Bloomberg Businessweek

THE HERO WE DESERVE

If all goes well, on May 27 two American astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, will ride in a Tesla electric car to a Florida launchpad, hop out, and then climb into the nose of a Falcon 9 rocket built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. They’ll strap in before a bank of superslick touch-screens, as opposed to a Cold War-era clutter of buttons and knobs. The rocket will blast off at 4:33 p.m. EDT and dock with the International Space Station about 19 hours later. It will be the first privately built rocket and capsule ever to put humans into space, as well as the first time in almost a decade that an American spacecraft will ferry Americans into space from American soil. In another era and under slightly different circumstances, this event would be the whole, glorious story. Immigrant rocket man ferries brave patriots into the heavens. Plop some ice cream on the apple pie, pass the Budweisers around, and let the live-streamed adrenaline loose on the imaginations of millions of kids.

Alas, we do not live in such times. We have a Twitter President and all the tremendous, very big, super-duper baggage that comes with him. We have a Space Force. We have a virus run amok. And, in Musk, we have a Twitter Business Icon with his own impressive set of baggage. So the moment of achievement is complicated. Sort of like The Right Stuff meets The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test where the idea that “anything is possible” is as unnerving as it is encouraging.

As Musk’s biographer, I’ve spent years watching how he operates and affects everyone and everything in his orbit, from SpaceX to that other company he runs, Tesla Inc. During interviews, he can be loquacious to the point of oversharing—and then shut down for weeks or months after some perceived slight. We’ve had periods of intense and fruitful interactions, though my book left me in the Musk doghouse for quite a while. The odd e-mail returned. The odd phone call about his

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