Did you watch the SpaceX rocket launch a few weeks ago? Wasn’t it exciting? I don’t remember such anticipation about something going into space since the Space Shuttle was withdrawn from service. We’d all got a bit blasé about stuff shooting into orbit. But this was different - suddenly rocket launches were back in the news again!
This wasn’t NASA though, or some other state sponsored space programme, but a private company. Who on earth has enough money to experiment with rocket launches? Some chap called Elon Musk, apparently. I was sure I’d heard of him before, something to do with electric cars? Well that didn’t really sound right though, on the one hand putting your life savings into building a cool eco car to persuade the petrol heads of the word that they don’t need to kill the planet with their emissions, but on the other to be burning tons of oxygen sending stuff into space. A bit of an enigma.
So, I had a bit of a think about what sort of guy I imagined Mr Musk to be. Probably getting on a bit to have amassed enough of a fortune to be splashing it about on space rockets. Or maybe a very charming young man with an extremely convincing manner who’s persuaded other people to join his adventure.
But what’s the reality? Somewhere in between would be a fair assessment from what I can gather. He’s currently the 53rd richest person in the world, so can fund pretty much anything he fancies all by himself. He’s also 46, so he’s been working on that fortune for quite some time - since he was 12 in fact, when he developed and sold a computer game for $500. He seems to have applied himself to his studies after that, right up until he threw caution to the wind two days into a PhD in physics, deciding to become an entrepreneur instead.
From there on in he seems to have gone from strength to strength, being involved in the foundation of PayPal along the way. SpaceX and the rockets came out of Mr Musk’s lifelong interest in colonising Mars. He’s been quoted as wanting to die on Mars. After he’s had his fill of mars bars of course. I’m not sure he was actually talking about the chocolate ones when he mentioned mars bars last week as something he’ll be looking to have plenty of up there on the old red planet. So in answer to the old question ‘is there life on mars?’ there will be if Elon Musk has anything to do with it!
By Amanda Street
Published in the In transition section of the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser, April 2018.