SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is a serious dude with a serious vision. He made a fortune as a co-founder of PayPal and promptly put it all at risk by investing in an electric-car startup, a space-travel startup, and — just to hedge his bets — a solar-installation startup.
Not your average CEO. And even by the standards of not-average CEOs, practically a rock star. Musk is no stranger to the red carpet. Sometimes it's Musk alone. Sometimes it's Musk with an attractive woman on his arm. (Who is sometimes his mom!) Sometimes it's Musk in a group.
Musk lives in Los Angeles — he's actually the 24th richest guy in town, at a cool $2b billion, according to the L.A. Business Journal — and seems to have more than a little bit of Hollywood in him. After all, the guy has had a hand not just in blasting rockets at the International Space Station but in producing four movies.
Jordan Strauss/Getty Images for Tesla
SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks onstage during the debut of the Model X electric vehicle in Los Angeles. Steve Jobs had the black turtleneck. Musk has the black velvet dinner jacket.
SpaceX and its CEO, Elon Musk, hit a home run last week by launching the first commercial mission to service the International Space Station. This has led some to ask if Musk might be the "next Steve Jobs" — a technological and cultural visionary who unites people across a wide range of experiences and backgrounds.
It's a tempting question to ask. I've seen it pop up on Quora, the startup question-and-answer site where I've been spending a lot of time lately hanging out and...well, answering questions (just not yet ones about whether Musk is the new Jobs). It's cropped up since Jobs' death last year and has been discussed more recently in the context of what the two men have in common.
A few months back, in connection with an article I wrote for Pasadena magazine about Musk's other company, Tesla Motors, I asked him what he thought. He was gracious, praising Jobs, but also careful to make a distinction about what he does (sorry, no link):
Blast off! Hawthorne-based SpaceX has had a very good week.
Last week, I wrote about how two California companies — Facebook and SpaceX — were experiencing big events. Facebook of course was staging its long anticipated IPO, immediately after which its CEO staged his own private big event, a marriage to longtime girlfriend Priscilla Chan. SpaceX was expected to launch the first mission by a private company to service the International Space Station. That didn't happen over the weekend, but it took place on Tuesday. SpaceX's CEO has been married twice already, so celebratory nuptials weren't on his agenda.
Of the two big events, you'd have expected Facebook's IPO to be more-or-less hassle-free, as it minted numerous billionaires and millionaires. Meanwhile, SpaceX was shooting rockets into space. Millions of things could have gone wrong.
The way things actually turned out is a study in contrast. Astonishing contrast.
The Dragon capsule, developed and built by Hawthorne-based SpaceX. On Saturday, it will be launched in the first-ever private mission to service the International Space Station.
Just for the sake of argument, let's say Facebook's highly touted IPO was a flop, priced at $38 a share and closing just 23 cents above that figure. There's another California company that's staging a big event this weekend, and it has nothing to do with Wall Street.
It may wind up being remembered for far longer.
On Saturday, before dawn at the Kennedy Space Flight center in Florida, the L.A.-area's own SpaceX will launch a rocket tipped with a capsule designed to perform an experimental service mission for the International Space Station. This marks the first time a private company will perform a mission traditionally handled by NASA or a state-run space agency.
From the Christian Science Monitor:
For NASA, the mission represents the first test of its new stance as a customer for launch services to low-Earth orbit. No longer is it the organization sitting in the driver's seat from rocket design through launch to landing. Once the Falcon 9 leaves the pad, control of the mission shifts to SpaceX's command center at its Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters. Only when Dragon closes in on the space station will NASA have thumbs-up or thumbs-down say in the test flight's next steps.