SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is officially the hottest chief executive on Planet Earth. His Southern California space-exploration startup just staged the most impressive and successful demonstration of commercial space technology...well, ever.
Launch to splashdown, except for a last-second abort of a weekend blastoff — rectified a few days later — and a brief power outage or communications glitch at SpaceX's Hawthorne HQ, it all went off with nary a miscue.
Even the hardened space honchos at NASA are probably hoping for ride in Musk's personal Tesla Roadster in the near future (Musk is also CEO of Tesla Motors, the Silicon Valley electric carmaker).
Musk himself followed up the splashdown of the Dragon capsule in the Pacific with a telegenic and sound-bite laden press conference. My tweets of the event, which was carried live on NASA TV, are below. I left out a good one, in which Musk said that what he wanted to say to Dragon, bobbing scorched but intact in the blue ocean after enduring fiery re-entry, was: "Welcome back, baby. It's like seeing your kid come home."
Musk looked pretty much like a geeky, astronaut fanboy who just loves engineering and cool technology as he answered questions for the media, sitting in front of a second Dragon capsule. Something to look forward to for future missions: the Dragon capsule using "propulsive landing" systems — basically, landing on solid ground like a real spacecraft from a sci-fi movie.
Viewed from another perspective, Musk looked like a rock star. Although for a brief period here he may transcended that moniker. After all, this is a guy who (probably) drove from his mansion to the splashdown of his space ship in a $120,000 electric sports car that his other company built.
Musk is seeing some monster payoff to his wildly optimistic investment in SpaceX in the early 2000s. It wasn't always easy, he said. In fact, at times it was miserable. But that's all changed now.
The question now is, Will the competition — and there's plenty — be able to keep up with a company that's been flying by the seat of its pants, but whose charismatic CEO is likely to now inspire a nearly fanatical following?
UPDATE: I went on "The Patt Morrison Show" today to talk about how great a week or two Elon Musk has had and — apart from honeymooning in Italy and enjoying wedded bliss — what an un-great few weeks Mark Zuckerberg has endured. Then again, Zuck is worth about $16 billion, while Musk...a mere $2 billion. Listen here.