“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.” –Elon Musk
It’s always entertaining looking back at old sci-fi narratives and seeing how the future compares. Today we’ve got hover boards, self-driving cars, electronic assistants inside our phones that will schedule appointments for us, and smart houses. What else could be next? According to Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, reusable rockets are next. And after that: a city on Mars. At times, it feels like Musk is single-handedly making every sci-fi fiction become a reality. Right now, he is dipping his toes into rocketry, despite having no background in this field, and he’s doing pretty well for himself. He’s the founder and CEO of SpaceX, which is short for “Space Exploration Technologies Corporation.” Musk is rapidly taking over the transportation industry and he’s doing it with humor and flair. Eventually, he plans on developing a Hyperloop which will suck passengers through a vacuum tube at record speeds. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is a list of 42 mind-blowing facts about the mastermind Elon Musk and his company SpaceX. What he’s doing is just out of this world.
42. Follow Your Dreams
SpaceX was founded in 2002 with a spreadsheet and a dream. Elon Musk wanted to create spaceships to enable human transport to other planets where they could live and thrive. The company is still privately owned and operated, has three vehicles currently in use and over 5,000 employees.
41. A Success Story
I can’t imagine a bigger customer to acquire than the US government, and SpaceX has done it. Their vehicles are responsible for commercial satellite launches and other missions for both the US government and NASA. They landed these big customers in only 16 years and have received about $12 billion in contracts in that time.
40. Aptly Named
The SpaceX headquarters are in Hawthorne, California and, in line with Musk’s reputation for humorous naming conventions, they are located on “Rocket Road.” The headquarters are located in an old Boeing aircraft fuselage factory—a company that is now SpaceX’s direct competition—and the facilities are a single floor industrial plant. So, their mission control center is essentially in the same spot as a break room usually would be. Dinner and rocket launch show, anyone?
39. Space Travel on a Budget
One of SpaceX’s loftiest and most important goals in the success of their company is to create completely reusable rockets. In 2017, they started to fulfill this goal by staging the first re-flight of an orbital class rocket ever. The reason this is such an important goal for the company is significantly reduced costs attached to flying rockets. Most of the price of launching rockets is actually in their construction. It makes sense, too. Airplanes are reused multiple times a day for travel—why not rockets?
38. In SpaceX We Trust
One of SpaceX’s biggest accomplishments thus far has been to fly cargo to and from the International Space Station. Previously, it was only government agencies that were able and allowed to perform this difficult feat.
37. No Special Treatment
A lot of the floor space in the single level SpaceX headquarters is dedicated to cubicles for its staff. Even Musk himself, the company’s CEO, does not work in a full office with walls and ceilings.
6. The Robot Revolution
Musk thinks that moving human life to Mars and creating environmentally-friendly, sustainable transportation are two ways to save human life as we know it. He also claims to know what will be its ultimate downfall: artificial intelligence. He thinks we should keep a careful eye on the development of AI to ensure the results are good and not dire.
35. Alien to Us
Although Musk hopes there is intelligent life on other planets and says it’s probably more likely than not, he personally thinks the only other life in the known universe is very simple. Well, if there are thinking beings anywhere else in the universe—I’m sure Musk, with the help of SpaceX, will be the one to find it.
34. Big AF
BFR is just a code name for the new rocket in development. Its official name will be released at a later date. It’s had many names over the years, though. Before 2016 the vehicle was being referred to as the “Mars Colonial Transporter.” Its current inspiration is from the “BFG” weapon in many video games, specifically in Doom where it stands for “Big F***ing Gun.” Musk’s new rocket is being referred to by media and the company informally as the “Big F***ing Rocket.”
33. Stark Similarities
Elon Musk got to flex his acting muscles with a cameo in Iron Man 2. Not only was part of the movie shot inside the SpaceX factory, but Musk has also been called the “real-life Iron Man” as the Tony Stark character in the recent movies was modeled partially after him.
32. Fire-Breathing, Flying Dragons
Today the Dragon capsule is transporting cargo, tomorrow it could be people. Eventually, Musk wants to transport astronauts into low-Earth orbit. After that he wants them to land on the surface of Mars in his vehicles.
31. Sit Back and Enjoy the Ride
The Crew Dragon spacecraft was built for a pleasant ride through space. Its seats are built with high-grade carbon fiber and Alcantara cloth and face a window where you can watch Earth, the Moon and the rest of the distant solar system during your ride.
30. Abort, Abort!
SpaceX has a launch abort system in place in case anything goes wrong during lift-off. The failsafe method exerts no more Gs than a big amusement park ride as it ejects the spacecraft away from the launch vehicle. The Crew Dragon crew can escape the launch anywhere from the launch pad up to orbit because the system is built into the spacecraft itself.
