What do you do after you co-found a online payment site and sell it to eBay? Why you make a commercial rocket company of course. Should be easy right?
Other than the fact that it's super expensive, no one has done it before, the big companies who build the existing systems don't want you to succeed, and you're building something made to go 20,000 miles per hour that's filled with toxic explosive liquids, it should be a piece of cake.
Enter SpaceX. Elon Musk left Paypal after selling it to eBay for a bazillion dollars (well, bazillion Canadian dollars, only a few billion US). He founded a commercial launch vehicle company in a addition to a few other projects.
It's not just one of the most important things happening in the Space community, it's one of the most important things happening on the planet right now.
Unlike traditional launch vehicle companies, they are actually trying to make these rockets cheaper.
Now there's a novel concept. Cheap, reliable access to space. Elon has been quoted as saying,
"Long-term plans call for development of a heavy lift product and even a super-heavy, if there is customer demand. We expect that each size increase would result in a meaningful decrease in cost per pound to orbit. For example, dollar cost per pound to orbit dropped from $4,000 to $1,300 ($8,800/kg to $2,900/kg) between Falcon 1 and Falcon 5. Ultimately, I believe $500 per pound ($1,100/kg) or less is very achievable."
At $500 per pound, the possibilities are endless. Compare that to the space shuttle cost of roughly $20,000 per pound.
In 2008, they became the first commercial company to launch a liquid fueled rocked to orbit. They won a contract with NASA to service the International Space Station until the Shuttle replacement is ready. Based on the poor progress of the Shuttle replacement program so far, the contract with SpaceX may be vital to the success of the Space Station for the next 10 years.
Their success over the next few years will almost certainly prompt other companies to develop competitive systems. If these companies were non US based (India, Korea, and Japan, I'm talking to you), then there really would be a new era that couldn't be scuttled by one Country's politics.
If SpaceX can succeed in making reliable vehicles that launch cargo for less than $1000 per pound, history will not remember the historic first moon landings as the feat that ushered in humanities real move off of earth.
History will remember SpaceX.
How do you like them apples?