Elon Musk

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As co-founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX, Elon Musk is one of very few possible answers to the question, "What do online payment methods, electric cars, and spaceships have in common?" Born in South Africa, Musk apparently always intended to work in these eclectic fields. A quote from the book Rocketeers by Michael Belfiore available on Wikipedia describes his career plans as a young man: "One was the Internet, one was clean energy, and one was space." It looks like those plans are working out remarkably well; on the clean-energy front, Musk is also the Chairman of SolarCity, which bills itself as "the nation's leading full-service solar provider for homeowners, businesses and government organizations." Whether it will also get into the business of solar panels for spacecraft remains to be seen.

Why space? In an interview for Discover magazine, Musk offers this computer-related metaphor to describe his motivation: "Establishing a self-sustaining second human civilization on Mars . . . [is] the most important goal. If you need to back up your data, then backing up the biosphere is important too." An incredibly ambitious goal for a company that is still working toward building a resupply operation for the International Space Station. But if Musk's past record of turning hyper-ambitious plans into reality is any indication, SpaceX may well make it to Mars.

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