Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

 This 363 pages long biography    by Ashlee Vance  describes the life and vision of 44 year old   Elon Musk who has  achieved remarkable success in the fields of  electric cars , space exploration and solar energy.I must confess that I had not heard   about Elon Musk till I read  this book . I had also not heard about SpaceX , Tesla or even  the  SolarCity .But this book is worth  reading  and  very inspiring .
                         Elon Musk was born on June 28,1971 to Maye Musk and Errol Musk in South Africa. He had a troubled childhood and was subjected to  emotional abuse by his father and physical abuse by his classmates.  In June   1988, when he was 17 years old , Elon  left for  Montreal in Canada , where he did odd jobs like wood cutting and cleaning the boilers. After spending two years at Queen university, Musk   transferred to the  University of Pennsylvania on a scholarship.
                                    In 1995, Elon and his brother  Kimbal  went to Silicon Valley where  they  formed their first startup, Global Link Information  Network , that was eventually named Zip2. It created a searchable directory of businesses and was tied  into maps so as to tell their location. In early 1996 , the venture capital firm Mohr Davidow Ventures decided to invest 3 million dollars  into Zip2(Zip here to Zip there).  In February 1999,Zip2 was sold to Compaq and Elon became a multi millionaire at the age of twenty seven .And in March 1999 , Elon incorporated a finance start-up called Musk was replaced as CEO of by Thiel , who rebranded as PayPal.Elon Musk got more money out of his stake in PayPal.
              In  June  2002,  Musk set up  Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) near Los Angeles.  SpaceX engineers  worked  more than one hundred hours per week to make the actual rocket. On March    24,2006 , the Falcon 1 stood on its square launchpad and ignited. But it ended up falling directly down onto the launch site.
             After three abortive launches , the fourth launch for SpaceX took place on September 28,2008.The Falcon 1 reached orbit , making it first privately built  machine to accomplish  such a feat.The launch was successful. There are only a handful of countries on earth   that have done this. People inside NASA had backed SpaceX to become supplier for the ISS(International Space Station).The company received 1.6  billion dollars as payment for twelve flights to the space station. Space X   sends rocket up about once a month, carrying satellites for companies and nations and supplies on the International Space station .Its $ 60 million per launch is much less than what Europe and Japan charge. A number of countries pay  to send up their own spy  , communication and weather satellites. Companies then turn to space for  television , Internet , radio , weather, navigation , and imaging services. SpaceX expects to cut its price to at least one-tenth that of its rivals. Space X has been profitable and is estimated to be worth $ 12 billion .Elon Musk wants to lower the cost of launches to the point that it becomes economical  and practical to fly thousands upon thousands  of supply trips  to Mars and start a colony. Creating the technology  needed to establish  life on Mars  is and always has been  the fundamental goal of SpaceX.

                              Musk was married to   Justine  in January , 2000.Through IVF , she gave birth to twin boys in 2004, followed by triplets in 2006.She was a writer of fantasy fiction novels and kept a blog  detailing the couple’s family life. Her blog soon turned into  one of Musk’s  worst nightmares.He  worked seven days a week and quite often split his time between  Los Angeles and san Francisco. Musk filed for a divorce in June ,2008 , and it came through.
                         Another groundbreaking project of Musk is related to Tesla electric car.  Nikola Tesla   had built an electric motor about a century earlier. Musk invested 6.5 million dollars in Tesla (founded by   Eberhard and Tarpenning)He became the largest shareholder of Tesla and the Chairman of the company. By the middle of 2007,Tesla had produced the fastest , most beautiful electric car  the world would have ever seen .  The Model S , Tesla  got the highest car rating in history (99 out of 100) from Consumer Reports.The car  price  starts around $ 109000.”Mass market electric cars have been my goal from the beginning  of Tesla. ” Musk wrote in an email to the customers. Tesla intends  to build a global charging network that would let Model S  owners making  long drives pull off  the highway  and recharge very quickly. The electric car  design eliminates  needs of oil and transmission  fluid changes  required in a traditional vehicle. Tesla’s focus has now been on bringing the ModelX to market and to sell 100.000 cars per year.
              Elon  also  invested  in an alternative energy project known as SolarCity.  By the end of 2015 ,SolarCity expects to have installed 2 gigawatts’ worth of solar panels , producing  2.8 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, making them one of the largest suppliers of electricity in the United States.
       Hyperloop project   would be solar-powered and aims at linking  cities less than a thousand miles apart. Musk also has plans  to build a space-based Internet  in which satellites will be close enough  to the planet  to beam down  bandwidth at high speeds.
 He’s willing to suffer some personal cost, and I think that makes his odds actually pretty good.
                             Musk’s ultimate goal  remains turning humans into an inter-planetary species.” Eventually , you’d need to heat Mars up  if you want it  to be an earthlike  planet, and I don’t have a plan for that.” Musk’s unmatched ability to raise funds   has enabled him to create thousands of white- and blue- collar clean-tech jobs.
 Vance describes Musk as an ambitious, passionate and even obsessive. In his pursuit of his vision , he has often put at stake his health and personal relationships .But there is no doubt that his vision  is bound to change the world and his dedication  to his vision is  unparalleled. His motto has always been do or die but never give up.
                   I recommend you to read this very informative and inspiring biography.