An up-close account of the otherworldly trajectory of tech magnate Elon Musk.
Ars Technica editor Berger opens with a telling scene set in South Texas in late September 2019, when Musk visited a factory building a rocket that one day will be bound for Mars. Sending that ship—and people—to the red planet is of a parcel with Musk’s pioneering work in “remaking the global aerospace industry,” which includes privatizing efforts that had long belonged to government agencies such as NASA—which, though funded to the tune of some $25 billion per year, still “remains several giant leaps away from sending a few astronauts to Mars.” Getting the SpaceX rocket safely to distant Mars “may not work,” Musk confessed before adding, “But it probably will.” By Berger’s swiftly moving account, it will, not just because Musk is an endlessly driven, intensely focused sort who could use a little more fun in life—at one point, Musk ruefully allows that “it wouldn’t have hurt to have just one cocktail on the damn beach” of a distant Pacific atoll used in test flights—but also because Musk is surrounded by brilliant scientists recruited from academia and industry who are thoroughly invested in the project’s success. “They want that golden ticket for the world’s greatest thrill ride,” Berger writes, evoking another obsessed genius, Willie Wonka. Musk now leads not just SpaceX, but also the Tesla electric automobile company as well as a neural technology company and a firm devoted to digging new transportation tunnels below overcrowded cities. Even so, he remains closely attentive to matters that aviation engineers have often overlooked, such as recycling rocket stages: “If an airline discarded a 747 jet after every transcontinental flight,” writes the author, “passengers would have to pay $1 million for a ticket."
Readers interested in business and entrepreneurship, as well as outer space, will find Berger’s book irresistible.