Elon Musk has accomplished more in his 41 years than most do in a lifetime—he cofounded PayPal, he’s the CEO and product Architect of Telsa Motors and the CEO/CTO of SpaceX. Oh, and he oversees the development or rockets and spacecrafts for missions to Mars.
Musk was the first keynote in SXSW’s Interactive panel. He’s got his hands in the energy, transportation and space industries, and has great plans for all three.
On the space front, he’s in Texas for a reason other than SXSW: he’s talking to state lawmakers about making Texas a launch site for his SpaceX rockets.
They didn’t just pick Texas for it’s breakfast tacos (something that no one from outside of the state seems to understand at all.) Musk said they needed to be able to launch eastward and they wanted to be close to the equator: so the range of acceptable areas spans from Virginia to Texas, and the Lone Star State is “arguably the leading candidate,” Musk said.
Some of the stipulations of becoming a launch site would require a change to the Texas Open Beaches Act so that people wouldn’t be on the beach during a launch, but Musk doesn’t seem too concerned about the feasibility of his rocket plans.
“I don’t think it’s a particularly controversial thing, it’s pretty straightforward,” Musk said.
Musk’s serious interest in space started shortly after he finished up cofounding PayPal, when he went to the NASA website.
“I wanted to know when we were going to go to Mars, but I couldn’t find it,” Musk said, and laughs broke out in the packed Austin Convention Center. “I thought maybe it was there, but I couldn’t find it.”
Unsatisfied with NASA’s Mars expedition plans, he decided to look into it himself.
He wasn’t sure if NASA was disinterested in Mars or if it was simply not feasible, but his original intent was to increase NASA’s budget in order to make more expeditions possible.
“I thought maybe there was a question of will,” Musk said. “Is there sufficient will to do this?”
But, as one might imagine, the feasibility of building and launching a rocket and any serious space expedition takes a lot more than will.
“I thought my initial supposition was wrong,” Musk said. “What I thought was that we had lost the will to push the boundary—that was a very foolish error. The U.S. is a nation of explorers.”
Now Musk is looking into a rocket that will detach itself and go into space, and the other half will return back to earth with the “accuracy of a helicopter.” This reusable equipment will help save costs, ultimately making it possible for the future.
Beth Brown, editor-in-chief