Elon Musk "Mars Pioneer Award" Acceptance Speech – 15th Annual International Mars Society Convention

so now come to the main event as it were this is an award this is the very first Mars Pioneer Award that the society is given and it's it's – an extremely unique talent the and it's going of course to go for Elon Musk now I want to say you know everybody has read in the news the various accomplishments of the SpaceX one thing after another Falcon one Falcon nine dragon so forth and of course they just won a major contract for NASA four hundred and forty million dollars which will I think is a reward for work well done congratulations for that but I want to make some personal observations about Elon Musk okay by the way strike McNamara here Frank McNamara does anybody know where Frank McNair is does anyone know who Frank America okay forget it but all right I first met Elon Musk at am our society fundraiser that was held in the Bay Area in 2001 and it may seem strange to you but in fact prior to that event that I had not heard of the Elon Musk despite the fact that he was already at that time a very significant figure in Silicon Valley in that world but I didn't live in that world and I didn't know about it but you know he came there and he made a significant donation and and then we talked and he came over to my place and we talked a lot more and he made a much larger donation to the bar society and I must say one that allowed us to launch the Mars desert Research Station which since that time there has been over 700 people have been able to participate as crew members in that station and which is now self-funding but then he went off to you know do his thing and when I first heard that what he was going to try to do was build a rocket company and accomplish you know cheap access to orbit on you know his own money I and a number of us who've been around the block on this thing were frankly dismayed because we had heard the story before there had been a succession of wealthy individuals who had made similar declarations and launched companies through the most recent examples was the Beale company that was a walk Anderson in the rotary rocket company before them that kind of spoke to people Kessler and every single one of them had failed in fact none of them ever cleared the tower and you know this seemed to be another one of those things and but then I a few years went by and I had a chance to go on and visit Iran in his initial factory out in the LA area area not the same one he has now this was considerably smaller but he had gotten started and there was a parent there's some things going on here that were very different from Walt E Anderson or or Beale in the first place by 2005 or so much whenever this visit occurred Elon knew a lot about rocketry okay in fact they knew everything about rocketry in 2001 you know nothing about rock the big defeat and by the way and this really matters because these what these other fellows had done if thrown a chunk of their discretion II change at this and said let's see something happens nothing happened I guess I'll give up he didn't just throw his money into it he threw himself into it okay he he learned the trade he put his mind into it he put his talented to it he put his heart and soul into it and he was working on and it was at that point that you know it became clear to me that this could go in in a significantly different way than the previous story and and then of course he actually started succeeding well first with launches that didn't succeed but at least they were launches and then with launches that did succeed and and I must say also the fact that he persisted after several failures several obviously very expensive and daunting fish and by the way I gotta tell you because you know I build and test things and you put them a great deal of effort and you put your resources into it and you work on this work on this work of this and then it's finally time for the test the thing blows up and boy it's not a nice day okay and and but then you you have to try it in you got to stay in the game you got to push on these other people were quitters he pushed on through the several failures to finally make the thing work and then when it launched the the Falcon nine which was a serious launch vehicle and then and I did a calculation of my own at that time I did not have any inside knowledge about SpaceX but I looked at the thing I looked at what I do about the size of his payroll and how long he'd been broken Ernie calculated that he had done this for a few hundred million dollars and this was a program that in a conventional aerospace environment would have cost a couple of billion dollars and I wrote an op-ed in SpaceX the new Sputnik you know basically telling the aerospace industry hey guys you mean Sputnik here and an analysis from SAIC roading says you can't be right they couldn't have done this for a couple of hundred million dollars it's absolutely impossible this must have cost at least two billion dollars and then SpaceX corrected them mom but it's but that's the thing I mean to create this system and then I went and visited him in his new place and I saw this incredible company and I saw how dynamic it wasn't the kind of workforce that he created the team he had created and you know he told me certain stuff things and some of the stuff I believed and some of this effect in it but I just had to look at the people and look what was gone on on that place to know that he had put together a winning team in these guys with winners and these guys were serious and and and and this is extraordinary and it's totally extraordinary what has gone on here and module onto the Sun here and then finally one more thing well two more things I have to say this guy he is living disproof of the materialist view of history okay that is that all major things that happen are driven by economics by greed I mean he may well make money in SpaceX because this guy could make money doing anything I mean he's even making money with electric cars which is astonishing okay but VT but he's not doing this to make money don't believe that for a minute and if he wanted to make money he could have set up a dozen coms and stuff between 2001 and now that all which would have made incredible amounts of money without him knocking his brains out trying to build rockets which sometimes blow up and really leave you