While sitting in awe of Tony Stark’s wit, genius and jaw-dropping lifestyle as portrayed in Avengers or any of the Iron Man movies, you cannot help but wonder if such super smart, super rich, super achieving, non-nerd playboys exist in real life. Can there be anyone even remotely resembling Iron Man’s alter ego before he invented the iron suit?
Hell there must be someone who is an inspiration for the character! Well thanks to Google, it takes us two seconds to know that there is. Mr. Awesome is legally known as Elon Musk. And what does he do for a living? When he is not busy running billion dollar internet companies (see PayPal), he runs companies that make environment friendly electric cars (see Tesla motors). And in his free time he launches rockets into space (see SpaceX). But this article is not about him, it’s about his dragon (no pun intended).
Of Dragons docking in space stations
On May 25th 2012 Mr. Musk and his company SpaceX created history by being the first private company to successfully launch and dock a vehicle, Falcon 9 “Dragon”, on the International Space Station (ISS). While this mission did not involve launching Astronauts into space, what it has done is give NASA the confidence that in the future, SpaceX can send Astronauts to ISS. This comes as a relief to NASA, and America, as it had decommissioned its space shuttle program last year. Since then it had to depend on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for launching and landing its astronauts. Other than SpaceX, there are about half a dozen companies who have developed or are developing capabilities to deliver payloads into the orbit. America is introducing private companies into the long defunct Space Race.
Elon Musk is not the only internet tycoon with orbital ambitions. Jeff Bezos’s (head of Amazon) other company Blue Origin, is developing a vertical landing and takeoff spacecraft. And while India tries to develop a more accurate guidance system for its Agni 5 missile, a company called Planetary Resources is planning to mine metals from asteroids and bring them back to Earth (WHAAAAAAT!!!). Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, respectively the chief executive and the chairman of Google, as well as film maker James Cameron, are some of the backers of the firm.
While UPA sleeps
America is sending a strong message to India and to the rest of the world by opening up one of the most sensitive areas in terms of security to private investments. It is putting faith in its people to deliver where NASA has failed, make space exploration profitable. NASA was more about national pride where profit was not an issue. As soon as people’s attention shifted from space to more immediate problems, NASA lost its funding. It was a model doomed to fail. This will not be the case with SpaceX and others of their ilk. To operate and to improve they will have to earn profits, they will have to innovate. And the people who are entering the field now are some of the best innovators of our times. Other the earn profits, they will speed up colonization of the Moon and other heavenly bodies, and hasten the coming of the Space Age.
The lesson for India is this: private investments are good. They bring in professional managers, lessen corruption, reduce costs and speed up growth. India cannot progress without entrepreneurs challenging our way of thinking and changing how we lead our lives. You can even argue that the little development we have seen in the country over the past two decades is because of private companies and entrepreneurs innovating and generating jobs with little help from the government. The government must let in private investors; they can start with education and energy, and eventually move on to weapons and space.
Elon Musk also finds time to combat global warming and come up with awesome names for his companies. He has co-founded SolarCity, the largest provider of solar energy in the United States. Who says you need an iron suit to save the world?
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Category: The Lighter Side