Elon Musk: PayPal was 'stepping stone' for SpaceX says expert
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The entrepreneur broke more records this month after his car company, Tesla, said it had bought around $1.5billion (£1.1bn) in Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency has since soared in share prices thanks to Mr Musk, remaining about 25 percent higher in value than last week. It comes as the Tesla and SpaceX CEO at the turn of the year became the world’s richest person.
He sped ahead of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in January, amassing a net worth of more than $186bn (£135bn) to Mr Bezos’ $183bn (£133bn).
Many have noted the irony that both Mr Musk and Mr Bezos have enjoyed economic growth as millions around the world lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Musk has come a long way since his first successful business, PayPal, thrust him into the public psyche.
As Jeff Parsons, a technology reporter, told the documentary, ‘Elon Musk: The Real Life Iron Man’, PayPal was about, “how are we going to turn finances into an online transaction? How are we going to make it easy, more efficient?”
This way of looking at the world quickly became a trademark of Mr Musk’s work.
It has translated to his goal of colonising Mars and setting up a human settlement on the Red Planet.
He said this week that he hoped SpaceX would land humans on Mars by 2026.
While the technology to do this has only started to surface in recent years, Mr Musk’s ambition can be traced back decades.
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In the documentary, Julie Anderson, ex-Vice President of public relations at Paypal, revealed how the founder talked of his plans on Mars and space in the company’s fledgling years.
On the topic of PayPal and its momentous breakthrough, she said: “It sounds sort of obvious now but back then people were still afraid to buy books online.
“So, asking them to put all their financial data in one place was not a solid proposition.
“The goal of the company we were building was always trying to do something very positive for humanity.
“And he was thinking about space and solar panels and all of that way back then, so we knew that this was a stepping stone on the way to grander dreams.”
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PayPal soon became the online payment system of choice for millions of users around the world, and has since transformed into a multi-million dollar business – aged 27, Mr Musk sold PayPal to eBay for $1.5billion (£1.1bn), of which he gained $180million (£78m).
While Mr Musk is hopeful that he will send humans to Mars in the next five years, previous schedules and plans have collapsed.
In 2017, the billionaire said his “aspirational” timeline was for SpaceX to send cargo ships to Mars in 2022.
This, he said, would be followed by a crew mission two years later.
It is not an option now, given the coronavirus pandemic and a handful of failed takeoffs of SpaceX spacecraft.
Then, in October 2020, Mr Musk said he had a “fighting chance” of sending an unmanned Starship rocket to Mars in 2024 – two years later than he’d hoped for.
This was thrown into question last week after the Starship SN9 prototype exploded following a failed landing in Texas.
The ship launched successfully but blew up on its final descent in Boca Chica, in a repeat accident that destroyed an SN8 test rocket in December.
Yet, the crash is similar to failures that have hit SpaceX which it has since overcome.
Writing on the company’s website, principal engineer John Insprucker, last week said: “We had, again, another great flight up… we’ve just got to work on that landing a little bit.”
SpaceX has expressed the launch as a “step forward” in the rocket’s development, already progressing with plans for the SN10.
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