feeling very unhappy and DV and and really going out and lurch and and of course you know he's doing well right now but this is still a very risky business he's exposed to technical theater he's exposed to the political shifts that are beyond his control to economic shifts uh you know and and to be right out there right now is doing that he this is not being motivated by profit it will need to be sustained by profit in order for it to happen but it's being motivated by an idea and I'm sure I'm going to hear from him his view on that but you know I only know Elon a little bit from the outside I've met among several occasions talk to him in some length a few times but I think I know I'm on the inside because I think I know what motivates him and it's the same thing that motivates me and I think thing is same thing that motivates month most of us it really wants to make something truly grant and necessary happened and is willing to put himself on the line for that purpose so it's my great honor to present the Mars trainee reward to Elon Musk and before he comes up I would like to show you the trophy so the symbolism here I hope is apparent okay we have the planet Mars and upon it a possibly recognizable spacecraft the dragon and that's the vision and here is the man who is very much in this world but not of it Elon Musk and white and the inscription reads the Mars Pioneer Award presented to Elon Musk by the chapters and members of the Mars Society the 15th International Marshall sonic convention held the Pasadena California USA August 3rd to 5th 2012 for outstanding achievement in furthering the goal of the human exploration and settlement of Mars all right well thank you very much for the award and yeah it's great it's great to be before so many people who believed strongly in the establishment of life on Mars I think my reasons for being interested in Mars I'm doing SpaceX really that they can now it's basically just to two things one which the prior speaker was a articulating which is there's the defensive reason in that if we are on more than one planets the probable lifespan of human civilization and the line of consciousness as we know it is going to be far greater than if we are one planet so there's that defensive reason that life insurance reason and I think that that's obviously a very important thing in Earth's been around for four billion years and civilization about ten thousand years and it's only now that we have this rule the window is just practical where it's possible or life to extend beyond Earth and and so it I think it sort of seems sensible to to take advantage of that window while it's open hopefully we'll be open for a long time but it could be open for a short time and so that's so we should take action and that's that's sort of the defensive reason it's not actually the reason that I'm that gets me most fired up about about Mars the the thing that actually gets me the most excited about it is that I just think it's the it's the grandest adventure I could possibly imagine it's the most exciting thing I couldn't think of anything more exciting and more fun and more inspiring for the future than to have a base on Mars and it would be incredibly difficult and the probably less people will die and you know terrible and great things will happen along the way just as happened in the of the united states but it will be it'll be one of those things that is incredibly inspiring and we must have inspiring things in the world that life cannot just be about solving you know this problem with that problem there must be things that when you wake up in the morning you're glad to be alive and and that I think is for me the most important reason why we should pursue the establishment of life on Mars now of course I'm preaching to the converted here you know I I expect to hear a few objections from this audience so I I think really what what matters is finding a way to do it in fact I'll give you a little bit a background of my my Genesis of how I got into into space sort of started when I was in college they would do it there were three areas that I thought would most affect the future of humanity and space exploration extension of life beyond Earth was one of those things and I didn't expect to be involved in it because I thought it was the province of governments and and besides which it sort of seemed at least you know 21 22 years ago that it was likely to occur because we went to the moon and then of course there people who go to Mars and will be establishing a base on the moon and their intervention their base on Mars and that sort of seems like the natural progression of things and they're amazingly it doesn't happen I kept thinking well well it's it's about to happen and again just didn't happen there's a Monty Python skit about this suddenly nothing happened before you know it nothing happened so in fact in approximately 2001 us with a friend of mine college my my cup my college housemaid actually in New York and he asked me what I was gonna do after PayPal and I said well you know I've always been interested in space but but of course there's nothing that I as an individual could do about that but but the question got me curious is to sort of to find out okay well we're know he's sending people to Mars so after I got back to my to my hotel room I went to the what NASA website to sort of look up the schedule because of course there had to be a schedule and and I can find it I thought the problem was me because you know it's simply it must be here somewhere on this website he's just well hidden and it was another website at all so which was shocking then I thought well perhaps the reason is that the American people have applied to have lost the will to explore or if we just had more got people who are interested in the subject then then they would be inclined to want to do it this turned out to be a false premise by the way but that was my initial my initial thought but it was a mistake so at first I thought well perhaps if we do it a small philanthropic mission to Mars something that would get the public excited then and that would result in a bigger budget for NASA and and then we could do exciting things and get the ball rolling again and and that's about the time that I started talking to Robert Zubrin and a few other people and so it's initially that the thought was to to send a small green house to a service