Elon Musk is born in Pretoria, the eldest child of South African engineer Errol and Maye, nee Haldeman, a Canadian fashion model. He spends part of his childhood in the suburb of Waterkloof and graduates from Pretoria Boys High School.
He reads for many hours a day during childhood and enjoys comic books and J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing. He discusses science and computers with his brother Kimbal, and sister, Tosca, and debates computers with his father, who divorces from his mother. Instead of hiring domestic help, the children do chores, unlike many other wealthy South African families at the time.
I guess I was a bit of an autocratic father – do this, do that…I was a single parent, and they simply had to help out.
He develops the ambition to migrate to the U.S. during childhood, to escape a South African society that he views as oppressive under apartheid.
Musk founds X.com as an internet financial services company. He is company chair while Bill Harris, the former CEO of tax and accounting software creator Intuit.com, is president and CEO. Investment banker John Story also joins the company.
The site goes online in December 1999, and a marketing campaign offering $20 to new customers and $10 for new referrals attracts 100,000 customers in its first two months of operation.
PayPal is formed after online point-of-sale payments company X.com buys payments company Confinity. X.com stops its internet banking operations, and a Confinity system that focuses on payments transactions on personal digital assistants becomes the email-based PayPal system. The joint company is renamed PayPal and Elon Musk is its biggest shareholder.
German automaker Daimler buys a 9% stake in Tesla Motors for $50 million. The company’s post-money valuation is now $550 million. Daimler also expands its partnership with the company to put electric batteries into Mercedes-Benz vehicles. In a press release, Daimler says:
Tesla is the only production automaker selling a highway capable electric vehicle in North America and Europe.
In an interview with the WSJ, Musk makes the case for an affordable electric car, the likelihood of his company SpaceX sending a man to Mars, and why he isn’t exactly like Iron Man’s Tony Stark.
I’ll put a man on Mars in 10 years
Musk announces that he and Riley are splitting after just over one year of marriage. Riley moved out of their Bel Air home six months ago. Musk:
We took some time apart for several months to see if absence makes the heart grow fonder, and unfortunately it did not, I still love her, but I’m not in love with her. And I can’t really give her what she wants.
Musk takes to twitter to denounce the NYT review as fake:
Musk notes in a later tweet that logging is not turned on for normal customers, only for journalists.
John Broder responds to Musk’s accusation:
My account was not a fake. It happened just the way I described it.
Border also notes that Elon Musk called him before the article went up on the Web, to offer sympathy and regrets about the outcome of his test drive. He said that the East Coast charging stations should be 140 miles apart, not 200 miles, to take into account the traffic and temperature extremes in this part of the country. He also offered Broder a second chance at a test drive in a few months, after additional Supercharger stations come online.
Musk talks about coming along at the right time to start his business ventures:
Yeah, I feel like I’m here at the right time. If not for the Internet, where it’s possible to start with no capital and end up with a valuable company, it would have taken me a long time to build up these other businesses. It’s important to remember that being a good global citizen and a good businessman are not mutually exclusive.
Calacanis talks about the lessons he learned from Musk and Cuban:
Scott Pelley profiles Musk on 60 Minutes:
If something’s important enough, you should try it even if the probable outcome is failure
Webcomic The Oatmeal asks Musk to donate $8 million to open a museum dedicated to Nikola Tesla, the ‘mustache-donning, lightning-conjuring, electrical wonder-Jesus’ inventor. Creator Matt Inman has previously crowdfunded $1.37 million, enough to save the Tesla Science Center at Wardencliffe, but says this is insufficient to open an actual museum at the site, where Tesla’s laboratory is located among asbestos-laden buildings that need to be refurbished, restored or demolishe:
It’s been a year since we officially closed on Wardenclyffe, and after getting countless estimates from site planners, architects, and museum curators from all around the world, we determined that $8M is the bare minimum to build, staff, and maintain a Nikola Tesla Museum. While we’d be grateful for any amount, any less than $8M would pretty much leave us in the same boat we’re in now.
He posts an open letter to Musk from William Terbo, the last surviving Tesla family member who met Nikola before his 1943 death, and says that while Tesla’s name is open-source and Musk is not profiting from its use, but that the Tesla legacy needs help to survive:
This is not a demand or an accusation or a plea. It’s a polite request from a humongous fan … Help us build a Goddamn Tesla Museum.
