Lauded as the Henry Ford of this generation, Musk is the CEO and chief designer at SpaceX, where he overssees development of rockets and spacecraft for missions to Earth orbit and ultimately to other planets. In 2008, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft won the NASA contract to provide a commercial replacement for the cargo transport function of the Space Shuttle, which retired in 2011. SpaceX has gained worldwide attention for a series of historic milestones. It is the only private company ever to return a spacecraft from low-earth orbit, which it accomplished in December 2010. In 2012, SpaceX became the first commercial company to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station – a feat it did twice in one year. SpaceX is currently modifying its Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts to and from the station as well.
At Tesla, Musk has overseen product development and design from the beginning, including the all electric Tesla Roadster, Model S and Model X. Transitioning to a sustainable energy economy, in which electric vehicles play a pivotal role, has been one of his central interests for almost two decades, stemming from his time as a physics student working on ultracapacitors in Silicon Valley.
Additionally, Musk is the non-executive chairman and principal shareholder of SolarCity, which he helped create. SolarCity is now the leading provider of solar power systems in the United States.
Prior to SpaceX, Musk co-founded PayPal, the world's leading Internet payment system, and served as the company's Chairman and CEO. Before PayPal, he co-founded Zip2, a provider of Internet software to the media industry.
Fans of the movie Iron Man will remember that the Tony Stark character played by Robert Downey Jr is patterned after this dynamic South African entrepreneur.