Clem Sunter

Beam me up Muskie

2012-05-23 14:21

Clem Sunter

Yet again the South African media has failed to headline an amazing first by somebody who hails from South Africa. Yes, there are articles but you have to dig for them in the middle pages. They still believe that only bad news sells newspapers here.

The hero of the moment is Elon Musk, raised in Pretoria by a South African father and Canadian-American mother. He matriculated from Pretoria Boys High School in 1988 when he was 17, having taught himself to program a computer and developed a space game called Blastar at the age of 12.

He is now a billionaire, having founded Space X, Tesla Motors which makes electronic cars and Paypal, an online payment system which is now part of eBay. Space X has just launched the Falcon 9 rocket with the intention of having its Dragon capsule dock with the International Space Station, thereby providing nearly half a ton of food, clothing and laboratory kit. Setting off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, this is the first commercial space flight by a private company in the history of mankind.

Musk tweeted on his page: "Falcon flew perfectly! Dragon in orbit, comm locked and solar arrays active." He added: "Feels like a giant weight just came off my back." John Holdren, chief science adviser to Barack Obama, said: "Every launch into space is a thrilling event, but this one is especially exciting because it represents the potential of a new era in American space flight."

Musk has received congratulations from people all over America including senators and congressmen and even rival organisations like Virgin whose founder Richard Branson has similar space ambitions to Musk.

Like Siyabulela Xuza who has a minor planet named after him by NASA for his rocket fuel and who is now studying at Harvard University, Musk has become a superstar in America. It speaks volumes about the difference between American and South African culture. Americans celebrate individual excellence no matter where it comes from. It looks for the heroes of the future. We tolerate mediocrity and celebrate only heroes of the past.

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