OPINION: Elon Musk, The World’s Most Eccentric Billionaire

Owner of Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity. The “real life Tony Stark”. Flamethrower salesman. The man who put his car into space and wants to colonize Mars. All of these descriptors fit the eccentric billionaire Elon Musk. A South African-born Canadian American business magnate, Elon Musk has recently made news headlines for two reasons: his SpaceX launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket, a groundbreaking achievement in the field of future space exploration, and for becoming a flamethrower salesman. That’s right, a flamethrower salesman.

In the past, Musk has already revealed his unconventional nature to the public. He is the founder of The Boring Company, an organization that he created with the goal of building tunnels underneath cities because he was annoyed by the traffic in Los Angeles, and sold 50,000 hats in December of 2017 with the words “The Boring Company” on them, raking in $1,000,000 from the venture. However, according to Elon Musk’s Twitter, the hat sales were only a precursor for something greater: flamethrowers.

Of course, people did not think that the billionaire was serious at first. Who in their right mind would sell flamethrowers to the public? Elon Musk. In just six days, from January 27 to February 1, The Boring Company sold 20,000 flamethrowers for $500 a piece, bringing in $10 million. One might wonder why exactly Elon Musk thought to sell 20,000 flamethrowers to the public despite backlash from certain politicians including Democrat Miguel Santiago, who is currently serving on the California State Assembly and has sought to ban flamethrower sales. The answer to that question is simple: because he can.

Flamethrowers, as long as their flames are under 10 feet in length, are perfectly legal within the United States, and it is only when their flames reach over 10 feet length that permits are required to legally own one. The Boring Company’s flamethrowers do not release flames nearly that large, with their blazes only stretching between one and two feet in length. Those who defend the recent flamethrower sales cite the fact that chainsaws, which are just as dangerous as a flamethrower that spews fire only one to two feet, are entirely acceptable and have the same potential of being abused.

Dangerous or not, the flamethrowers, which have been renamed to “not-a-flamethrower” because of complications around international shipping, are now completely sold out and are planned to ship sometime in the Spring. The public will now have to wait and see if the flamethrowers truly do satisfy their guarantee to “liven up any party”.

Flames seem to be a recurring theme in Elon Musk’s life as of late, for just five days after he sold out of flamethrowers, his company, SpaceX, launched the world’s most powerful rocket into space: the Falcon Heavy. At a price of $90 million, this rocket is hundreds of millions of dollars less expensive than its closest competitor, the Delta IV Heavy, which can only carry a load of 29 metric tons whereas the Falcon Heavy can carry 64 metric tons of cargo. To top all that off, the rockets from the Falcon Heavy are reusable.

Part of the payload on the Falcon Heavy was unique: Elon Musk’s own Tesla Roadster, equipped with a mannequin dubbed “Starman”. During the launch, the stereo of the car was playing “Life on Mars” by David Bowie while the console flashed the words “Don’t Panic!”. The billionaire’s personal car will move along with the rocket as it drifts in a deep-space ride headed toward the asteroid belt after circling around the orbit of Mars before eventually returning to Earth.

This launch is planned to be the first of many SpaceX ventures, with two more rockets — the Arabsat 6A and the LightSail 2, both Falcon Heavy rockets — set to launch sometime in 2018. Furthermore, by the end of the year, Elon Musk says that astronauts wearing the same spacesuit that “Starman” wore are intended to be launched on the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon rockets in a mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The use of these rockets are intended to be mere precursors for SpaceX’s biggest project yet planned: the launch of the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR). This massive spacecraft, which stands at 348 feet tall and carries a load of 136 metric tons, is the rocket that Elon Musk plans to use to colonize Mars. Preliminary designs of the rocket reveal that there is a carrying capacity of 100 passengers, and with the trend of SpaceX rockets being relatively inexpensive, a demonstration of the rocket in 2019 and a full test flight within 3-4 years seem increasingly likely.

Ultimately, Elon Musk has proven himself to be a man of many ventures. Through his flamethrowers and rockets, hats and tunnels, the billionaire has become a widely recognized public figure with both supporters and opponents, and he will likely continue with his many projects for many years to come. While no one knows what the future will hold, one thing is certain: Elon Musk has created a legacy for himself that will last ages.