In expanding his sustainable energy vision, Musk is the largest shareholder and chairman of the board of directors of Solar City, which designs and installs solar power systems. He told Inc.'s Max Chafkin in September 2008 that Solar City could turn out to be his most profitable venture. It already is the largest provider of solar energy in California and is poised to expand across the United States.
More than a decade ago, Musk envisioned the Mars Oasis: landing a greenhouse on Mars and growing food plants. But he realized the project was impeded by the lack of rocket development. That realization became the seed from which SpaceX grew.
He has called this his passion: space exploration with an eye toward economical space travel and, ultimately, the colonization of Mars. He has invested $100 million of his personal wealth in the venture.
This, from a man who was born in 1971 and has no memory of 1969 and the first moon landing.
SpaceX in 2008 was awarded a $1.6 billion NASA contract to service the International Space Station after the last space shuttle was taken out of service, leaving NASA with no way to supply the orbiting laboratory. SpaceX is now a contender for a government contract for manned space flight.
Its manufacturing headquarters is in Hawthorne, Calif., in a large building where Boeing once built commercial jet fuselages. SpaceX has 1,400 workers there.
Musk took CBS News' "60 Minutes" reporter Scott Pelley on a tour of the site, where Pelley observed that metal goes in one end and a rocket emerges from the other, a process Musk called more economical and efficient than multiple manufacturers at several locations building components to be assembled at yet another site.
MUSK AND McGREGOR:
SpaceX has another installation, its rocket test site, in the small Central Texas city of McGregor, about 18 miles southwest of Waco.
Officials there who have come to deal with SpaceX gush about the company as a "corporate citizen" of their city and school district.
McGregor schools Superintendent Kevin Houchin easily can list examples of SpaceX's largesse: All students from kindergarten to eighth grade are given backpacks, and the 20 science club students who participate in science fairs and competitions are given T-shirts, courtesy of SpaceX.
The company sponsors the high school rocketry program, which was started four years ago. It has built a team from a cross section of students: boys and girls, some of whom Houchin fondly described as the "nerds" and "geeks" who write the code, working with teammates who are the mechanics who translate the code into actual rockets.
"SpaceX has gotten our kids excited about science," Houchin said. "We have a kid right now at (the University of Texas) in the aeronautical engineering program with the sole purpose of coming back to McGregor and work at SpaceX."
He cites another example of SpaceX's place in the community. When the high school held an enchilada dinner to raise money for the annual drug-free graduation party, SpaceX bought 200 dinners that were delivered to the company's workers.
Houchin called the company "our biggest and most important partner," and said the corporate generosity is not limited to McGregor ISD, but extends to
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