Founders

#172 Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX

Episode Summary

What I learned from reading Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX by Eric Berger.

Episode Notes

What I learned from reading Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX by Eric Berger. 

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[12:38] Numerous other entrepreneurs had tried playing at rocket science before, Musk well knew. He wanted to learn from their mistakes so as not to repeat them

[20:55]  He could be difficult to work for, certainly. But his early hires could immediately see the benefits of working for someone who wanted to get things done and often made decisions on the spot. When Musk decided that Spincraft could make good tanks for a fair price, that was it. No committees. No reports. Just, done. 

[22:05] Most of all he channeled a preternatural force to move things forward. Elon Musk just wants to get shit done. 

[27:42] The iterative approach begins with a goal and almost immediately leaps into concept designs , bench tests, and prototypes. The mantra with this approach is build and test early, find failures, and adapt. This is what SpaceX did. 

[41:24] It is perhaps worth noting that those launch companies that succeeded also took their lumps along the way, Musk wrote in a postmortem. SpaceX is in this for the long haul and, come hell or high water, we are going to make this work. 

[42:24] Musk’s management style: Don’t talk about doing things, just do things

[43:15]  If you’re trying to do something no other commercial company has ever done, you had better have some confidence

[44:00] I make the spending decisions and the engineering decisions in one head. Normally those are at least two people. There’s some engineering guy who’s trying to convince a finance guy that this money should be spent. But the finance guy doesn’t understand engineering, so he can’t tell if this is a good way to spend money or not. Whereas I’m making the engineering decisions and spending decisions. So I know, already, that my brain trusts itself. 

[45:37] He didn’t want to fail, but he wasn’t afraid of it. 

[50:50] It’s not like other rocket scientists were huge idiots who wanted to throw their rockets away all the time. It’s fucking hard to make something like this. One of the hardest engineering problems known to man is making a reusable orbital rocket. Nobody has succeeded. For a good reason. Our gravity is a bit heavy. On Mars this would be no problem. Moon, piece of cake. On Earth, fucking hard. Just barely possible. It’s stupidly difficult to have a fully reusable orbital system. It would be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of humanity. That’s why it’s hard. Why does this hurt my brain? It’s because of that. Really, we’re just a bunch of monkeys. How did we even get this far? It beats me. We were swinging through the trees, eating bananas not long ago. 

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