April 2013

Elon Musk Shapes the Future of the Space Industry

Elon MuskElon Musk

Elon Musk
Elon Musk spoke to an audience of several thousand people at the South by Southwest festival.

On March 9, billionaire entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk spoke at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. The annual festival includes movies, live music, and talks about new technology. At one of those talks, Musk told the audience that he would like to live on the planet Mars one day. He wants to help start a colony there. That might sound hard to believe, but Musk is working on technology that could help make it happen.

Musk revealed to the SXSW audience that his interest in Mars inspired him to start the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) in 2002. He also showed the group a video of SpaceX’s new Grasshopper test rocket. People applauded loudly after they watched the rocket fly about 263 feet in the air and then land safely on the ground. Unlike most rockets used for space travel, Grasshopper can be used again. Musk said that reusable rockets will help transform space exploration by greatly reducing its cost.

Elon Musk developed an early interest in technology. Growing up in South Africa, he got his first computer when he was 10 years old. By the age of 12, he had already designed a computer game called Blaster and sold it for a profit. When he was 17, he moved to Canada and started college there. Later, he earned degrees in business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania. He started a company called Zip2 and co-founded PayPal, which manages online payments for many Internet businesses. When the Zip2 and PayPal companies were sold, Musk made a fortune. He used this money to help start SpaceX and Tesla Motors, a company that makes electric cars.

Musk made history on May 22, 2012, when SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 rocket into space. The rocket carried the unmanned Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. The capsule held 1,000 pounds of supplies for the astronauts stationed there. It was the first time a spacecraft was sent to the International Space Station by a private company. Today, SpaceX is developing a capsule called DragonRider that will carry people to and from the space station. Musk’s Dragon spacecraft are taking on some of the tasks once performed by NASA’s space shuttle, which ended its missions in July 2011.

Image credit: ©Gerry Shih/Reuters

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Question 1
At what age did Elon Musk design a computer game?

Question 2
Which company did Elon Musk start in 2002?

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