of ours with seasoned dehydrated nutrient gel air hydrated and then you have this little greenhouse on the surface of Mars and the public tends to be as they should interested in things that are precedents and superlatives so this would be the furthest that life's ever traveled the first life on Mars and and then you'd have this great money shot of green plants in a red background so that that that would be that with that I thought okay like could get people pretty exciting they did pretty excited and so I started investigating what what that would take and and I was able to get the cost of the spacecraft down to to look sort of low single-digit millions and cost of communications down and all and and and I was able to get everything compressed except for the cost of the rocket and and so I the u.s. rockets were way too expensive something like a delta ii would have cost sixty million dollars and I figured we I needed to do to parallel missions so two identical missions in case there was a an equipment failure because then it could be counterproductive you know it's like look at that fool you did that Mars mission it didn't work and now we definitely shouldn't do Mars so so I figured we had to have redundant missions and I just didn't actually have enough money from from the sale of PayPal to program my stake until say for sale Phelps you actually do that so I was didn't have enough money so I went to Russia in late 2001 in early 2002 to try to buy ICBMs that's as crazy as it sounds you know you so I guess about 30 30 years old internet guy arrives in Moscow wants to buy the biggest ICBM and the Russian rocket plate I said I don't need the nuke just need the rocket me and and they thought I was crazy but then they also thought have always got money so that's so I was able to actually negotiate a deal to to buy a couple of of Genet worse and you know at the end of all that I decided not to conclude the deal so negotiator price but decided not to conclude the deal because after my third trip to Russia I that's about the time that I realized that my original premise was wrong that that it is in fact no we did we do not lack for well particularly in the United States the world as a whole but particularly not the United States it does not lack the will to explore not in the least in fact the United States is a distillation of the human spirit of exploration almost everyone came here from I mean they came here from somewhere else so you couldn't ask for a group of people that are more interested in exploring the frontier and so but if people do not think that there is any way to do it if they don't think there's a means then it's it's somewhat irrelevant you know you're not gonna bash your head against a brick wall if you're confident that your head walk great before the wall will break it's just not gonna happen so so so that's when I decided to start the rocket company because it was clear that we'd not made advancements in rocket technology and that was the reason that that we hadn't made progress the rocket technology cut was actually going worse it was costing more and more to send things to space than been in the past so we had a negative technology curve which is counter to because we're so used to things in a consumer electronics world and in everyday life improving we sort of take it for granted like it's this it's the thing as though things automatically improve they do not automatically improve they only improve with lots of effort and and resources he select the graphic but the bottom picture the permits their Egyptian civilization gots the point way to create things like the Great Pyramid of Cheops but then lost that ability and never got back there and Roman civilization went they went through a deep Dockyard and it's not it's not a given that things improved there has to be has to be a forcing function if you want to do it so anyways I starter started I started SpaceX and I many people trick try convinced me not to start the company that really tried their best and many of my closest friends I mean if it was anything we could have done to stop me from starting your company I would have done it what one when good friend of mine compiled a footage of rocket failures and forced me to watch it I said I'd seen them all so so it was certainly but I think that they're perhaps misunderstood the premise because when I started SpaceX it was not with the expectation of success I thought the most likely outcome was failure but given that what the thing I was gonna do previously which was the the grimoires greenhouse mission I expected that would have a hundred percent chance of HAARP said likelihood of losing all the money associated with him so anything a rocket company had less than a hundred percent chance of losing all the money associated with it and therefore was actually quite a bit less risky than the thing I've been doing before and Eric said unfortunately I think things weren't really well with with SpaceX no not in the beginning because were the first three launches of the Falcon one rocket that we did failed and and as I was rumors saying it's not it's not a good day when the rocket fails the first Rockets failed only I mean it impacted 60 60 seconds after liftoff not far from the launch site so me and the rest of the team spent all of that day picking up pieces of the rocket which is a very sad thing but we picked him up to sort of to see if we could if I could help figure out what went wrong fortunately the the fourth launch we were able to reach orbit that's a good thing it's a good thing we were able to do that because I had no more money left so gets it to Luther my wife were there she's witnessed a to the third and then the fourth launch so yeah so stressed out at the fourth launch I didn't even actually feel elation and I just felt relief but it was a very very close call but fortunately the post-launch worked and and then since then all of the launchers have worked hope they continue to work and SpaceX has gotten a lot stronger and we've actually been slightly profitable for the last four years approximately and should be again this year and and the Rockets now much bigger and we've got two falcon line which is about a million pound thrust rocket and we're gonna upgrade a version of falcon – can launch next year which will be almost one and a half million pounds of thrust and then the Falcon Heavy which