“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay
This past week, SpaceX launched a test of their Falcon Heavy Rocket – the most powerful rocket in the world. By all accounts, the test was a huge success. In fact, you may have seen a video clip of the Falcon Heavy booster rockets synchronized return to land
. You may have also seen that instead of the traditional concrete block that SpaceX decided to launch a Tesla as the test payload
. By improving the payload carrying capabilities of rockets, SpaceX has opened up amazing new possibilities in space exploration. It has also helped re-ignited the interest of the general public in space. There are 3 great lessons that kids can gain from this rocket launch.
When we first saw that a Tesla Roadster was launching into space, it seemed to be a big waste of resources & an example of Silicon Valley innovative thinking gone overboard. However, as we learned more about the background, it turns out that this was actually a big risk for SpaceX & Tesla as most rocket launches are unsuccessful & the payload ends up being destroyed. To mitigate this risk, the payload for test flights is usually just a massive concrete block that approximates the characteristics of the target payload. In fact, SpaceX offered the US government an opportunity to send whatever they wanted into orbit - $90 million value – for FREE. Unfortunately, they were turned down because of the high level of risk aversion that is often characteristic of the government. As a result, SpaceX reverted to plan B which was to use a Tesla as the payload because they were confident that the test would be successful & if it wasn’t at least they had made an educated guess about the outcomes. This resulted in a giant public relations boost for both SpaceX & Tesla as many media outlets covered the launch. And, because it was successful it helped further reinforce that these companies are on the leading edge of innovation.
Key Lesson – If you want big rewards, take educated risks!
One of the biggest challenges of the space program and space travel in general is the high development costs. SpaceX decided that instead of just accepting that constraint; they would figure out a solution. Their big idea was to figure out how to develop re-usable booster rockets. This innovation means that instead of booster rockets being used for just 1 mission that they could be used on multiple occasions. However, this required a completely different problem statement – how do you not only make sure that the rocket launches successfully but how do you make sure that it lands on earth in one piece. As with all advances in thinking, there are many opportunities for failure. In fact, SpaceX made a great video entitled how not to land an orbital rocket that highlights all their ‘mistakes’
. The key insight here is that they kept learning and ultimately developed a re-usable booster rocket that will lower the overall costs associated with space exploration & travel.
Key Lesson – Be solution focused!
Education is foundational
By all accounts, Elon Musk is a brilliant visionary. He is leading both SpaceX & Tesla to achieve extraordinary scientific & technological accomplishments. One of the most amazing characteristics of Musk is that he believes that anything is possible. This is leading to the rapid commercialization of electric vehicles at Tesla and really powerful space shuttles & rockets at SpaceX. One of the elements of Musk’s background that we find fascinating is his educational development. At age 12, Musk taught himself computer programming which we believe to be extremely valuable in developing an application-focused problem solving mindset. He went on to earn a degree in physics from the University of Pennsylvania & one in economics from Wharton. This mix of both business and technical education has served Musk well. In fact, he is ranked by Forbes Magazine as the 53rd richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $20.1 billion. In 1995, he began a PHD in Applied Physics & Material Sciences at Stanford but dropped out after only a month to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors.
Key Lesson – Education is the basis for future success!
The photographs and images from the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch this week are nothing short of amazing. The progress SpaceX is making lead by their founder & CEO Elon Musk is spectacular. With the right education, mindset and solution orientation, the next generation of inventors will build upon the foundation of pioneers like Musk to help make the world a better place. Let’s make sure that we support these developing innovators at every step of the way.