Over the weekend, and after being delayed twice, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket made a successful launch to transport materials to the International Space Station. It was a triumph for the nascent private space-flight industry, even though the second part of the trip, an ambitious attempt to land the reusable rocket safely, didn't work out as planned.
It wasn't good enough for SpaceX founder Elon Musk. "Close, but no cigar," he tweeted on Saturday. SpaceX is already prepping for its next test in February.
In the meantime, the always-busy Musk is toggling his focus to his second pioneering company, the electric carmaker Tesla. Musk will take the stage at the International Auto Show in Detroit on Tuesday, where the brash CEO is expected to criticize a new upcoming fleet of hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles being presented at the show by automakers like BMW, Volkswagen, and Toyota. Musk's beef with fuel cell technology is that it's too expensive to be commercially viable.
His outspoken personality and perfectionism is not just an onstage persona. A hands-on leader who claims to clock 100-hour work weeks, Musk can be notoriously difficult to work for, at least if you're "normal."
"I have OCD on product-related issues," Musk told The Wall Street Journal. "I always see what's wrong. Would you want that? When I see a car or a rocket or spacecraft, I see only what's wrong. I never see what's right. It's not a recipe for happiness."
That sentiment was backed up by several current and former employees who spoke to the Journal.
"[Musk] is very, very demanding, and it's not the right speed for a lot of people," said Tesla's VP of PR, Ricardo Reyes. "He pushes really hard, and it's mission driven. It's constant activity. He used to say that he wanted only 'special forces' working for him. No normal people."
Last year a former SpaceX engineer took to Quora to anonymously share his experience working for Musk.
"If you believe that a task should take a year then Elon wants it done in a week. He won't hesitate to throw out six months of work because it's not pretty enough or it's not 'badass' enough. But in so doing he doesn't change the schedule," read the Quora post. According to the unnamed engineer, even the brightest and hardest working members of the SpaceX team would often feel "defeated" after meeting with Musk.
"Nothing you ever do will be good enough, so you have to find your own value, not depending on praise to get you through your obviously insufficient 80-hour work weeks," the post continued.
This tension in the workplace, led by Musk's driven passion for perfectionism, has sometimes backfired, leading employees to fear openly questioning and disagreeing with Musk. Those who do muster enough courage to question their leader don't end up working for him for too long, according to the Journal report. Constant turnover is a cause for concern at Tesla and SpaceX, as most of their developments take years to complete.