ASCE has honored Elon Musk, A.M.ASCE, with the 2018 Columbia Medal for his demonstrated and continuing excellence in pushing the state of the art of designing, building, flying, and landing reusable orbital rockets, changing the access to space commercially, and advancing the leading edge in transportation and electrical vehicles.
Musk is the founder, CEO of Tesla and the founder, CEO and lead designer at SpaceX. SpaceX was the first commercial company to successfully launch a rocket into orbit, in 2008, and more recently, land the first stage booster back on land or a barge on the water and then reuse the booster on subsequent rocket launches. This is a tremendous feat long thought impractical and impossible to achieve, resulting in a paradigm shift for the launch provider market by lowering costs and forcing innovation across the board. Over 10 years of launches and continuous improvements have now led to SpaceX having successfully launched more rockets (16 so far in 2017) than any other company or country, carrying payloads for NASA, DOD, commercial providers, and universities.
In addition to his performance with SpaceX, he is challenging the status quo with other companies that are civil engineering related. One such firm he founded is the Boring Company, which is creating tunnels under Los Angeles to relieve congestion; another is the electric-car manufacturer Tesla. Tesla also owns Solar City, which makes solar power generation and power storage installations for electric car battery recharging and home storage, but also larger installations such as for a hospital in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Musk is also involved with the hyperloop concept, which aims to transport people and goods in evacuated tubes. All of these endeavors will have a tremendous effect on the way transportation and energy solutions will proceed in the next decade.
The Columbia Medal is granted for sustained outstanding contribution to the advancement of aerospace engineering, sciences, and technology in at least one of the following areas: teaching, research, design, development, planning, construction, management, or direct participation in spaceborne missions and/or ground-support activities.