29. No Heat? No Problem!
The Crew Dragon spacecraft has a temperature system, so the astronauts can set their thermostat anywhere between 65° F (18° C) and a balmy 80° F (26° C).
28. We Built This City
SpaceX’s Mars landing is not a far-off pipe dream for them, in fact, they want it to occur as early as 2022. At that point, the plan is to send cargo to Mars and evaluate the conditions, resources, and hazards associated with sending humans up. After putting in the infrastructure to support human life, they intend on sending people to populate a happy little city up there not long after. I want to see Bob Ross’s oil painting tutorials of THAT landscape!
27. Blow Up in Your Face-Book
In 2016, Musk was tasked by Mark Zuckerberg with a very important mission: to transport the first satellite Facebook had ever put into orbit. The satellite would provide Internet to the developing world, but with an anomaly in the launch pad, the rocket exploded and destroyed $200 million in cargo.
26. Social Media Purge
As the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, Musk deleted both companies’ Facebook pages after the #DeleteFacebook phenomenon. He claims he didn’t even realize either company HAD a Facebook page.
25. Driving the World to the Future
Between self-driving cars and reusable rockets, Musk is transforming the world into a sci-fi novel faster than anyone. And of the two, I would have thought people driving rockets to Mars was farther in the future than a car driving me around, but I guess not. Not many people are making rockets, but a lot of people are making cars, so there’s way more space to innovate in the rocket industry. SpaceX launched 20% of the world’s rockets into orbit in 2017. However, in the same year, they only made 0.14% of the world’s cars.
24. An Eye for Innovation
Elon Musk has no official training in rocketry, but he is an entrepreneur many times over and a successful one at that. Between Tesla, PayPal, and SpaceX (plus a few others), he’s clearly capable of positioning himself in the right emerging markets. SpaceX became a reality when NASA started stepping away from low earth orbits and now Musk only has to compete with companies like Boeing and Orbital Sciences. Which is still very impressive considering those other companies have been around much longer than SpaceX.
23. Battle of the Tech Heavyweights
Musk’s Falcon 9 rocket made history when it flew into orbit and then came back upright and fully recovered. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, also flew a rocket in 2015 that landed upright, but it only went to the edge of space and back in a demo flight. Better luck next time, Bezos.
22. Getting into the Big Leagues
The Falcon 1 has, of course, one engine. The Falcon 9, then, clearly has nine engines. And the Falcon Heavy? The Falcon Heavy has 27 engines. They come in three sets of nine and the craft weighs 64 metric tons.
21. When You Want a Job Done Cheap, Do it Yourself
SpaceX claims to make more affordable rockets and they are proving it to the world. The Falcon 9 cost about $440 million between the first phases of design right up until its first flight. That may sound like a lot to us non-rocketeers, but it’s only about a third of what NASA would have spent on a similar rocket. This is partially because 80% of each rocket is made right inside SpaceX with their own parts, so they don’t need to spend as much money on outsourcing.
20. Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200
The biggest contracts that SpaceX gets now are with the US military. They didn’t always have them as a customer, though. Previously, the United Launch Alliance had a monopoly on that market, but SpaceX could save the military between $47 and $300 million in costs compared to ULA, so they finally got a public sector contract with the Air Force.
19. Try, Try Again
In 2015 the Falcon 9 exploded due to a faulty strut that was holding a helium tank. With a bottle of helium loose and flying to the booster’s upper-stage liquid-oxygen tank the rocket became over pressurized and it burst. The struts holding down the tanks can usually withstand 10,000 lbs (4,500 kg) of force and are two-feet long, supplied by an outside supplier. With a strut breaking, though, the company might want to look into a new supplier…
18. Vroom, Vrooooom!
Musk announced on Twitter that a future version of the Tesla Roadster will have about 10 small rockets surrounding the vehicle and will outcompete all other gas race cars on the market. The mini-rockets would be used as thrusters that blow cold air behind the vehicle and in front of it to accelerate and to stop. If air blew out the sides it could even assist in turning. Considering the Tesla Roadster is already one of the fastest cars in the world, this would be pretty epic.
17. That Doesn’t Suck
SpaceX isn’t totally up in the clouds, they are also trying to revolutionize in transportation that is more down to earth. SpaceX’s Hyperloop is in its design stages, but would likely be able to transport 28 passengers per capsule to a destination in 40 minutes that would take a bus 24 hours. It would do this through compressors on each capsule that would create a vacuum reducing drag for the vehicle.
16. Who’s the Lucky Winner?
Want to be a part of the SpaceX team? Hyperloop concepts are all open source so that anyone can have a chance to help design a transportation pod. The competition for pod designs is on now! The only requirements—they must be self-propelled and operate at maximum speed.
