Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Category: Engineering
Author: Ashlee Vance
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About This Book

Elon Musk is the most daring entrepreneur of our time There are few industrialists in history who could match Elon Musk's relentless drive and ingenious vision. A modern alloy of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs, Musk is the man behind PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity, each of which has sent shock waves throughout American business and industry.

In the spirit of Steve Jobs and Moneyball, Elon Musk is both an illuminating and authorized look at the extraordinary life of one of Silicon Valley’s most exciting, unpredictable, and ambitious entrepreneurs—a real-life Tony Stark—and a fascinating exploration of the renewal of American invention and its new “makers.”

Elon Musk spotlights the technology and vision of Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, who sold one of his Internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius’s life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Vance uses Musk’s story to explore one of the pressing questions of our age: can the nation of inventors and creators who led the modern world for a century still compete in an age of fierce global competition? He argues that Musk—one of the most unusual and striking figures in American business history—is a contemporary, visionary amalgam of legendary inventors and industrialists including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs. More than any other entrepreneur today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far-reaching as the visionaries of the golden age of science-fiction fantasy.

Thorough and insightful, Elon Musk brings to life a technology industry that is rapidly and dramatically changing by examining the life of one of its most powerful and influential titans.

Are you curious about what books Elon Musk reads? check out our article: Five Science Fiction Books Elon Musk Reads


by spire88   2019-07-21


"This is just from me having read 20% of a biography about him. Note that this was not a biography by him and he originally did not even want to contribute to it. He did end up contributing, but the book is based upon interviews with hundreds of people and the writer makes very clear that it is not 'Musks truth'.

He made his own rockets during his childhood, including rocket fuel.

He coded a lot of stuff, releasing a video game at age 12

The only reason he ever studied anything is because he thought it was advantageous for him. He always visited the least amount of classes necessary, and only got good grades when he needed to. At first, he sucked at school. Then someone told him you need certain grades to advance. Next time he got the best grades possible. Other examples of this is him inquiring about the highest paying job possible and ending up shoveling out boilers in a hazmat suit for 18 dollars/hour. He was one of 3/18 to keep doing it after a week.

If he has a goal, he works until he reaches it, no matter what anyone tells him. There are plenty of examples were engineers told him something is impossible, and he then went ahead and fixed the code behind their backs. With his first startup he worked 16, 18 hours a day, sleeping in front of the computer, instructing employees to kick him awake when they arrived at the office.

He apparently takes active part in the design of SpaceX and Tesla components. As in, he actually stays up to date on everything and gives his input. He is definitely not just a CEO doing buisiness stuff in the background. Read his twitter and it will be apparent that he takes active part in the engineering side of things.

In fact, he can be considered a pretty bad manager. If someone is wrong about something, using wrong equations or whatever, he is very brusque about correcting them. He expects everyone else to work as hard as he does, and is not really a charming, social, outgoing guy. It seems like the only reason people work for him is that they share his vision (to colonize mars)."



"What's an engineer?

I've worked with a lot of engineers without PE's, and formal engineering curricula vary wildly. The term has a bit of slosh.

If he has functioned in an engineering capacity and has the conceptual tools to participate, I think he qualifies. Is he as good as an engineering school grad? Who knows. One of the worst ones I ever worked with was an Georgia Tech EE, and he was lousy. Nice guy. Shit engineer. Another one at TI... not a clue.

At the same time, another ME I worked with was self-taught. Lots and lots and lots of patents and thousands of solved problems (back before widespread computers).

I wish we had a better word for folks who do some of the subspecialties.

For me, folks with PE's are serious and unambiguous. A huge pile of the rest are highly competent. A tiny slice are adopting a term that really trivializes it ( 'sanitation engineer' for garbage collector, 'cullinary engineer' for cook, etc.)

Musk has physics in his pocket, at least. That's a helluva tool and a good basis for further self-training. He's obviously competent. He's also apparently one hell of an innovator and leader, in a technical area full of super competent techies. Meets my fuzzy criteria, for what it's worth."

by Horcruxno11   2019-07-21

I don't know man, one incident said in a moment of anger should not determine who he is. His cult of followers is very weird though. That doesn't change his company's accomplishments, which are quite monumental.

I read his biography, which was a really good book and gave a good insight about him and I liked what I read. Otherwise I wouldn't be defending him.

by drusepth   2019-07-12
He's talked rocket design specifics on many occasions and "built his own rocket" according to Vector Launch CEO Jim Cantrell [1]:

>He borrowed all of my college texts on rocket propulsion when we first started working together in 2001. We also hired as many of my colleagues in the rocket and spacecraft business that were willing to consult with him. ... I found out later that he was talking to a bunch of other people about rocket designs and collaborating on some spreadsheet level systems designs for launchers. Once our dealings with the Russians fell apart, he decided to build his own rocket and this was the genesis of SpaceX.

Additional info from Jim from a follow-up interview[2]:

>Cantrell ... loaned him some textbooks to study. The books were "Rocket Propulsion Elements," "Aerothermodynamics of Gas Turbine and Rocket Propulsion," "Fundamentals of Astrodynamics," and the "International Reference Guide to Space Launch Systems." He would quote passages verbatim from these books. He became very conversant in the material. ... Musk would absorb this information and then hold his own in conversations — and he didn't hold back.

Additionally, Ashlee Vance's biography [3] describes his day-to-day as "quite involved with rocket design" at SpaceX and goes into a lot of detail about spending time on the floor assisting SpaceX scientists with their designs.

Obviously any single person at a company the size of SpaceX doesn't individually design and build a rocket by themselves, but it's generally agreed upon that Elon is knowledgeable in rocket science and contributes many ideas to the designs.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Elon-Musk-SpaceX-Fantastic-Future/dp/...

by gsmethells   2017-08-19
I'm reading his autobiography right now. Fascinating life of both the man and his companies if you are interested: https://www.amazon.com/Elon-Musk-SpaceX-Fantastic-Future/dp/...
by BeardedGirl   2017-08-19

This one right?

by RaitoBezarius   2017-08-19

Elon Musk's biography, https://toptalkedbooks.com/amzn/0062301233