SpaceX is the third component of The Future According to Musk.
In a 2007 interview with Inc. magazine, which had named him its entrepreneur of the year, Elon Musk identified three areas that would affect the future of humanity: the Internet, sustainable energy and space exploration.
Musk, the 41-year-old founder, chief executive officer and chief designer at Space Exploration Technologies Corp., is a player in all three. His net worth is estimated at almost $2 billion, but he draws an annual salary of $1. He believes SpaceX will land astronauts on Mars within 10 years, 15 to 20 years at the most.
Now, SpaceX is eyeing the Boca Chica Beach area of Cameron County for the site from which it will launch its rockets over the Gulf of Mexico and into space.
County and Brownsville city officials actively are courting the company, which it sees as the engine that that could drive the region's economic development and put the Rio Grande Valley on the map.
Musk's journey to Mars began when he left his native South Africa in 1988 at age 17 and obtained a Canadian passport based on his mother's Canadian citizenship. He enrolled at Queen's University but transferred two years later to the University of Pennsylvania on a full scholarship. He earned his bachelor's degree in economics from the Wharton School there. A year later, he earned a second bachelor's degree, this one in physics.
Part one of his vision -- the Internet -- came in 1995. He enrolled in Stanford University's graduate program for applied physics but dropped out after two days. With his brother Kimbal, he started Zip2, a company that provided software for online publishing. Four years later, he sold Zip2 to a division of Compaq Computer Corp. for $307 million in cash and $34 million in stock options.
His next online venture, in 1999, was a global online payment system that became known as PayPal. Fueled by the growing e-commerce segment of the economy, PayPal was sold in 2002 to eBay for $1.5 billion in stock.
Musk, with a stake of about 12 percent, was PayPal's largest shareholder.
Moving from the Internet, Musk embarked on the second pillar of his vision: sustainable energy. He launched Tesla Motors, to design, manufacture and market electric cars. The company is named for Serbian-American Nikola Tesla, an inventor, electrical and mechanical engineer, and futurist, who developed the alternating current. Tesla became reclusive and died penniless in 1943, and gained a reputation as "mad scientist."
Tesla Motors already has built more than 1,500 Tesla Roadsters, which Musk described in a December 2011 Wall Street Journal interview as "cool" and "beautiful." The Roadster can travel 250 miles on a single charge and can accelerate faster than any gas-powered car. It sells for $110,000. Musk drives one. Actor George Clooney has one, too.
Forbes magazine estimates the worth of Musk's 32 percent stake in Tesla at about $1 billion.
Musk, in that same WSJ interview, said another Tesla, the Model S full-size sedan, will sell for $50,000 and will be in production this year. It can fully recharge in 45 minutes, and if it is charged by electricity that is generated by a coal-fired plant, it still is better for the environment than if run by fossil fuels, he said.
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