Elon Musk

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Elon Musk, 2012

Elon Musk (born 28 June 1971) is a South African entrepreneur who later moved to the USA. He is best known for founding SpaceX and for co-founding Tesla Motors and PayPal (originally X.com). At SpaceX he is the CEO and Chief Designer and at Tesla Motors he is Product Architect. Musk is also Chairman of SolarCity.


  • In terms of the Internet, it's like humanity acquiring a collective nervous system. Whereas previously we were more like a... collection of cells that communicated by diffusion. With the advent of the Internet, it was suddenly like we got a nervous system. It's a hugely impactful thing.
  • Sooner or later, we must expand life beyond our little blue mud ball--or go extinct.
    • . Elon Musk. Esquire (1 October 2008). Retrieved on 29 November 2012.
  • We need to figure out how to have the things we love, and not destroy the world.
  • They [Apple] have hired people we've fired. We always jokingly call Apple the "Tesla Graveyard." If you don't make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I'm not kidding. ... cars are very complex compared to phones or smartwatches. You can't just go to a supplier like Foxconn and say: Build me a car. But for Apple, the car is the next logical thing to finally offer a significant innovation. A new pencil or a bigger iPad alone were not relevant enough.

Conversation: Elon Musk on Wired Science (2007)[edit]

From: Interview(s) by Wired Science, pbs.org. Partly republished Interview With Elon Musk Tesla Motors on youtube.com, 2007.

