SpaceX Starship

Tesla and SpaceX Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk speaks at the SATELLITE Conference and Exhibition in Washington. AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File

Time magazine has named Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, as its 2021 Person of the Year, calling him “the man who aspires to save our planet and get us a new one to inhabit.”

Edward Felsenthal, Time’s editor in chief, wrote in a profile of Musk on Monday that the magazine’s Person of the Year – a nearly century-old tradition – highlights people of influence, and that “few individuals have had more influence than Musk on life on Earth, and potentially life off Earth too.”

“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,” Felsenthal added.

In 2021, Musk, who has gone back and forth with Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos as the wealthiest person in the world, made history – at least his spaceflight company did. In September, SpaceX launched Inspiration4, the first all-civilian crew to reach orbit.

Musk’s company was also selected by NASA to help develop spacecraft to land astronauts on the moon.

According to Time magazine:

“This is the man who aspires to save our planet and get us a new one to inhabit: clown, genius, edgelord, visionary, industrialist, showman, cad; a madcap hybrid of Thomas Edison, P.T. Barnum, Andrew Carnegie and Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan, the brooding, blue-skinned man-god who invents electric cars and moves to Mars. His start-up rocket company, SpaceX, has leapfrogged Boeing and others to own America’s spacefaring future. His car company, Tesla, controls two-thirds of the multibillion-dollar electric-vehicle market it pioneered and is valued at a cool $1 trillion. That has made Musk, with a net worth of more than $250 billion, the richest private citizen in history, at least on paper. He’s a player in robots and solar, cryptocurrency and climate, brain-computer implants to stave off the menace of artificial intelligence and underground tunnels to move people and freight at super speeds. He dominates Wall Street: ‘The way finance works now is that things are valuable not based on their cash flows but on their proximity to Elon Musk,’ Bloomberg columnist Matt Levine wrote in February, after Musk’s “Gamestonk!!” tweet vaulted the meme-stock craze into the stratosphere.”

The multibillionaire has also elicited scorn over the years – even more so over the course of the pandemic as he spread misinformation about the coronavirus and downplayed the risks.

NBC’s announcement earlier this year that he would host “Saturday Night Live” drew intense backlash, including from SNL cast members. Shortly after the news, Musk tweeted, “Let’s find out just how live Saturday Night Live really is,” adding a purple devil emoji.

When Musk appeared on the show in May, he revealed possibly for the first time that he is on the autism spectrum.

“I’m actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL,” he said on the show. “Or at least the first to admit it. So I won’t make a lot of eye contact with the cast tonight. But don’t worry, I’m pretty good at running ‘human’ in emulation mode.”

(Former SNL cast member Dan Aykroyd has been vocal about his own Asperger’s diagnosis.)

Time’s Person of the Year designation is not necessarily an award; it is an acknowledgment of a person or group of people who have influenced society. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris received the nod in 2020, and teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg received it in 2019.

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