The Thrust of It

After three failed attempts, SpaceX, a private rocket company with headquarters in Hawthorne, California, successfully launched its Falcon 1 rocket into orbit from a tiny atoll in the Marshall Islands. Speaking to employees afterward, SpaceX founder Elon Musk (see "Entrepreneur of the Year," December 2007) said, "A lot of people thought we couldn't do it -- a lot, actually'¦[Reaching orbit] is normally a country thing, not a company thing." To cheers, he declared, "The future of SpaceX is really great." The company plans as many as eight launches in 2009.

Going for the Gold

Thousands of companies from around the world, including Adidas and Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), competed for sponsorship gold at the Beijing Olympics in August. In a clever marketing coup, Chico's, a Florida-based women's apparel retailer and past Inc. 500 honoree, signed Debbie Phelps, the mom of swimmer and prolific gold medalist Michael, to an exclusive endorsement deal, reportedly in the low six figures. "I was like, 'Wow, Mom's getting some love, too," says Michael, who has endorsement deals with Speedo and Visa (NYSE:V). "She texted me the other day and said, 'You know, I'm travelling so much for these events and I'm tired.' And I told her, 'That's something you've got to get used to mom."

Marketers of the Year

In a vote held at the annual conference of the Association of National Advertisers, the most influential marketers of 2008 were selected. The winners:

1. Barack Obama

2. Apple

3. Zappos