South African entrepreneur Elon Musk is known for founding Tesla Motors and SpaceX, which launched a landmark commercial spacecraft in 2012.
“I'm very pro-environment, but let's figure out how to do it better and not jump through a dozen hoops to achieve what is obvious in the first place.”
Born in South Africa in 1971, Elon Musk became a multimillionaire in his late 20s when he sold his start-up company, Zip2, to a division of Compaq Computers. He achieved more success by founding X.com in 1999, SpaceX in 2002 and Tesla Motors in 2003. Musk made headlines in May 2012, when SpaceX launched a rocket that would send the first commercial vehicle to the International Space Station. He bolstered his portfolio with the purchase of SolarCity in 2016, and cemented his standing as a leader of industry by taking on an advisory role in the early days of President Donald Trump's administration.
Also in 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services/payments company. An X.com acquisition the following year led to the creation of PayPal as it is known today, and in October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in stock. Before the sale, Musk owned 11 percent of PayPal stock
Never one to rest on his laurels, Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, in 2002 with the intention of building spacecraft for commercial space travel. By 2008, SpaceX was well established, and NASA awarded the company the contract to handle cargo transport for the International Space Station—with plans for astronaut transport in the future—in a move to replace NASA’s own space shuttle missions.
The boundless potential of space exploration and the preservation of the future of the human race have become the cornerstones of Musk's abiding interests, and toward these he has founded the Musk Foundation, which is dedicated to space exploration and the discovery of renewable and clean energy sources.
Another Musk venture is Tesla Motors, a company dedicated to producing affordable, mass-market electric cars. Five years after its formation, the company in 2008 unveiled the Roadster, a sports car capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, as well traveling nearly 250 miles between charges of its lithum ion battery. With a stake in the company taken by Daimler and a strategic partnership with Toyota, Tesla Motors launched its initial public offering in June 2010, raising $226 million.
Additional successes include the Model S, the company's first electric sedan. Capable of covering 265 miles between charges, the Model S was honored as the 2013 Car of the Year by Motor Trend magazine.
In April 2017, it was announced that Tesla had surpassed General Motors to become the most valuable U.S. car maker. The news was an obvious boon to Tesla, which was looking to ramp up production and release its Model 3 sedan later that year.
On May 22, 2012, Musk and SpaceX made history when the company launched its Falcon 9 rocket into space with an unmanned capsule. The vehicle was sent to the International Space Station with 1,000 pounds of supplies for the astronauts stationed there, marking the first time a private company had sent a spacecraft to the International Space Station. Of the launch, Musk was quoted as saying, "I feel very lucky. ... For us, it's like winning the Super Bowl."
In December 2013, SpaceX notched another milestone when Falcon 9 carried a satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit, a distance at which the satellite would lock into an orbital path that matched the Earth's rotation. In February 2015, SpaceX launched another Falcon 9 fitted with the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite, aiming to observe the extreme emissions from the sun that affect power grids and communications systems on Earth.