How Elon Musk Developed A Childhood Crush On Space
Even billionaires cry sometimes
What makes Elon Musk tick? There’s a lot going on in that head, some of which us mortals may never be able to decipher. But that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate about his thoughts, his feelings, his tears.
In a 60 Minute segment, host Scott Pelley brought Elon Musk to the verge of tears when he mentioned Musk’s hero Neil Armstrong’s thoughts on SpaceX. “There are American heroes who don’t like this idea. Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan have both testified against commercial spaceflight and the way that you’re developing it, and I wonder what you think of that?” said Pelley. Pelley later clarified that Armstrong encouraged exploration, he just didn’t feel confidant it could be pulled off.
But the question still stung. "I was very sad to see that," Musk said, not quite crying on national television. "Those guys are heroes of mine, so it's really tough … I wish they would come and visit … see the hard work that we're doing here and I think that it would change their mind.”
Musk has built companies from scratch, put a Tesla in space, and has even played Wario on Saturday Night Live. So why can the man be so easily reduced to tears at the mention of Armstrong’s disapproval? It’s not because he’s an alien who’s trying to go home like some people think. Musk just loves space. And like all great complexes, it starts with childhood.
From a young age, Musk would daydream about inventions, so much so that his parents thought he was deaf. “He goes into his brain and then you just see he is in another world. He still does that. Now I just leave him be because I know he is designing a new rocket or something,” said mother/model Maye Musk.
Musk was also a big science-fiction fan, and would read for 10 hours a day. He counts The Hitchicker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Isaac Asmimov’s Foundation series as some of his most influential books. Somewhere, LeVar Burton is shedding a tear just knowing there was a kid who read for that long.
Musk built his own rockets long before he had the capital to buy school lunch, not to mention launch SpaceX. “I’m shocked that I have all my fingers,” said Musk, which we’ll have to take his word for. Eventually, Musk studied economics and physics at the University of Pennsylvania – both which come in handy if you start your own rocket company.
Musk’s decision to start SpaceX came from his initial desire to reignite public interest in space in order to give NASA’s budget a boost. Musk planned to put a greenhouse on Mars in an experiment called Mars Oasis, however he found that rockets were too expensive. So he did what any reasonable billionaire/Bond villain would do – he founded his own company to build rockets at a cheaper price. And so, SpaceX was born.
It can’t feel good to hear your idol tell you that your dreams are dumb – in front of congress, no less. If you spent your whole life wanting to become a dancer and Mikhail Baryshnikov told you that your tour jetes leave a lot to be desired, you’d break down on TV, too. Especially if you put on a dance recital just to raise funds for the Moscow Ballet.
Fortunately for Musk, Buzz Aldrin is a fan. The second man on the moon Tweeted his congrats once the billionaire proved Armstrong wrong and put a car into space.