15. Replacement Rocket
SpaceX’s newest endeavor, the BFR or “Big Falcon Rocket,” is set to run tests launches in 2019. Its design would ultimately replace the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, AND the Dragon rocket to fly into low-earth orbit. Eventually, it could sustain a whole trip to Mars.
14. Vacation Starts NOW!
The BFR, other than doing low-earth orbit and flying to Mars, is also intended for long-distance commercial travel to other places on earth or, as Musk calls it “Earth-to-Earth” travel. With the help of this vehicle, you’d be able to get to other points on Earth in under an hour.
13. My Favorite Martians
If beings from Mars are called Martians, humans could literally be Martians one day no different than they are Earthlings now. That is, if Musk gets his way. It’s not as crazy a goal as it may sound, though. A day on Mars is 24 hours and 39 minutes long, so there wouldn’t be much adjustment in our sleep schedule. And, most importantly, there has been confirmed presence of water on Mars in the form of ice.
One of SpaceX’s many projects right now is the Raptor: a rocket engine with two to three times the thrust power of the engines currently powering the Falcon 9. The engine will be fully reusable at all rocket stages.
11. Made of Money
At the time of writing this article, Elon Musk’s real-time net worth was $21.3 billion. SpaceX is valued at over $20 billion.
Included in the long list of companies that Musk founded is “The Boring Company.” The Boring Company isn’t as mundane as it sounds, though. The company was founded to assist SpaceX’s endeavors and already has a tool to do it with: The Tunnel Boring Machine, or TBM. The first TBM was named “Godot” after Beckett’s (arguably boring) play. The other machines are also going to be named after plays and poems.
9. Holy Commitment, Batman!
The Boring Company’s boring machine has already made its debut by boring a hole on the property of SpaceX’s headquarters. That was the only place where Musk wouldn’t have to get any permits to test out his hole-digging contraption.
8. Do (Not) Try This at Home
As part of their marketing, The Boring Company is selling hats, fire extinguishers, and flamethrowers. Their flamethrowers got some criticism, but it’s okay because Musk had the website updated to accommodate his critics. The flamethrower merchandise has been renamed to: “The Boring Company (not a) Flamethrower.” They have already sold 20,000 (not) flamethrowers, 50,000 hats, and sold out of overpriced fire extinguishers.
7. If the Pyramids Can Do It
Usually, when digging big holes, all the dirt is moved to an offsite dumping location, but that’s costly and wasteful compared to what The Boring Company plans to do. Musk plans on recycling the tunnel dirt by turning it into bricks that can go toward other building projects.
6. Perhaps He Got It from the Moon
Musk is not just a sci-fi fan, it would seem, but also a Monty Python fan. The first test flight of his Dragon capsule had “special cargo” on board: a wheel of cheese. The cargo was a nod to a Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit with John Cleese.
5. First-Class Flight
Musk says that he would love to fly into space himself, but can’t because of personal obligations like his children and the multiple companies he owns. Becoming an astronaut is too big of a risk for a family man. Perhaps you’d like to go, though? Musk estimates seats on the rocket to Mars would only be $500,000 each.
4. Beep Bop Boop
A lot of SpaceX’s future goals sound like something out of a sci-fi novel. And Musk plays right into that imagery when naming his various vehicles, engines, etc. Particularly humorous are the names of his spaceport drone ships which are the landing platforms for rockets and are robotic ships floating on the water. They were named after the sentient Culture ships in sci-fi writer Iain M. Banks’ books: “Just Read the Instructions” and “Of Course I Still Love You.”
3. Haters Gonna Hate
Elon Musk must get endless enjoyment out of creating new technologies, just for the opportunity of naming them alone. His Falcon rockets are named after Han Solo’s spaceship in Star Wars, the “Millennium Falcon.” Further, his Dragon rocket is named after “Puff the Magic Dragon” because so many critics thought what he was doing was so unbelievably impossible—kind of like a mythical creature.
2. Wi-Fi for Every Guy
SpaceX plans on starting a satellite manufacturing and operating business called Starlink which could be their best bet at profit in the future. This would mean a space-based Internet communication system. They want to have 12,000 satellites in orbit by the mid-2020s. This would enable global broadband internet connection—even to places with historically less access to the internet. The profit could then fund whatever other impossible-sounding, futuristic plans that lay ahead for SpaceX.
1. Make a Wish!
Elon Musk is well-known for his sense of humor. But, in case there was any doubt in your mind that this CEO knows how to laugh—he has a framed poster in his corner cubicle at the SpaceX headquarters that reads, “When you wish upon a falling star, your dreams can come true. Unless it’s really a meteor hurtling to the Earth which will destroy all life. Then you’re pretty much hosed, no matter what you wish for. Unless it’s death by meteorite.”