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Elon Musk

Elon Musk (28th June 1971) is an inventor, physicist, computer technician and businessman born in South Africa and US citizen. Musk had founded or cofounded a lot of renown firms such as PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, Hyperloop.

Actually he occupies decisive executive positions in Tesla Motors, SpaceX, SolarCity, OpenAl and Zip2, and he is also cofounder of PayPal Holdings. This has made him one of the most powerful people in the world, ranked 21st in The World’s Most Powerful People List of Forbes magazine in the year 2016. Currently, he has a net worth of 11.500 million dollars.

His ideas are based in a vision of changing the world in order to make it more sustainable and also to expand the humanity to other planets. His current firms are seeking for alternatives to fossil fuels (Tesla, SolarCity) and also revolutionize the space exploration, with the goal of establishing a long-lasting colony in Mars (SpaceX).

In his most famous contributions we found the first rocket with reusable propulsion system, the first completely electric and mass produced car (Tesla), or the high speed transport system known as Hyperloop.

Personal life and beginning

At the age of 10 years, Musk started to develop his interest in computers. He learnt how to program on his own and with 12 years he sold a base code for a videogame that he had developed for 500 dollars.

When he was 18 years old, in 1989, he moved to Canada and started to study in Queen’s University in Ontario. 2 years later the moved to the University of Pennsylvania and finished two degrees in Physics and in Economy. After that, he left his postgraduate studies to focus on his entrepreneur career.

Firstly, he founded Zip2 with his brother, with an initial capital of 28.000 dollars, a web software firm focused on the journalistic industry. He obtained contracts with some of the principal newspapers in the US and finished selling the company for 307 million dollars, gaining 22 million in the transaction.

Afterwards Musk used part of that money to create X.com, an online financial services firm and e-mail payment that would end fusing with a firm called Confinity and developing PayPal. When eBay bought PayPal in 2002, Musk won 165 million dollars.

With the money gained, Musk founded in the following years SpaceX and he joined promptly to Tesla Motors, finishing as owner of the firm. His last firms and project (until 2010) include Hyperloop (high speed transport system based in tube capsules), SolarCity (devoted to solar energy) and OpenAI (non-profit firm focused on the investigation in the field of Artificial Intelligence).

Elon Musk married two times and has five children. With his first partner, the Canadian author Justine Wilson, who he married in the year 2000, he had a child who passed away after 10 weeks, two twins and triplets. After a complicated divorce, he married again in 2010, with the British actress Talulah Riley. He divorced in 2012 and married again with her in 2013. They divorced a second time in 2016.

Career

In South Africa, Elon Musk made his first business at the age of 12 years, when he sold for 500 dollars, the source code of a videogame, similar to Space Invaders that he has created.

Zip2

In 1995, Musk enrolled in the doctoral programme in Applied Physics and Materials Science in the University of Stanford, but after the second day he abandoned for being able to found Zip2 with his brother Kimbal Musk and his friend Greg Curry. Zip2 managed the development, hosting and maintenance of specific websites for media firms all over the world. This allowed them to establish a presence in the web through the automatic edition, including maps and indications to get to the addresses.

In February 1999 it managed almost 200 websites, including the New York Today, which was a local directory of The New York Times. It also managed part of the chains of Hearst Corporation, Times Mirror, Knight Ridder and Pulitzer Publishing. Zip2 was sold to Compaq Computer in 1999 for 300 million dollars.

PayPal

In March 1999, Musk founded X.com, a finance services and online payments firm. It got a high level of security without being complicated for the user to make the transference.

A year later, X.com fused with Confinity, a firm that allowed to make transferences of money between devices by infrared and the verification through a web. The new firm initially adopted the name of X.com as its corporative name, but in February 2001, X.com changed his legal name to PayPal Inc. In the first 5 weeks, PayPal exceeded the number of 100.000 users. Several regulating agencies, such as FTC and firms as Visa and eBay tried to close PayPal.

In October 2002, eBay bought PayPal for 1.500 million dollars in shares. Before the sale, Musk was the main shareholder, with 11.7% of the shares of PayPal. With the sale, Musk earned 150 million dollars in eBay shares. Several members of PayPal started their own companies such as YouTube, LinkedIn, Jammer and Yelp.

Space X

In 2002, Elon Musk started to investigate the viability of sending a rocket to Mars. Every Delta-2 rocket costed between 50 and 60 million dollars per mission and at least two missions were needed. He travelled three times to Russia and tried to bought without success intercontinental rockets ICBM without the nuclear heads.

In June 2002, Musk founded his third firm, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). SpaceX is devoted to the development and production of space shuttles, with an emphasis in cost reduction and high reliability. The first two transport rockets developed by SpaceX are the Falcon 1 and the Falcon 9, and its first spaceship is the SpaceX Dragon.

