first two rockets, Falcon 1 and Falcon 9, were designed to be much more cost effective than competing rockets. A third rocket called Falcon Heavy  can carry 117,000 pounds into orbit – which is nearly twice as much as its largest competitor, Boeing’s Delta IV Heavy, and comes at one-third of the price. SpaceX also developed the Dragon, a spacecraft built to carry seven astronauts. The Dragon supplies the International Space Station.

In addition to being the CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk has been working to make electric cars a reality for the mainstream consumer as CEO at Tesla, Inc.

Elon Musk at TeslaIn 2006 Tesla introduced the Roadster. It can travel 245 on one charge and goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in four seconds. At the time, these were all unheard of feats for electric cars.

In 2012, Tesla introduced its Model S. It received great acclaim from automotive critics for both its design and performance. Motor Trend awarded it 2013 Car of the Year. The Model S made history as the first car Motor Trend awarded Car of the Year to that wasn’t powered by an internal combustion engine.

“The 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year is one of the quickest American four-doors ever built. It drives like a sports car, eager and agile and instantly responsive. But it’s also as smoothly effortless as a Rolls-Royce, can carry almost as much stuff as a Chevy Equinox, and is more efficient than a Toyota Prius.”

— Motor Trend

When California projected its high-speed rail system would cost $68 billion, Elon Musk proposed shooting people in pods through a pneumatic tube for much cheaper.

Musk proposed the Hyperloop pneumatic tube to carry 28 passengers at a time in a pod that traverses the 350 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles at 760 miles per hour, completing the trip in 35 minutes. He claimed that technology now exists to complete the Hyperloop for $6 billion, and that the tube would be safer than train or plane travel.

If the Hyperloop left on time every two minutes, it could serve six million travelers per year. When announcing this in 2013 Elon Musk stated that his commitments to SpaceX and Tesla left him without time to devote to the Hyperloop’s development.

So, in 2015 Musk announced a competition for teams to design Hyperloop pod prototypes, allowing participants to test their inventions on an actual SpaceX facility track.

In 2016, a $2.6 billion deal combined solar energy and storage as Tesla Motors purchased SolarCity in an all-stock deal.

SolarCity focuses on making solar technology more efficient, therefore reducing its price. The company provides all manner of solar services to residential, commercial and government customers.

Elon Musk continues to promote and advance the sustainable energy industry with products that provide easy access for use by people all over the world. The world continues to wait with bated breath for Elon Musk’s next innovation for the masses.

Nisha Katti

About Nisha Katti

Nisha Katti is BlueTone's Marketing Coordinator. She specializes in content writing and social media management, among other activities. Nisha is a native of Atlanta, yet her heart will always lie with the magnificent magnolias of Athens, Georgia, where she attended the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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