As if Elon Musk needed another reason to be famous, Time on Monday named the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla the magazine’s 2021 “Person of the Year.”
The magazine’s feature article said Musk—the world’s richest person, with an estimated worth of more than $250 billion—is “the man who aspires to save our planet and get us a new one to inhabit.” The piece credits Musk for revitalizing U.S. space efforts virtually single-handedly, saying, “Before Musk, America’s space industry was moribund.”
However, the feature also doesn’t pull any punches either, mentioning his “hard-driving style” and critical allegations against his companies’ treatment of employees.
The magazine’s annual tradition has aviation roots going back to its first person of the year article in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh was featured for his historic transatlantic flight from the U.S. to Paris. Each year, Time says it chooses the “man, woman, group, or concept that had the most influence on the world during the previous 12 months.” Other aerospace figures who have been featured include the crew of Apollo 8 in 1968.
A Good Year for SpaceX
This year has been a good one for Musk’s commercial space company. After a bitter court battle SpaceX won a valuable contract to build the lunar lander that will take humans to the moon for the first time since 1972 as part of NASA’S upcoming Artemis missions.
While continuing to demonstrate its impressive reusable rocket booster system, SpaceX also raised more than $150 million this year for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as part of Inspiration4, the world’s first orbital mission to be conducted with an all-civilian crew.
SpaceX’s development of reusable boosters has made regular space flight more affordable. Out of a total of 90 successful landings of SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets, Time said, 72 have flown more than once.
Notable missions include the first privately built spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station.
As Musk often is quoted, one of the major goals of SpaceX is to help make the human race a multi-planetary species, to “enable humanity to become a spacefaring civilization.”
Musk’s love of posting on Twitter is also part of the article, including his penchant for tweeting while sitting on a “porcelain throne.”
At least 50% of my tweets were made on a porcelain throne— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 22, 2021
Climate Change, Cryptocurrency, and AI
Although some have criticized Musk for potential environmental impacts of a SpaceX launch facility being developed in Texas, Musk is described in the magazine piece as “arguably the biggest private contributor to the fight against climate change,” resulting from the success of Tesla’s zero-emissions electric vehicles.
And when it comes to his status as the world’s richest person, the article says Musk has recently paid little or no income taxes. He “rejects the idea” that his fortune is evidence of a larger “policy problem.”
The article mentions Musk’s outspoken opinions about the “dangers of out-of-control artificial intelligence” and cryptocurrency.
It also briefly mentions his personal relationship history as well as his acknowledgement on NBC TV’s “Saturday Night Live” that he has an autism-spectrum disorder known as Asperger’s.