A RUSSIAN rocket designer spat on a young Elon Musk’s shoe as he tried to buy a rocket in the early days of his career, a documentary has claimed.
Before he launched SpaceX in 2002, Musk was looking for a Russian-built rocket to do an experimental mission to Mars and develop his ambitious idea for creating a “multi-planetary species”.
Getty – ContributorElon Musk poses for a portrait at SpaceX in 2008[/caption]
Space Exploration TechnologiesElon Musk was looking for a Russian rocket to do an experiment to Mars in the early days of his career[/caption]
APA SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Merritt Island[/caption]
As he was trying to break into the world of space travel, the tech billionaire decided to get in touch with ex-NASA aerospace engineer Jim Cantrell for the trip.
In the BBC documentary The Elon Musk Show, aired tonight, Mr Cantrell said: “I was the guy he was told could help him do that.”
Mr Cantrell agreed to the expedition and he, Musk and another engineer, Mike Griffin, headed to Russia in 2001 to see if they could buy cheap rockets off the shelf.
They could snap up a rocket for $2million in Russia, compared to prices elsewhere of $80 to $100million, Mr Cantrell explained in the show.
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Once they arrived in Russia, they were welcomed into a military base – but things soon went sour when the chief designer blasted Elon as a “young kid” who didn’t understand the dangers of rockets.
“We got into a classic military complex, razor-wire on top, security and guns, and finally we got down to where everybody was gathered, including the chief designer,” Mr Cantrell said.
“In classic European style, we didn’t just jump into business, we started to drink and made a toast – a toast to the Russians, a toast to the Americans, toast to Elon, toast to the internet.
“Elon starts to tell the chief designer all about his idea of multi-planetary species and there’s Elon, in his late twenties, and they don’t know him – he looks like he walked in off the street.
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“And they took that as a sign of disrespect.”
The engineer said the designer flew into a rage and started talking in “staccato Russian” – yelling “this is a machine of war, not a toy for some young kid from Silicon Valley… we’re talking life and death”.
“He spit on Elon’s shoes and he spit on my shoes,” Mr Cantrell said.
“Elon turned to me and said, ‘I think he spit on our shoes!’”
On the flight home, Mr Cantrell said Musk was still working away “really diligently” on his laptop while they sat back and relaxed with a couple of whiskeys.
When the pair poked fun at him, Musk reportedly turned around from a few rows in front and said: “F**k you both, I think we can build this rocket ourselves.
“I’ve got a spreadsheet… we’re going to build this when we get home.”
It was when Musk returned home that he decided to launch his own company – SpaceX.
The tech billionaire – now worth $215.4billion – has been able to amass an extensive fortune ever since from multiple business ventures.
His career in the business world dates back to 1995, when he and his brother Kimbal Musk started the software firm Zip2, which created internet city guides for the New York Times and Chicago Tribune.
Four years later, in February 1999, Compaq acquired the company for $307million in cash, giving Musk $22million for his seven per cent share from the sale.
Later in 1999, he then co-founded X.com, one of the world’s first online banks, which merged with PayPal the following year.
Musk then began investing in space travel when he tried to buy the Russian ballistic missiles that he hoped could send payloads into space.
Instead, he set out to build his own rockets through his firm SpaceX.
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The company has pioneered re-usable rockets and has successfully landed its Falcon 9 craft, a first for an orbital rocket.
SpaceX has won contracts to launch payloads into orbit for NASA and is now valued at more than $100billion, according to Business Insider.