Who is Elon Musk? [And how many people does he plan to send to Mars?]

This post is the SECOND in a series of mini-biographies that chronicle the power of the memoir. Some of the stories are great and inspiring; some are tragic and teachable; some are about ordinary people just like you. Maybe after reading them, you’ll consider writing your memoirs.

PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX. Hopefully you’ve heard of at least one of these companies and know something of the services they offer. What you might not know is that one relatively young man is behind them all—and at 44 years old, Elon Musk may just be one of the most important entrepreneurs and innovators of the 21st century.

Each in its own way, PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX are ushering the world into the next generation of economic and scientific technologies. Musk’s ultimate goal, however, is to ferry mankind right out of this world entirely. SpaceX was the first commercial company contracted by NASA to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. Next, Musk plans to deliver human settlers to Mars: 80,000 of them by 2040.

Why? As Musk points out, it’s taken homo sapiens hundreds of thousands of years to evolve to this point. In just the last 60 years, man has both developed the atomic weaponry and effected the climate change to annihilate the entire species, and soon. If we don’t kill each other off, we’ll kill the earth that sustains us (the plot of 2014’s Interstellar). It’s time to explore other options—extraterrestrial ones, as Musk would have it.

Until then, he’s working to make life on earth ever more convenient and safer for its human denizens. PayPal protects your online financial transactions with more retailers than even PayPal can compile into a single directory. Tesla currently manufactures luxury electric vehicles, but promises to offer a sub-compact retailing at no more than $30,000 within the next year.

All of these ventures have (rightfully) made Elon Musk a very rich man. With a net worth of almost 13 billion, he’s LA’s wealthiest resident. Even so, he takes an annual salary of $1 as the CEOof Tesla, the rest made up by stock options.

Born to a South African father and Canadian mother, Musk was educated at Queens University (Ontario) but graduated from UPenn with dual bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Economics. He dropped out of Stanford’s PhD program in Physics two days after matriculating, preferring to follow his entrepreneurial leanings. Today Musk has American citizenship and 5 sons (1 deceased). His other venture capital projects include renewable energy (SolarCity), high-speed transportation (Hyperloop), and artificial intelligence (OpenAI).

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