At SpaceX headquarters, Musk unveils Dragon V2, a cone-shaped reusable capsule designed to carry cargo and up to seven astronauts at a time to and from the International Space Station. The first manned test flight for Dragon V2 is expected before the end of 2016. According to a SpaceX, Dragon V2 will touch down on land with the accuracy of a helicopter.
At the annual Tesla general shareholders meeting Musk announces that he plans to stay on as CEO for four or five years, or at least through volume production of Gen 3, the mass market, $35,000-a-year car.
No one is a CEO forever. Eventually they carry you out.
Musk responds to a campaign by webcomic The Oatmeal to donate $8 million to open a Nikola Tesla museum:
I would be happy to help
He eventually donates $1 million and a Supercharger station, allowing Tesla car owners to charge up on the spot.
Musk responds to an ad taken out in the Palo Alto Daily by two Tesla Model S owners who say they are ‘very satisfied’ but suggest some changes to the model such as blind spot monitors, voice activated dialing and a larger touchscreen, as well as minor cosmetic and ergonomic improvements including moving the position of cupholders:
Musk tells the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium that AI is our biggest existential threat:
I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.
Musk releases a video of the landing.
SolarCity incorporates the Tesla battery into its DemandLogic energy storage system to increase the utility cost savings customers can realize from using stored solar electricity. DemandLogic, which is being adopted by several of the largest retail, biotech and Internet companies in the U.S., allows businesses to reduce energy costs by using stored electricity to reduce peak demand, and can also provide backup power during grid outages. DemandLogic’s management software automates the discharge of stored energy to optimize savings on utility demand charges for customers.
in an earnings call Musk reveals a tentative schedule for the Model 3, which is expected to cost $35,000 before government subsidies, saying the company plans to unveil the model in March 2016, and a sale date of mid 2017, but probably later.
I mean, we are hoping to show off the Model 3 in approximately March of next year. Again, like, don’t hold me to that month, but that’s, like — that’s our aspiration.
A SpaceX rocket on a mission to resupply the International Space Station explodes two minutes and thirty seconds into its flight from Cape Canaveral Florida. The Falcon 9 is carrying about 5,000 pounds of cargo for the space station’s astronauts, including a docking port that would allow future crew missions to dock with the station more easily. The launch was planned to be been the third attempt to land the first-stage booster safely on a barge in the Atlantic ocean. Initial reports said the vehicle had an “anomaly on ascent”, with Musk reporting that the craft experienced a problem shortly before first-stage shutdown related to an “over-pressure event in the upper-stage liquid oxygen tank”. NASA:
SpaceX has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first six cargo resupply missions to the station, and we know they can replicate that success. We will work with and support SpaceX to assess what happened, understand the specifics of the failure and correct it to move forward. This is a reminder that spaceflight is an incredible challenge, but we learn from each success and each setback.
Musk announces “Ludicrous Speed,” a $10,000 upgrade for the P85D Model S. The upgrade improves 0-60 time by 10 percent, to 2.8 seconds, with a quarter-mile sprint dropping to 10.9 seconds. The top speed increases to 155 miles per hour, 20 percent faster than on a standard P85D. The Model X will also have Ludicrous Speed as an option, but because that vehicle is 10 percent heavier than the S it will be slower.
Musk says a support strut holding one of the helium tanks likely fractured near a bolt attach point, and wanted to move to the top of the Falcon 9’s second stage. Several helium tanks, each pressurized to about 5,500 pounds per square inch, are mounted inside the rocket’s second stage liquid oxygen tank. The helium is routed through the second stage’s Merlin engine, where the helium warms up and injected into the rocket’s propellant tanks to pressurize the stage as the launcher burns fuel, keeping the tanks structurally sound. Musk:
It may seem sort of counterintuitive that, as the rocket’s accelerating, that something immersed in the tank would actually want to go up more, but that’s basically what happened. The buoyancy increases proportionate to the G-loading. At approximately 3.2 Gs, this strut holding down one of the helium bottles appears to have snapped, and as a result, releasing a lot of helium into the upper stage oxygen tank and causing an over-pressure event quite quickly…Within the course of a second, this caused enough helium to be released, we believe, to over-pressurize the liquid oxygen tank in the upper stage. You don’t really need to release a lot of helium because there’s only about 2 percent gaseous volume in the stage because the upper stage propellant is not being consumed.
