Nine years ago, SpaceX almost went bankrupt.
Billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk recalled the event as he unveiled his updated Mars-voyage plan at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) conference in Adelaide, Australia, on Thursday. He opened up about when and how his now adored and very valuable (it was recently valued at around $21 billion) company SpaceX nearly failed itself out of existence.
"A lot of people really only heard of SpaceX relatively recently, they may think Falcon 9 and Dragon just instantly appeared and that's how it always was. But it wasn't," says Musk, referring to the current SpaceX rockets.
"We started off with just a few people who really didn't know how to make rockets," the CEO of SpaceX says. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based aeronautics company was founded in 2002 to "revolutionize space technology" and enable multiplanitary human existance.
"And the reason I ended up being the chief engineer or chief designer was not because I wanted to, it was because I couldn't hire anyone. Nobody good would join. So I ended up being that by default."
SpaceX very nearly ran out of money, recalls Musk.
"I messed up the first three launches. The first three launches failed. And fortunately the fourth launch, which was, that was the last money that we had for Falcon 1. That fourth launch worked. Or it would have been — that would have been it for SpaceX. But fate liked us that day. So, the fourth launch worked," says Musk.
"And it is interesting. Today is the ninth anniversary of that launch, so. I didn't realize that until I was told that earlier today. But, it is a pretty emotional day, actually," says Musk, speaking on Friday, Sept. 29th in Adelaide.
Musk revealed his plans for getting cargo rockets to Mars by 2022 and crew to Mars by 2024. And, in time, Musk wants to build a city on the Red Planet, "making it a really nice place to be," he says.
Musk's vision for an interplanetary existence is both built on a sort of apocalyptic fear — he says that he expects an extinction event on Earth to make living on impossible — and an almost precious optimism for the future.
"Fundamentally, the future is vastly more exciting and interesting if we are a space faring civilization and multi planetary species than if we are not. You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great and that is what being a space faring civilization is all about," says Musk, presenting in Australia.
"It's about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars. That's why."
You can watch his full speech here: