If there's such a thing as a real-life Batman or Iron Man, it could be Elon Musk. And if there's a flesh-and-blood Lex Luthor, well, that might be Musk, too. This uber-intelligent 49-year-old South African isn't just one of the richest people on Earth, he's a forward-thinking futurist made for the millennium [source: Forbes].
Musk has always been a man in a hurry. He taught himself computer programming as a kid and at the age of 17, he moved all the way to Canada for university before heading south to Pennsylvania to get his economics degree. After that he decided to pursue a Ph.D. in applied physics [source: Mkhitaryan].
But grad school wasn't really Musk's thing. So instead, he founded his first tech company, which made him a millionaire by age 28. Then he started another company — and another — amassing millions and then billions of dollars in wealth along the way. Robert Downey Jr. has said he based his "Iron Man" movie character Tony Stark on Musk [source: Hern].
But money arguably isn't Musk's primary motivation. He says he wants to evolve the human race. He envisions a future with high-efficiency mass transportation, electric cars and super-efficient sustainable energy production. He also blasts his engineering concepts right into outer space, and ultimately, perhaps one day even to Mars. And he's on his way to making some of those dreams a reality.
In April 2021, NASA chose SpaceX's Orion spacecraft to take next the American astronauts to the moon. The SpaceX Falcon 9 Crew Dragon also sent astronauts to space from the U.S. Nov. 15, 2020 — the first time since the end of the shuttle era. And the Starship SN15 prototype rocket, which SpaceX is developing to launch people and cargo to the moon, had a successful high-altitude test flight and landing May 5, 2021, which was historic to say the least.
But while his rocketing professional life seems otherworldly, Musk's tempestuous personal life makes him seem less than superhuman. His rocky relationships and tragedies are as convoluted and messy. Not to mention his penchant for saying controversial things in person and on Twitter. Make no mistake, this conceiver of Hyperloops and reusable rockets is anything but typical. Here are 10 fascinating facts about this mortal manifestation of Iron Man.