In early 2001, Musk became involved with the nonprofit organization Mars Society. He discussed funding plans to place a growth chamber for plants on Mars. That same year, in October, he traveled to Moscow to purchase refurbished intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could potentially send greenhouse payloads into space.
He met with several companies, but they regarded Musk as a novice, and he returned to the states without any missiles. A year later, Musk and his group returned, looking for three ICBMs, but were only offered one at eight million dollars. Musk rejected the offer and decided to start his own company.
Brushes With Death
Despite living what many would call a charmed life, Musk has had more than a few close calls. In 1999, Musk was the owner of the supercar McLaren F1. The car has sold for up to fourteen million dollars during auctions, but Elon ended up crashing it! Since, for some reason, the car was uninsured, he had no way of getting it back without paying an incredible amount.
Just a year after the McLaren crash, Musk was on vacation in Brazil and his native South Africa, and he ended up becoming severely ill. The disease nearly killed Musk, but thankfully he recovered.
The Joy of Flying
Musk is a huge aircraft enthusiast, which might explain how much time and energy goes into SpaceX. He owns a number of planes, including a Czech-made jet trainer aircraft, and a 1994 model Dassault Falcon 900. There's also the Aero L-39 Albatros, which he calls the most fun plane he's ever owned.
How many people in the entire world, ever, can make that kind of statement? You might be able to count them on one hand. There's also his TWO Gulfstream Jets. His Dassault Falcon was used in the 2005 film “Thank You For Smoking.” Musk has a cameo in the film as the pilot.
The Big One
Out of all of Musk's properties and companies, there's one that might have the most impact in the long run: SpaceX. It's short for Space Exploration Technologies, and he founded it in May of 2002 with a hundred million dollars of his own money. The goal was to build a true spacefaring civilization.
The company sprang out of Musk's own belief that he could build cheaper rockets for space travel by applying things like “vertical integration” and a “modular approach” from software engineering. The company conducted its first launch using the Falcon 1 rocket, in 2006.
Despite not even making it past the inner layers of the atmosphere (what is considered a failure in space launch standards), Falcon 1 still earned the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program contract from NASA administrator, and former SpaceX consultant, Mike Griffin. However, two more failed attempts at getting Falcon 1 into space over the next two years almost caused Musk and his companies to go bankrupt.
Finally, a successful launch on September twenty-eighth of 2008 placed the Falcon 1 into orbit, earning the company a huge contract with NASA and becoming the first privately-developed fully liquid-fueled launch vehicle to go into orbit around Earth.