As 2021 comes to a close, the year-end wrap-up lists are starting to make their way around. Time Magazine has named Elon Musk their 2021 Person of the Year.
“Person of the Year is a marker of influence, and few individuals have had more influence than Musk on life on Earth, potentially life off Earth too,” said Time Editor-in-Chief and CEO Edward Felsenthal. “In 2021, Musk emerged not just as the world’s richest person but also as perhaps the richest example of a massive shift in our society.”
Elon Musk is the wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of $266 billion. 2021 has seemed to be quite the year for Musk.
This past year alone, the index showed its value surge by $110 billion. In April, SpaceX acquired NASA’s exclusive contract to put astronauts on the moon, which would be the first time since 1972.
Saturday Night Live welcomed Musk to their Studio 8H stage for his first guest appearance in May. In October, the massive car-rental company Hertz announced that they would add 100,000 Teslas to their inventory. SpaceX also worked with NASA to launch the first mission to study cosmic X-rays and the first anti-asteroid planetary defense test a few months later.
After a Twitter poll that Musk posted as a response to Bernie Sanders’s proposal to tax billionaires more, Musk sold 10% of his Tesla stock. This move shook the markets and cost Musk billions of dollars. But to Musk, his fortune is just a side effect of his ability to do things others cannot.
“He was raised in a tough environment and born with a very special brain,” said Antonio Gracias, who is Musk’s close friend of two decades. “99.9% of people in that situation don’t come out of it. Some small percentage come out of it with the ability he has to make great decisions under extraordinary pressure and the never-ending drive to change the course of humanity.”
Before Musk, America’s space industry was at a standstill, and SpaceX has worked tirelessly as a whole to bring it back off the ground.
“He is a humanist, not in the sense of being a nice person, because he isn’t,” said Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society, who has known Musk since 2001. “He wants eternal glory for doing great deeds, and he is an asset to the human race because he defines a great deed as something that is great for humanity. He is greedy for glory. Money to him is a means, not an end. Who today evaluates Thomas Edison on the basis of which his inventions turned a profit?”
Though Elon Musk has already made a lot of technological headway, he does not plan on slowing down any time soon. The billionaire still has plans to put astronauts on Mars by 2026 and is sticking true to that timeline. With SpaceX and Tesla constantly growing, investment firm Morgan Stanley has projected Musk could become the world’s first trillionaire.