Elon Musk: “I didn’t start SpaceX to go to Space myself”

Editorial: The Explorer and the Industrialist

I’m an explorer. Standing on top of Mount Everest I didn’t look down, I looked up. After visiting the farthest corners of my planet I’ve set my goals to the stars. I don’t mean to send other people, buy a ticket with an outfitter, or organize a movement of some sort.

I’m building my own rocket.

These days though, the concept of self-propelled exploration is so foreign to people that the first question I usually get is who I’ll go with. SpaceX or Virgin Galactic?

My answer is neither and here’s why.

Virgin Galactic has yet to build an aircraft to lift people to low earth orbit for a minute or two. That’s not the Space I’m after.

Well what about Elon then, he wants to go to Mars? Actually he doesn’t. Elon Musk is an industrialist, not an explorer. When I tell people this they look at me like I ruined Christmas.

I’ve covered Elon since the early days of SpaceX and I’m not sure when exactly the rumor of Musk-The-Astronaut came up. As long as I’ve been aware, Musk wants to build rockets, not join the ride.

In an interview at MIT in 2014, Elon Musk said it himself, answering a question from the audience (44:07 in video):

Q: “When you hear about the founding of SpaceX, a popular story is you started it partly because you yourself wanted to go to Space. Is this true? And what time-frame do you see for you yourself having that opportunity?”

Musk: “Actually that’s not why I started SpaceX. The easiest thing for me to do would have been to buy a ride on the Soyuz. I would have been able to go to the Space Station as a number of other people have done. The thing I was trying to figure out was how to get us on track of extending life beyond earth. That’s the reason for starting SpaceX.”

Elon says his initial idea was to send small greenhouses to Mars, and trying to get the public excited about placing life on the planet. “That could result in getting NASA’s budget increased and we could resume the dream of Apollo,” he said.

Elon Musk – a self proclaimed “big fan of NASA” – concluded that the goal of SpaceX became to “make as much progress as possible in rocket technology to a point where hopefully can establish a colony on Mars, or at least go as far in that direction as we can.”

To a question who will be the astronauts, Musk replies, “scientists and engineers – Dragon doesn’t need pilots.”

Note the absence of Columbus and Amundsen, or other explorers in our history who overcame incredible hardship betting their house, honing their skills and putting their own skin in the game to discover New Worlds.

Elon built his companies with government money, poaches talent and has no plans of going anywhere himself.

To me, this Silicon Valley darling is just another NASA wannabe and this is why I build my own spaceship. I won’t leave without giving him some credit though: Nobody knows like Elon does, how to rob the Barons.

Video of MIT interview

SpaceX receives the majority of its funding from NASA, and according to one internal NASA document, as much as 85 percent of the company’s revenues to date have come from the space agency through its multibillion dollar commercial crew and cargo contracts. Put simply, if not for NASA, SpaceX would probably be flying the Falcon 1 or 5 rocket today or might not exist at all. Source

Tesla Motors has to pay $422 million to its bondholders in the third quarter, and will raise additional money by the end of the year to support its merger with SolarCity, Musk is the chairman of both companies.

In recent weeks, 15 institutional investors passed on either acquiring SolarCity or injecting equity into it. SolarCity’s cash declined to $146 million on June 30, from $421 million a year earlier.

In its 10-year history, SolarCity has notched total revenue of just $1.5 billion, while amassing $3 billion in debt. Because the company’s operating costs are high and its profit margins are thin, it depends on issuing debt. SolarCity has a $250 million term loan due Dec. 31, and $55 million in bonds coming due between Sept. 3 and the end of the year. Tesla has sought to buy SolarCity for $2.86 billion. Source

Tesla has been missing its car shipment targets for the last two quarters due to a slow ramp up of its Model X car, an electric SUV and faced controversy over a fatal accident, the world’s first known death in an autonomous vehicle.

Tesla’s battery factory once promised to produce more than the world’s entire output of lithium-ion batteries. Now the facility is hoping to make two to three times that initial gargantuan amount.

Musk said he is confident that Tesla is on track to meet its goal to make enough batteries for 500,000 cars by 2018. The factory is supposed to start producing its first battery cells by the end of this year. As of this week the site was only 14% completed. Source

Elon Musk’s growing empire is fueled by $4.9 billion in government subsidies Source