Elon Musk is a key individual in the world of engineering, and one that all Phoenix Arizona auto and science enthusiasts should be familiar with.
First he made his mark on the beginnings of the internet age with his invention and development of Paypal. Then, it seems, he got bored. He got as bored as a brilliant engineer with a vast fortune to spend on research and design can get before taking action. Around 2003 and 2004, Musk founded not one, but two design and engineering firms.
One, Tesla Motors, located not far from Phoenix Arizona, focuses on building high performance electric vehicles (such as the Tesla Roadster) and components(selling to the likes of Daimler and Toyota). The other, SpaceX, focuses on the future and development of commercial space travel.
SpaceX is not all talk. The company has already developed the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets, both of which are built with a goal of being reusable launch vehicles. SpaceX has also developed the Dragon Spacecraft, designed with the intent for it to be carried to orbit by Falcon 9 launch vehicles. What sets Musk apart from his competition in the world of starry eyed inventor-engineers, is the fact that his biography is a list of tangible accomplishments. Musk proved this in December of 2010, when he and his SpaceX crew became the first private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft, the SpaceX built Dragon.
This is where master engineering and private entrepreneurial prowess meet opportunity. This Friday marks the last voyage of the US Space Shuttle Endeavor. With the final mission of Space Shuttle Atlantis this coming June, NASA’s 30+ year space shuttle program comes to an end. BUT, this is far from the end of NASA, and most certianly far from the end of American space exploration in general. Enter Musk from the wings.
SpaceX has been awarded a $1.6 billion NASA contract for 12 flights of their Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. Initially Dragon will replace the cargo transport function of the Shuttle, while astronaut transport will be handled by the Russian Soyuz. However, SpaceX has designed Dragon and Falcon 9 with astronaut transport in mind, and the Augustine Commission has recommended that astronaut transport be handled by commercial companies like SpaceX.
Ultimately, and this is the most exciting aspect of the rise of SpaceX, flights will be will be available for civilian recreation and public academic institutions.
But Musk is not stopping there:
“We’re going all the way to Mars, I think… best case 10 years, worst case 15 to 20 years,” Musk told The Wall Street Journal. “A future where humanity is out there exploring stars is an incredibly exciting future, and inspiring, and that’s what we’re trying to help make happen.”
With vision and ambition like this, Phoenix Arizona auto and science enthusiasts can look forward to great innovations, not only from SpaceX, but also from electric sports automotive powerhouse Tesla Motors. Musk’s personal designs make up the vehicles from Tesla Motors, and they are available by appointment for Phoenix Arizona prospective customers to view and test drive.