Elon Musk made headlines in 2012 when his company, SpaceX, launched a rocket that sent the first commercial space craft (Dragon) to the International Space Station which orbits 400 kilometres above Earth.
Elon was 30 when he founded Space X, the high-tech company that designs, makes, tests, sells and maintains space craft and rockets. But his interest in space started way back when he was at primary school and living in the suburbs of Pretoria.
Elon became obsessed with video games when he got a home computer at 10 and taught himself programming. By the age of 12 he had made a space-themed PC game called Blastar. In the game the player is a space pilot who has to destroy the alien space ship carrying deadly hydrogen bombs. He sold the code for Blastar for $500 to a magazine called PC and Office Technology.
When asked about his love for video games in an interview with CNBC, Elon said that ‘he probably wouldn’t have started programming if it wasn’t for video games…’ (read the CNBC article here and a related one on CNBC Africa here). He thinks that he and many software engineers got into programming through playing video games and that they are a powerful influence on getting kids interested in technology.
Elon moved to Canada when he was 17, avoiding the then South African mandatory military service. He says, “I remember thinking and seeing that America is where great things are possible, more than any other country in the world.”
He got a Canadian passport through his mother, who was Canadian model and dietician, and in 1989 he enrolled in Queens University in Ontario. He left in ’92 to study business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania in the US and graduated with an undergraduate degree in economics and a bachelor’s degree in physics. Elon went on to study further for a PhD in energy physics at Stanford University. It was the era of the Internet Boom and Elon dropped out to join his brother who founded the software company – Zip2 Corporation. It was sold to Compaq a year later and Elon would go on to co-found X.com – an online financial service company. The company merged with Confinity and together they created PayPal. PayPal is an online paying system operating worldwide. The ownership of PayPal was also short lived after it was sold to eBay.
In May 2002, Musk founded SpaceX. Musk’s vision for SpaceX, Tesla (his electric car business and SolarCity was to change the world by reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and reducing the risk of human extinction by establishing a human colony on Mars.
In 2001 Musk created Mars Oasis an experimental greenhouse that would be landed on Mars. The greenhouse contained crops that would grow on the Martian broken rocks. The project was an effort to arouse the interest of the public in space exploration.
Elon is not only limited to space exploration, he is the brains behind the world’s first electric sports car, the Roadster. The Roadster is a product of a company he owns Tesla Motors, Inc. He also is one of the three men to put forward $40 million towards the creation of a robot that is capable of human-like activities. His impact in the world of technology and space exploration would go on to have him often dubbed ‘genius’ by many.
In June 2019 Elon was worth $18.2 billion and was listed in Forbes magazine as 58th richest person in the world.
Elon fell in love with space exploration at an early age and from a schoolboy, who was bookish and bullied at school he has become a leader and visionary in the field of space travel and sustainability.
“My experience is, if you’re trying to figure out what others love, but you don’t love it, it’s really hard to make that great,” he says. “So when you work on something, if you fall in love with it, that’s a good sign – and then don’t worry about if others do. If you do, others will.”
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