Now the richest man on earth, Elon Musk is an out of the curve serial entrepreneur. His pursuit and desire for knowledge and technology have him involved in the frontline of a series of technological advancements that are determining the fate of humanity. In a mere coincidence, the director of Marvel’s Iron Man; Jon Favreau, rented out a complex in Los Angeles owned by Hughes Aircraft which was situated close to Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Musk’s characteristic ambition and desire caught the attention of the actor Robert Downey Jr.who was cast as the play the protagonist; Tony Stark. He searched for inspiration to play the role of the billionaire. In a discussion with the director Jon Favreau, he commented “When I was trying to bring the character of billionaire genius Tony Stark to the big screen in ‘Iron Man,’ I had no idea how to make him feel real. Robert Downey Jr. said, “We need to sit down with Elon Musk. He was right,” recalls Jon Favreau, director of two of the three films that make up the franchise. Both of them knew that if there would be one man that could show Robert Downey Jr. through the life of an eventful billionaire, that would surely have to be Elon. It’s no wonder that Elon Musk is seen as an imponent figure, even back in 2008 when this interaction between them occurred. Elon Musk has brought to society a viable option for an electric car, taken astronauts to the international space station through a private rocket, begun the research of a revolutionary nerve gear, and who knows what else. Elon Musk displays behaviour commonly found in revolutionary innovators and entrepreneurs; perseverance and unmatched dedication and focus to every occupation. I will discuss a few of his main accomplishments more in depth to show just how much of an influence Elon is responsible for in a range of different areas and how this makes him, the real-life Tony Stark.
Starting from a young age Musk already showed a few signs that he wouldn’t fall into ordinary life. He attended Stanford University for a bachelor’s in physics for only 2 days until he settled that the internet had a greater potential to change society than physics. He then began his entrepreneurial career by founding a series of companies online offering different sets of services. He eventually founded X.com which came to be Paypal we know today. With this series of online services companies, he was able to gather capital that would later be used to invest in other matters which he saw as promising. Musk had been for an extensive time interested in the possibility of a fully electric car. In 2004 he became one of the major funders of Tesla Motors. The entrepreneurs Eberhard and Marc Tarpeninning founded the company, in 2006 they were able to release their first car that was able to travel 394km with a single charge, and accelerate from 0-100km/h in less than 4 seconds. Even though this car can be seen as a clear breakthrough compared to the competition at the time; they had to commercialise these cars to make their business sustainable and enable the development of the technology. To do so the company decided to progressively go for more affordable designs from The Model S to the Luxury Model X, luxury SUV, and finally to the more affordable and most sold electric car ever, the Model 3. With this business strategy, Musk was able to effectively develop the technology so that they could commercialise at a large scale, whilst also being able to keep up with the infrastructure as with the charging stations spread across the United States.
With his studies in physics and astronomy, Musk was convinced that for humanity to prevail and endure, we would have to become a multi-planetary species. Analysing the current state of space travel, he identified humanities’ main enemy as the great expense of rocket launchers that were simply disposed of after every test. In 2002 he founded the company; Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), taking his approach to tackle the issue. In the coming years, there were two rockets produced with a common goal; the Falcon and the Dragon spacecraft, both intended to be sustainable and ultimately, commercial. The Falcon was intended to carry cargo through the atmosphere to other places on planet earth itself, being able to program an exact landing point and enabling it to be reused. The Falcon Heavy, for instance, could carry around 53,000 kg to orbit, which is twice as much as its closest competitor Boeing’s Delta IV Heavy, and still one-third of the cost. This payload rocket would be considered a starship, a spacecraft that will be specifically intended for the transportation of cargo between different locations on earth and in the future even to the moon and mars. The other program had a goal to make SpaceX the first private space company to send a human spaceflight to the ISS(International Space Station). To do so they had to go through numerous tests and safety trials to make their risks minimal. This operation almost drained Musk’s entire finances as they went through failure over failure, but the promise for success kept him going as he understood that this would be the only way to gain respect from NASA so that they could finally be working cooperatively. In 2020 they were finally ready and were able to successfully send the astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken to the ISS 2020. They finally managed an amazing feat that would be the jump of confidence and prestige that the company so desperately needed to continue with its efforts. NASA is now working closely with SpaceX and has offered a series of contracts regarding spaceflight.
In synthesis, we can certainly say that Elon Musk abides by his reputation and status of being the richest man on earth currently. It is clear that his passion for his work and an unrelenting determination for success, are what compose his character. Robert Downey Jr. certainly had seen this flaming will and desire for greatness in Musk and saw no better motivation and reference than him to understand the character he was about to play. It’s quite a peculiar way these two figures have crossed paths; it's almost as if fate was foreshadowing the rise of Elon Musk as being the real-life Iron Man.