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McCray Discusses the "Visioneering" Work of SpaceX Founder Elon Musk
June 11, 2012--IRG 1 Leader Patrick McCray looks at the inspirations shaping Elon Musk's work as one of the leading technological innovators of our time in an essay on the CNN Opinion website. A pioneer in space and on Earth discusses Musk's roles in founding PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX, three game-changing companies that have expanded both business and technological frontiers in the seemingly unrelated areas of the Internet, electric cars, and commercial space travel, respectively.
McCray identifies Musk as a "visioneer," which he defines as "someone who combines scientific and engineering prowess -- in his case, a degree in physics -- with an expansive view of how technology will upend traditional economic models, and has the ability to inspire others to support his work." McCray notes that Musk's work with SpaceX builds on that of earlier space pioneers, such as Princeton physicist Gerald O'Neill. But Musk and other modern visioneers, such as biotech pioneer Craig Venter, are motivated by a more entrepreneurial, libertarian, and profit-driven approach than their predecessors. McCray also discusses the importance of maintaining U.S. government and private funding support for the work of innovators such as Musk and his peers if the U.S. economy is to remain a technological leader.
W. Patrick McCray is a professor of the history of science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of the forthcoming book, "The Visioneers: How a group of elite scientists pursued space colonies, nanotechnologies, and a limitless tuture" (Princeton University Press).