Innovation, Drive, and Determination

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. . . it is our destiny to go beyond our planet and develop sustainable

environments elsewhere.

As a boy growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, I was fascinated

with space and was inspired by the Apollo astronauts.

I wanted to one day set foot on the moon or even Mars.

As a huge fan of the popular computer game “Space Invaders,”

I taught myself how to write computer code and

designed my own game called “Blast Star” at the age of 12. I

later sold the code to a computer magazine for $500, which

back then was a lot of money for a young boy.

It has always been my belief that it is our destiny to go

beyond our planet and develop sustainable environments

elsewhere. We humans are explorers by nature, that’s why

we’ve ventured to the bottom of the oceans and the top of the

tallest mountains. That’s also why we have sent men to the

moon and astronauts to live on the orbiting International

Space Station. It was this innate desire for exploration that

also motivated me to leave South Africa, at 17, for Canada

and then later, the U.S. in pursuit of my dreams.

In the U.S., I decided to enroll at the University of Pennsylvania,

where I self-sponsored my education and earned two

degrees, in physics and business. I thought the fields of study

I chose were essential for any career path I may later take:

physics is the basis of all present and future technology, while

business skills can turn a technology into a profitable venture.

I must also note that another great source of inspiration

for me, which initially sparked my interest in physics, was the

Source: Printed with permission from Elon Musk.

futuristic novels written by Jules Verne. I must have read them

all so many times that I practically knew them by heart. I was

completely mesmerized by how Verne presented glimpses

into the future, and envisioned things, such as submarines,

space ships, and space voyages, ahead of their times.

After graduation, I was really keen on doing something

that could further my understanding of cutting-edge technology.

Back then, I paid close attention to the Internet revolution

going on in the Silicon Valley and finally said to myself,

“I could either watch it happen or be a part of it.” That’s when

I came up with Zip2, a Web software company catering to

the media industry, which I started at 23 in the small boarding

house where I lived. Times were rough in the beginning,

but I believed in my idea and persevered. Only a few years

later, I sold Zip2 to Compaq for $307 million. I was fortunate

enough in that the success of my first company was followed

by another—PayPal, now the largest online payment service.

I sold PayPal to eBay in 2001, for $1.5 billion.

Following PayPal, I felt that the moment had come for me

to pursue my true vocation and passion for space. After a

closer look into the private and government space industries,

I was disappointed with the lack of innovation in the field of

space exploration since man first landed on the moon almost

34 years ago. I figured that if I wanted to go to space and help

us in the quest for other planets, I was better off building

my own rocket. In the summer of 2002, I founded Space Exploration

Technologies (SpaceX) and employed a great

team of about 20 top engineers who shared my vision for

space. It must be noted that starting and growing a business

is as much about the innovation, drive, and determination of

the people behind it as the product they sell. By developing

rockets that can launch small to large payloads into space,

SpaceX is taking progressive steps toward achieving our goal

of successfully flying humans beyond Earth’s orbit. And yes,

it will all be done in our lifetime.

As I work vigilantly on pursuing my dream of space exploration,

I wish to encourage all those who once dreamt of

being astronauts to look no further, because it is all within

our reach.