Elon Musk's space transport company SpaceX signed the world's first private passenger to fly around the moon last week. The company plans to divulge his or her identity today on a live webcast at 6 p.m. PT. The mystery passenger will be the 25th person ever to make the trip. The last manned voyage to the moon was the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
The milestone is remarkable given that just seventeen years ago Musk reportedly knew little about rockets or space technology. He did, however, have passion, curiosity and a cell phone. With cold calls, he introduced himself to some of the top minds in aerospace, looking to learn more about space travel.
These calls didn't just help him understand the science and the business opportunity few could see at the time. They also helped him build the expertise and network he'd need to later found and run SpaceX. This combination of fearlessness and curiosity is an example to anyone looking to build something new.
In 2001, a 30-year-old Musk had already made his fortune twice over, founding and selling companies such as Zip2 and X.Com (which became PayPal) for hundreds of millions. He felt called to something more meaningful than just running another Internet business. He decided he would put his money toward saving humanity, and specifically, through making life possible on other planets such as Mars.
Musk knew he needed to launch probes into space and considered Russian launch vehicles, knowing the cheapest rockets available would help his fortune stretch further. To this end, the space advocacy nonprofit Mars Society put him in touch with Jim Cantrell, an aerospace consultant who had worked for NASA's jet propulsion lab and on a joint Mars balloon mission for the French Space Agency and the Soviet Union.