The 23th December 2008 SpaceX signed a contract of 1.600 million dollars with the NASA for 12 flights of its rocket Falcon 9 and the spaceship to the International Space Station, replacing the Space Shuttle after its retirement in 2011. Initially, the Falcon 9 and the Dragon will replace the function of load transport of the shuttle, meanwhile the function personal transport will be carried out by the Soyuz.

Musk’s goal is to reduce the costs of crew space trips by a factor of 100. He founded SpaceX with 100 million dollars of his previous wealth and he is still the executive and technology chief of his firm.

Tesla Motors

In 2003 JB Straubel and Elon Musk visited the firm AC Propulsion which had a prototype of electric sports car based on a kit of a fuel car that has been adapted with an electric motor and lithium-ion batteries. The prototype accelerated from 0 to 100km/h in less than 4 seconds and had an autonomy of 300 kilometers. For months, Elon Musk tried to convince them to commercialize the car but they were not interested in doing so. Elon Musk decided to commercialize an electric sports car. The AC members get him in touch with Martin Eberhard and Matt Tappenhig and founded Tesla Motors with the intention of commercializing the model T-Zero of AC Propulsion.

In April 2004 Elon Musk decided to invest 6,3 USD million dollars in Tesla Motors. He contributed with the 98% of the financing. Their lack of experience took them to underestimate the capital needed to create a car firm. They expected to spend 25 USD million dollars before the first deliver and they ended spending 140 million.

The Tesla Model X is an electric all-path developed by Tesla Motors, based in the platform of the Model S. It started its delivers in the American market in September 2015. The Tesla Model 3 will be an electric vehicle that will cost around 35.000 dollars. Its production will start in mid-2017 and it is estimated that the delivers of the new reservations will start in mid-2018, according to the official website of Tesla Motors. Musk is the cofounder and Design Chief in Tesla Motors, where he was in charge of the development of the Tesla Roadster, probably the first viable electric car of the modern era.

SolarCity

It is a firm of photovoltaic products and services founded in 2006, where his cousin, Lyndon Rive, is the chief executive officer and cofounder. Elon Musk is the main investor and president of the management board of SolarCity. He does not run the daily operations of the firm. In 2011 SolarCity was the biggest firm provider of solar energy systems in the US. Its goal is to extend solar energy and make it the most affordable as it is possible.

Halycon Molecular

Another firm in which Musk has invested is Halycon Molecular, a biotechnology firm founded in 2008 by the brothers William and Michael Andregg. In 2010 Musk made an investment of 20.5 million dollars. He is member of the management board. Halycon Molecular was created with the mission of treating diseases, extend our longevity and improve people’s life quality.

Powerwall and Powerpack

The 30th April 2015 Tesla presented two systems of storing energy: Powerwall and Powerpack. The Tesla Powerwall is a lithium-ion battery package used as a support in the electric net of a residence and which can store electric energy that comes from a renewable source, such as solar or wind installations, or store electricity during the night when the electricity is cheaper. It can be installed outdoors or indoors and it does not require a closed room. It also allows to make an electric installation in faraway places without access to the net.

Mars colonizing plan

The last week of September 2016, Elon Musk, owner of the firm SpaceX, revealed its plan to colonize Mars. It is a plan extremely ambitious that covers a big number of aspects, although, as reasonable, what has most transcended of it is its final goal of sending a million people on spaceships that have a capacity of 100 people each. Musk talks about this as a big “Mars Colonial Fleet”.

“Humans could travel to Mars from 2022 in a spaceship that would transport
between 100 and 200 people each 26 months” affirmed in Mexico 
the scientist and entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Every single person “with a few days of training” would be able to move to the red planet in a trip that will cost between 88.900 and 177.800 euros, depending of the luggage carrying, declared the founder of the firm of aerospace travel SpaceX.

The dream of conquering Mars will be possible with an “auto sufficient community” of no more than a million people, a challenge that will last between 40 and 100 years with a fleet of a thousand interplanetary ships, according to Musk’s calculations.

Musk hopes to have all the components of this new system ready for 2024, when the firsts trips to Mars will begin. “The fundamental goal is to make that every person that wants to go, can go”, he said, for what he expects that the price of a ticket will be around 200.000 dollars (about 160.000 euros), “what a house costs”. The trip duration can differ, it could be around 80 days or even reduce to 30, he has assured.

Many experts of the space industry and astronauts question the possibility of taking humans to Mars so soon without risking their lives, due to the fact that there does not exist optimum systems to avoid the intense radiation during the trip and the stay.

This seems not to worry to who pretend to be the first Martian tour operator. “Radiation is not a big problem”, Musk has assured to questions of the audience. “Of course there are some risks of radiation, but they are not mortal and the risk of cancer is relatively less during the trip”. “Once in the surface of the planet, “an artificial magnetic field will be created” to divert dangerous particles, and with that, radiation will still not be important”, he has added.

References