By Clare Leinweber
If you were following the news recently, you couldn’t escape hearing about Wharton alumnus Elon Musk (W’97/C’97). Musk is a co-founder of SpaceX which successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket on May 22. Three days later, SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon cargo capsule docked at the International Space Station. This marks the first time a privately owned spaceship has reached that destination 240 miles above our planet’s surface. The Dragon returned to Earth on May 31, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. This recent launch marks the third successful flight of the Falcon 9 rocket, firmly positioning SpaceX for ongoing collaboration with NASA and the DoD. Not only is SpaceX making space travel less expensive and more reliable by creating reusable rocket systems—Elon’s end goal is the colonization of Mars.
In a 2009 interview with Knowledge@Wharton, Musk gave his perspective on entrepreneurship:
“…the fundamentals are what we need to improve the cost and reliability. Those are the outcomes you’re seeking, and any innovations are only relevant to the extent that they improve those two variables. I could gloss it up and say this innovation, that innovation — but what matters in the end is that you make [your product] a lot more reliable and you make it cheaper.”
Elon Musk established his credentials as an entrepreneur by co-founding PayPal in 1998, soon after graduating cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a BS in economics from Wharton and a BA in physics from the College. He followed the PayPal success by co-founding two ventures within a year of each other: Space Exploration Technologies (or SpaceX), a space transport company in 2002, and Tesla Motors in 2003, an electric car designer and manufacturing company.
Interview with Elon Musk on the Daily Show (4/10/2012)
Interview with Elon Musk on NPR (5/22/2012)