will be over four million pounds of thrust which is about sixty percent that of saturn v in fact with to Falcon Heavy launches you could actually send people back to the surface of the Moon yeah I'd add the most people problem probably aren't quite aware of the scale of the rocket that we're building a Falcon Heavy should launch probably around the end of next year give or suddenly by early 2014 glazed and and that I think will represent a a significant improvement in in rocket technology and then and there very importantly we're also working on reusability because if you really boil it down to the the various the crux of why don't we have a base on Mars as I mentioned this there's rocket technology but what what really needs to be developed the key invention that's necessary is a rapidly and completely reusable rocket and this is a very difficult thing to do on earth Chris Chris grab miss gravity is quite quite highest right on the cusp of impossibility for such a thing for a chemical rocket so if you take an expandable rocket even after people a lot of small people using advanced materials and and and really approaching the limits of efficient of engine efficiency and everything you'll typically get two to three percent of your look of mass – to orbit that's poor expendable rocket now if you say well we want to make it reusable we're gonna bring it back to the launch site it's got to survive the rigors of reentry it's going to all the systems have to be capable of surviving multiple firings and thermal fatigue and it just it's really you're at a lot of mass when that happens and previously when people have tried to make a reusable system they found that if they would get some portion of the way and then conclude that success was not one of the possible outcomes you know in government programs of course that the program would still continued for quite some time it's funny but true and and and so the real trick then is to say can you create a rocket that is efficient enough that in an expandable form you can push that what would only be 2 to 3% of mass to orbit up to maybe 4 percent of master orbit and then if you can get really good about the reusable elements maybe that can only be it cost you two of those four points so on net you would still get two percent of roughly of your liftoff master orbit that's the thing that needs to happen in order for that to happen you you have to really get kind of straight a-pluses across the board in all elements of the rocket design every little tiny thing that the engine efficiency thrust-to-weight the engine the the tank mass the pressure and mass at the secondary structure of the wiring would be even that the weight of the computers and every everything matters immensely and and but if you do all those things right then this it is possible to make this work and this is what has given me hope recently in last few years because I wasn't sure whether it was possible but in the last few years I've become means that it is it is possible of course just because something is possible does not mean it will occur but but I think I think it can occur which is like saying you success being one of the possible outcomes is very important so that that's that's that's that's the breakthrough that SpaceX's is is really trying to achieve because the stuff we've done last bar I think is it's good I think it's it's better evolutionary it's not revolutionary and we really need the revolutionary thing to work so so I think over the next few years we'll see it if we're gonna be able to do that rapid and complete reusability thing but but I I'm actually surprised today I mean I thought should sound more optimistic and I it I I am actually quite optimistic that this will occur don't leave any doubt if those minds are quite optimistic it'll occur and and and then going beyond that that that's what Earth orbit but not to establish life on Mars I think you really ultimately need to care field carry millions of people there and millions to tons of cargo so you really need a fully reusable Mars transportation system which is yet a more difficult step in creating a fully reusable earth system and then I I was really worried that that would not be possible but last year I became convinced that it actually is possible which was made me very happy actually it was there when I was pacing around the bedroom late at night try see if this would work yeah yeah so that's that's good news now I could be deluded but I I'm pretty if less undiluted I think I think I think I think we've we've got something in mind which which would be a good which would it be a solution that would work and then comes to sort of the threshold of what it really comes down to a cost what's the what cost does a trip to Mars have to be in order for it to be a self-sustaining reaction and I think it's got you've got a roughly get to the to the I think around half a million dollars if people could pay half a million dollars to move to Mars so all this stuff on earth because you're needed obviously then then you could move Mars then I think that that would work because you know that's been but basically the net worth of sort of a roughly middle income earning person after about twenty five years in the United States is roughly half a million dollars so in fact it's kind of hard to buy a house in Southern California for you know half a million dollars and letting a lot of neighborhoods so so but I think a roughly that level is where it would be kind of where it works that's what we're going to get to in my calculations show that it that it should be possible that in fact it is possible according to me and then so that but there's a great deal of work that has to occur and then and there to make to make it a reality so that that I think is you know I mean I think I think that's that should be really good reason to feel good about the possibility of life on Mars and yeah so I think that's that's why probably what I'd like to leave you with and and then in the Institute in years we will I feel more and more about what we're gonna do and I'd probably be some ups and downs along the way but but but I can finally see a path to to that objective like I said to as long as I'm not delusional I haven't made some significant error that I think that will hopefully come as good news to people Israel thank you


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