Yesterday’s Falcon Heavy launch was an amazing (if not unblemished) success. In the glow of this event it is possible to forget that SpaceX was at risk of failing as a venture as recently as 2008. At that time, Wired interviewed Musk after its third high profile failure, when a Falcon 1 second stage failed to separate during launch, resulting in loss of the vehicle and its payload.
“Bear in mind, Falcon 1 is our test vehicle. The reason we started with F1 isn’t because I’m passionate about launching small satellites, but because I want to make mistakes on a small scale and not a large one.”
Here Musk is articulating the startup ethos. Fail early. Fail inexpensively. He is framing it as a test, an experiment, not a failure. A toddler will fall and then get up – this is not failure.
By using a relatively inexpensive vehicle to test the engineering that would later go into the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, SpaceX is using Principle 35 – Parameter Change, the parameter here being the scale and cost of the test vehicle.
“Optimism, pessimism, fuck that; we’re going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I’m hell-bent on making it work.”
Musk has chosen history-making goals. The electrification of the world. The colonization of space. The value of those goals has given him an extraordinary level of determination and in turn success. While most of would take a day off if we were among the richest in the world, Musk is just as driven now as when he was nearly broke.
We should all choose our motivations well.
By Brian Solis [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons