Elon Musk: Understanding the man and motivation behind SpaceX and Tesla

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    Elon Musk

    Elon Musk

    Elon Musk has been called a visionary and a mad man… and maybe he’s a little bit of both.

    A book out this week, “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” offers an intimate look at the complicated serial entrepreneur and the future of his many endeavors.

    Ashlee Vance, the book’s author and a technology writer for Bloomberg Businessweek, starts at the very beginning.

    “I went back to his childhood, talking to his family and finding a lot of kids who he went to school with,” he said. “You find this boy who, from a very early age, read science fiction in huge volumes and he read science – kind of clearing out entire libraries and bookstores.”

    Vance says the books he was reading weren’t just stories. They were a calling.

    “He’s wired like a scientist and he’s kind of a physicist/engineer type by nature,” said Vance. 

    Musk eventually grew up to became the man behind PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity but Vance says SpaceX may have been Musk’s greatest achievement so far. 

    “To go from nothing to sending up a rocket in about seven years is absolutely incredible,” he said.

    Like any entrepreneur’s career, Musk’s has not been without its challenges and setbacks. SpaceX had a series of rocket flops before finally having success in 2008. Around that same period, Elon was getting a divorce, which was played out very publicly in the press. Tesla was heading towards bankruptcy and SpaceX was having trouble meeting its payroll.

    “These things are all coming crashing down and he has to pull off some heroic financial maneuvers to keep the companies going,” said Vance. 

    But ultimately, Vance says, Musk’s driving mission in life has always been to get to Mars.

    “I don’t think he’s going to rest until he does that,” he said. “The reason he wants to get to Mars is because he sees life on Earth as threatened by sickness or some sort of natural disaster and thinks we need some sort of exit plan and a safety.”

    For more on Musk’s career and businesses, listen to Vance’s full interview with Pulse Host Maiken Scott above.

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