Musk launches the Model X SUV. The car can seat seven, has rear upward-opening “falcon” doors, and with the “ludicrous” option can reach 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds. The car also has a “bioweapon defense mode,” an advanced HEPA air filter that will clean any viruses out of the air. The car also has the best safety ratings of any SUV, a result of its low center of gravity and lack of a traditional engine. The Model X 90D costs $132,000, with a range of 257 miles and 0-60 of about 3.7 seconds; the P90D runs $142,000, 250 miles and 3.2-second acceleration.
If there’s ever a bioweapon attack, the safest place is your car. There’s actually a ‘bioweapon defense mode’ right there in the HVAC. We figure you shouldn’t have to think if you’re in an emergency.
In New York City’s Times Square, Musk and Solar City introduce what they claim is the world’s most efficient rooftop solar panel, achieving a peak efficiency of 22.04%, 30-40% more power than current panels. The rating is verified by the Renewable Energy Test Center. The panels are cheap enough that the company can make money off of them even if government tax break policies expire. CTO Rive:
That’s been the singular focus of the company… to continue to get the costs down. I’m really excited about this… it’s the best solar panel on the planet and it empowers us from 2017 and beyond to control our own destiny.
Musk says that third-party panel manufacturers were happy to make a standard efficiency 15% panel year-over-year.
So we thought we had to make our own panels. I like counter-intuitive moves. I thought people would think, at the time, ‘Wow, that’s stupid,’ [which made me think], ‘That’s probably a good idea.’
Tesla launches a beta version of Autopilot, which will be available on Thursday. All vehicles from September 2014 will be given the feature. Vehicles will rely on four major sensor systems. Ultrasonic sensors that tell the computer what’s around a 16-ft perimeter of the car; a forward-facing camera that helps determine where the lanes are and what cars are ahead of it, and which can also read speed signs; forward radar that’s used to detect fast-moving objects and which can see through rain, fog, and dust, as well as pulling from GPS and high-precision digital maps. Musk says it’s very important that people “exercise caution” and that they keep their hands on the wheel.
I don’t think that we have anything to worry about with cars driving themselves. They’re not going to take over the world…Each driver is a trainer in how the autopilot should work.
In an interview with GQ, Musk says a Mars mission is important to help ensure the long term survival of mankind. He says he will announce detailed plans of the Mars Colonisation Transport programme in 2016.
You back up your hard drive…. Maybe we should back up life, too? I think we need to acknowledge that there’s certainly a possibility of a third World War, and if that does occur it could be far worse than anything that’s happened before. Let’s say nuclear weapons are used. I mean, there could be a very powerful social movement that’s anti-technology. There’s also growth in religious extremism. Like, I mean, does ISIS grow…?
SpaceX lands the first stage of its Falcon 9 booster on a pad at Cape Canaveral, eleven minutes after the rocket launched. The control room fills with cheers and chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A”. The space-bound section of the rocket successfully delivers 11 satellites. CEO Musk says he is optimistic that Falcon re-flights will become “pretty straightforward,” and will make sense because of the roughly $60 million cost to build a Falcon 9, only about $200,000 is propellant that can’t be recovered. The bulk of the cost is embedded in the first stage and its nine Merlin engines.
I imagine that we’re going to have a whole fleet of booster rockets accumulating quite rapidly. Then we’ll figure out how to make the reuse as easy as possible, so that really no work is required between reuses, apart from refilling the propellant tanks.
Trump and Pence meet with tech industry leaders at Trump Tower. Trump:
This is a truly amazing group of people. I won’t tell you the hundreds of calls we’ve had asking to come to this meeting. I’m here to help you folks do well. And you’re doing well right now and I’m very honored by the bounce. They’re all talking about the bounce. So right now everybody in this room has to like me — at least a little bit — but we’re going to try and have that bounce continue.
Musk says ‘at least 50%’ of his tweets are made on the toilet