Elon Musk is a visionary. He is an entrepreneur. He is a risk-taker. And this combination of characteristics can lead to great things. Also, this combination can lead to many obstacles.
Obviously, if you have been paying any kind of attention, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has had a rough time trying to develop reusable rockets for space exploration. The idea, of course, is to develop rockets that can be retrieved and reused instead of the format we have now, which are rockets that accompany the shuttle into space and then detach and fall back to Earth and burn up when entering the atmosphere again.
Reusable rockets will dramatically reduce the cost of space travel.
On Thursday, though, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded—yet again—which is now raising concern that, perhaps, Musk might not be properly equipped to manage this project.
Or that, perhaps, Musk may be spreading himself too thin.
You see, aside from SpaceX, Musk is also the founder of Tesla Motors. This a premium, premier luxury line of electric vehicles that have helped to make alternative transportation more attractive to consumers. But Tesla Motors is already working on the next phase of commuter transportation: self-driving cars (aka, “autonomous vehicles”).
As a matter of fact, on Wednesday—just one day before the most recent rocket explosion mishap—Musk announced that Tesla Motors was releasing major improvements to their Autopilot feature (a semi-autonomous driving system).
Of course, the Autopilot feature has not been perfected yet either. Last May, a Tesla Model S operating with the Autopilot feature collided with the underside of a big rig, in Florida, which not only sheared off the top of the car, but also killed the driver. Apparently, the car’s sensor system could not distinguish between the white side of the semi truck trailer and the overcast sky.
At the same time, Tesla is also in a race to finish the development of a massive, $5-billion battery factory in the Nevada desert. The company is also looking to refit its auto assembly plant in Fremont, CA in order to get busy with production of their new Tesla 3 mid-market electric sedan, set for release by the end of 2017.
Elon Musk is ambitious, but with all these projects—and, more importantly, all these problems—one must wonder if, in fact, he is trying to do too much, too fast.