  • I didn’t really expect to make any money. If I could make enough to cover the rent and buy some food that would be fine. As it turns out, it turned out to be quite valuable in the end.
  • I don’t have an issue with serving in the military per se, but serving in the South African army suppressing black people just didn’t seem like a really good way to spend time.
  • I think South Africa is a great country.
  • If you wanted to be close to the cutting edge, particularly in technology, you came to North America.
  • Tuition costs are outrageous. Fortunately, they gave me a scholarship…so I only had to cover living expenses, books, etc., by working.
  • One was the Internet, one was clean energy and one was space.
  • I could either watch it happen, or be part of it.
  • We could figure out ways with small aerospace companies to do a low-cost spacecraft and lander. But we could not find a way to do a low-cost launcher, unless we went to the Russians.
  • The answer was we thought it could be done.
  • There is nothing inherently expensive about rockets. It's just that those who have built and operated them in the past have done so with horrendously poor efficiency.
  • Falcon One is going to be the lowest cost per flight to orbit of any production rocket.
  • Which means we’re cheaper than the Chinese, cheaper than [the] Russians or anywhere else – and we’re doing it in the United States with American labour costs.
  • I think the reason it’s cheaper is, first of all, we are a private entity and we have a very lean system in here. What we have been able to do here at SpaceX is to cherry-pick, you know, the top one or two percent and give them, you know, capital to execute well and a clear mission, which is low cost, reliable access to space, and no other constraints.
  • Well, I have tried to learn as much as possible from prior attempts.
  • If nothing else, we are committed to failing in a new way.
  • There’s a graveyard of prior attempts, a big graveyard. There’s probably some freshly dug graves just waiting to be filled. Our aspiration is to avoid that destination.
  • I think we’ve got the risks pretty well characterized. I think we are at least avoiding the mistakes that have been made in the past.
  • I think the rocket business is quite cyclic. There are a great many peaks and troughs.
  • Imagine creating a huge software program that can only be tested in little pieces on a computer that is slightly different from what it is supposed to run on. However, when you do run it as a whole on the actual computer for the first time, it must run almost flawlessly without a single significant bug. When is the last time you saw a software program do that?
  • When thinking about starting a business, I think it’s actually better to start in a trough and come to market in a peak, than the other way around. Frankly, if anything does, and it’s almost cliché, space has a long-term future.
  • I want to be able to make sure that we have enough capital to survive at least three consecutive failures. If you want to make a small fortune in the launch vehicle business, start with a large one.
  • The long term ultimate objective – the holy grail – is we would like to help make life multi-planetary.
  • We got to the moon, but have never done anything better since. I'm disappointed that we have not made more progress since Apollo. I don't even see a plan that says we're going to do better than Apollo to exceed that goal.
  • I like to be involved in things that change the world. The Internet did, and space will probably be more responsible for changing the world than anything else. If humanity can expand beyond the Earth, obviously that's where the future is.
  • If we can be one of the companies that makes it possible for humans to become a multi-planetary species, that would be the Holy Grail. It sounds a bit crazy but it's going to happen, and only if people build the means to do so. We're making progress toward a greater philosophical goal while building a sound business.
  • When Henry Ford made cheap, reliable cars people said, 'Nah, what's wrong with a horse?' That was a huge bet he made, and it worked.
  • It doesn’t do a great deal to advance the goal of humanity. I would pay $20 million not to spend six months in Russia. And besides this, my interest is how do we enable many other people to go to space, not necessarily me, personally.
  • If we can build something that is capable of taking people and equipment to Mars, such that it can service a transportation infrastructure for humanity becoming a multi- planet species - which I think is a very, very important objective - then I would consider the mission of SpaceX successful, at that point.
  • We are used to things improving every year; we are used to having a better cell phone next year than this year; a better lap top. We are even used to some basic things, like we expect more from your car in next year’s model than last year’s model. But this is not the case in space; reliability and cost - those are the fundamental parameters of transportation - have not improved.
  • Starting and growing a business is as much about the innovation, drive and determination of the people who do it as it is about the product they sell.
  • So even if a fire develops, it can't really attack the particularly vulnerable locations like the pneumatic system or the avionics or the engine bay. We want to be in the situation that even if a fire develops, the rocket just keeps going.
  • A great deal of bargaining power with suppliers. We are never locked in to anyone.
  • I think it is a mistake to hire huge numbers of people to get a complicated job done. Numbers will never compensate for talent in getting the right answer (two people who don't know something are no better than one), will tend to slow down progress, and will make the task incredibly expensive.
  • My approach is simply to seek out very talented people, ensure that the environment at SpaceX is as motivating & enjoyable as possible and establish clear & measurable objectives.
  • Rocket engineering is not like ditch digging. With ditch digging you can get 100 people and dig a ditch, and you will dig it a hundred times as faster if you get 100 people versus one. With rockets, you have to solve the problem of a particular level of difficulty; one person who can solve the problem is worth an infinite number of people who can’t.
  • I think that is a mistake and results in cloudy judgment on important technical issues. They can't tell if something is really good or not, so they just do what everyone else does, assuming it to be the safe bet.
  • We're adding a triple sign-off for all work done on the launch pad, on flight components, and flight critical GSE. You have a technician, a responsible engineer, and then quality assurance will sign the final, record all information, and take photographs of all the work that was done, and then make sure that all information is put into our quality assurance database, which is reviewed prior to launch.
  • Although I am new in the business, my team is not. I would say that, person for person, there has never been a better rocket company in existence, in history. I don’t think there has ever been a group this talented in one place, in one company, developing a rocket – ever.
    If you have millions of dollars it changes your lifestyle, and anyone who says differently is talking ########. I don’t need to work, from a standard of living point of view, but I do, you know. I work every day and on weekends and I haven’t taken a vacation for years.
  • This is the chance to fulfill a dream.
  • I’m nauseatingly pro-American. It is where great things are possible.
  • As life’s agents, it’s on our shoulders.

Foreword to Marc Kaufman's Mars Up Close: Inside the Curiosity Mission. National Geographic. ISBN 978-1-4262-1278-9.[edit]

  • ... I plan to travel to Mars and make it my home.
    • Page 9.
  • People should be travelling to Mars and doing it in our lifetime.
    • Page 9
  • Only by breaking through to new paradigms of space travel will more than a handful of us ever get to Mars and make it a potentially livable place.
    • Page 10
  • Getting to Mars is too big an accomplishment for us to feel proud by just by swinging by. We are a nation of enterprise as well as exploration, and we're not about to go there without making something of it.
    • Page 10
  • Sending large numbers of people to explore and settle Mars in the decades ahead isn't inevitable, but it is entirely possible. The biggest challenge isn't the engineering and spacecraft, however difficult they may be. Instead, it's making sure that a sustained Mars campaign proceeds as a national priority, and that will happen only if the American people are behind it. We have the opportunity now to make this happen. We might not be so fortunate in the future.
    • Page 13

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