World Faster Rich Person [Elon Musk]


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It’s easy to forget that, just last month, SpaceX apparently lost a top-secret government satellite in a mysterious incident that may or may not have been all Northrop Grumman’s fault. New Elon Musk media spectacles, after all, tend to have a memory-scrubbing effect. And on Tuesday, SpaceX put on a spectacular show, launching Musk’s powerful new Falcon Heavy rocket into space with a thunderous clap. Minutes later, the rocket’s test payload

Musk’s red Tesla Roadster was flying away from Earth at thousands of miles per hour. The Falcon Heavy’s two boosters landed back on the ground in perfect synchronicity while video cameras affixed to Musk’s car beamed back footage. More than two million people live-streamed the launch, making it the second-biggest live-streaming event in YouTube history, and TV networks cut away to cover it. Even Donald Trump acknowledged the launch, tweeting that Musk’s “achievement . . . continues to show American ingenuity at its best!”There is some irony in Trump making an example of Musk, an immigrant who has been a fierce critic of the administration.

Both, however, share an appreciation for the power of showmanship and a tactile understanding of the ways media can be manipulated to build brand equity. On the campaign trail, Trump engineered one news cycle after another to keep himself on television even when the headlines were overwhelmingly negative. Musk, too, has learned that he can distract from setbacks with new spectacles. Last July, when Tesla’s stock plummeted more than 20 percent, Musk teased his plans for a “hyperloop” rail system to transport passengers underground near the speed of sound—and followed up by launching a new business (The Boring Company) to begin drilling tunnels under Los Angeles. When Musk admitted, months later, that his Tesla Model 3 car was stuck in “production hell,” he immediately followed up by announcing a new, even faster Roadster, and an all-electric Semi.In recent weeks, Musk has embraced his affinity for merchandise sales, successfully hawking more than a half-million dollars’ worth of baseball caps emblazoned with his tunnel-drilling company’s logo.

After ending the limited-edition line, Musk began to sell Boring Company flamethrowers, quickly racking up $5 million in sales. (The company’s site also advertised branded fire extinguishers at $30 apiece.) With each product release, Musk uses Twitter, where he has nearly 19 million followers, to stoke excitement, tweeting tallies as orders flood in and egging would-be buyers on with videos. His dramatic streak has even extended to his own salary, which he has tied to Tesla’s success over the next decade.Through his sensational entrepreneurial endeavors, Musk has given Americans a taste of science fiction, but he’s also found ways to leverage that excitement into funding opportunities. Despite repeatedly missing his own production goals, Musk’s cult of personality gives Tesla’s stock a huge premium; on Wednesday, a day after SpaceX’s launch, Ark Investment Management founder and C.E.O. Catherine Wood told CNBC she believes Tesla’s stock could one day rise to $4,000 per share. (Among analysts who cover Tesla, the current highest price target is $500.) Her feelings about Tesla have everything to do with Musk and the SpaceX launch, and less to do with Tesla itself. “If Elon Musk of SpaceX can do what they did yesterday in space, they’re going to be able to produce the Model 3,” Tesla’s first mass-market electric car, Wood said. The Model 3’s production problems can be fixed, she added, because Tesla and SpaceX have the “same brain trust.”Musk, meanwhile, is already cooking up his next trick: an even larger, more dazzling SpaceX rocket he calls the “B.F.R.” (the B stands for “big,” and the R stands for “rocket”). On Tuesday night, Musk said he plans to debut the rocket in the 2020s, and will eventually create a B.F.R. designed for interplanetary travel.TODAY’S TOP STORIESsteven mnuchin“Trump Truly Doesn’t Understand Any of This:” White House Confirms Idiotic Stock-Market StanceScott Pruitt and Trump during an announcement in the Rose Garden, June 1, 2017.A Brief History of Trump’s Allies Calling Him an IdiotInspector General Michael Horowitz is sworn in for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, titled “Oversight of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and Attempts to Influence US Elections” on July 26, 2017.“A Political Boon to the President”: Will the Inspector General’s Report Do What Nunes Couldn’t?

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