The second Heinlein Prize® was awarded to the CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, for Accomplishments in Commercial Space Activities on June 29, 2011 in a luncheon ceremony in Washington, D.C. An award of $250,000, a Lady Vivamus sword from Robert Heinlein’s novel “Glory Road”, and an award diploma were presented to Elon Musk in recognition of his achievements in creating a business which successfully engages in commercial space ventures.
The Heinlein Prize, first awarded to Peter Diamandis in 2006, is a reward for substantial accomplishments in the area of private, commercial space activities, with the emphasis on accomplishments. Said Art Dula, Trustee of The Heinlein Prize Trust, “If the Falcon 1 had flown, and that was it, he [Elon Musk] wouldn’t have won the Prize. Instead, a business has been built here that employs over a thousand people in good jobs in America, beats the Chinese price for rockets, and that’s amazing!”
Though now contracting with NASA, SpaceX was developed using private money, almost all of it invested by Elon Musk, himself. “Taking that risk, and then making the accomplishment of the first orbital flight that caused the development of the Falcon family of launch vehicles, is why the Trustees voted unanimously to give Elon this year’s Prize,” said Art Dula.
Describing the success of the business, Dula also said SpaceX, “…now has three billion dollars or more booked of business on commercial contracts at pretty much fixed prices. And also, this company posts its prices on the Internet, just like any other commercial company.”
It was for those reasons, The Heinlein Prize was awarded to Elon Musk, also with the hope he would inspire others to do the same.
Elon Musk is a veteran of innovative business ventures, as described by the SpaceX website, “Elon Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) in 2002, and serves as the company’s Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer. Prior to SpaceX, Mr. Musk co-founded PayPal, the world’s leading Internet payment system, and served as the company’s chairman and CEO. Before PayPal, Mr. Musk co-founded Zip2 Corp., a provider of Internet software to the media industry, and served as chairman, CEO and CTO. In addition to his current day-to-day role at SpaceX, Mr. Musk is also chairman and the primary investor in Tesla Motors and SolarCity, two companies intended to help address CO2 driven climate change.”
After former-astronaut, Leroy Chiao spoke about two of the Prize Trust’s other educational endeavors, such as the Flying Into the Future European and Asian aerospace business plan competitions, and the Have Spacesuit–Will Travel educational program in the U.S., Art Dula summoned the “sword bearer” to present the Lady Vivamus sword, with warnings to Mr. Musk that the sword was, indeed, real and very sharp. The sword is engraved in Latin with, “Dum vivimus, vivamus!” which means “While we live, let us live!” Explaining why the Lady Vivamus sword is included as an important part of the Heinlein Prize, Art Dula said, “Because not everything is money, and not everything is even the spiritual adventure of space exploration. There’s something to be said for having a quality of life and doing interesting and strange things well,” this being the subject of Heinlein’s book, “Glory Road”.
Then followed the presentation of the Heinlein Prize award diploma, with the images of Earth, the Moon, and Mars reaching on to the stars (top of page), and a check for $250,000.
Elon Musk offered his thanks, then showed a video of the history and future aspirations of SpaceX. He then spoke on the the importance of humanity becoming multi-planetary. The cost and availability of space travel must be improved through space transport technology. Rapidly reusable to-orbit vehicles will be the key, and is the goal of SpaceX. Elon Musk added that Heinlein’s “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” is one of his favorite books.
A question and answer session followed, which–along with the rest of the event–may be watched on The Heinlein Prize Trust YouTube page. Below, watch selected highlights of the event.