6. Elon Musk wanted to buy rockets. He contacted the Russians in 2001, however, they asked for an exorbitant price and did not take him seriously. As a result, Musk told aerospace consultant Jim Cantrell who was working with him that they would build the rockets themselves.
Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, wanted to buy rockets in 2001. He knew that Russians could sell him rockets at reasonable prices. In October 2001, Elon traveled to Moscow with Jim Cantrell, an aerospace supplies fixer, and Adeo Ressi to buy refurbished Dnepr Intercontinental ballistic missiles.
They together met a group of companies. However, during the meetings, Elon was seen as a novice and was consequently spat on by one of the Russian chief designers. Again, in 2002, the trio met the same company. This time, the company was willing to sell him a rocket but at an exorbitant price of US$8 million for one rocket. Elon felt the rocket was too expensive and stormed out of the meeting.
Finally, he decided to build his rockets and founded SpaceX in May 2002. He borrowed books from Jim Cantrell and started reading about rocketry. He pitched to experts and created a network of advisors.
On May 30, 2020, SpaceX successfully launched two NASA astronauts into orbit on a Crew Dragon spacecraft during SpaceX Demo-2, making SpaceX the first private company to send astronauts to the International Space Station. (1, 2)
7. Martine Rothblatt found out that her daughter had been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, pulmonary hypertension. At that time, there was no cure for this disease. She started reading biological textbooks and discovered a molecule that could cure her daughter. Later on, she created a company and saved thousands of lives.
Martine Rothblatt, a lawyer, found out that her daughter, Jenesis, was suffering from pulmonary hypertension in the 1990s. In an interview, she mentioned that, “The doctors said, ‘There are no medicines approved for it; she’s got maybe three months to live… I felt like my only purpose in life now was not to help move to the stars with satellites and stuff like that. It was to save Jenesis. So, I just stopped everything I was doing.”
She started reading biological textbooks, looking for a cure – and she actually found one. She found one specific molecule that might be able to help. Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline owned the molecule but didn’t want to develop it.
She gathered a scientific team to convince Glaxo to let her buy the rights, founding the company now called “United Therapeutics” in 1994. Today, her daughter is healthy and alive. Her company has saved thousands of lives. (1, 2)
8. King Henry VIII wanted to annul his marriage to his first wife. However, the Catholic Pope did not permit him. So, Henry VIII broke his ties with the Pope and created his new church, The Church of England, in the 1530s.
King Henry VIII wanted a male heir for the throne. However, his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, had borne him only a daughter. Meanwhile, he became infatuated with one of his wife’s ladies-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn. She became pregnant.
She refused to become his mistress and asked him to marry her. Henry VIII asked the Pope for his permission to annul his first marriage. The Pope argued against the divorce and did not give his permission. Henry VIII made various attempts to convince the Pope but nothing happened.
Therefore, King Henry VIII passed the Act of Succession and then the Act of Supremacy in 1534. These recognized that the King was the only supreme head of the Church of England called “Anglicana Ecclesia.”
9. While managing computers in a laboratory in 1986, Clifford Stoll noticed that an unauthorized user used the Internet without paying money. Although the amount was just 75 cents, he saw a potential hacker. He approached various US agencies, like the FBI. However, the FBI was not willing to share any information for such an amount. Finally, he pursued the investigation on his own and caught the hacker.
Clifford Stoll used to manage computers at Lawrence Berkeley National Authority in California. One day in 1986, his supervisor asked him to check an error of 75 cents in the computer usage account. Clifford realized that this error was due to a non-payment of unauthorized use of the computer for nine seconds.
While any other manager might have ignored it, Clifford did not take it lightly. He began tracing the hacker. However, he knew that he could not do it alone. He approached different investigation agencies. One of them was the FBI. However, the FBI felt the issue was trivial and did not pay much attention to it.
These adversities did not deter Clifford. He pursued the investigation on his own. Stoll kept a daily logbook of the hacker’s activities. Eventually, he found out that the hacker had stolen multiple passwords, pirated various computer accounts, and even attempted to breach US military security.
The FBI soon realized the gravity of the issue and decided to help Clifford. They set up a trap for Markus Hess, the hacker, and caught him. In the coming years, Clifford became the icon of cybersecurity in the world. (1, 2, 3)
10. During World War II, Juan Pujol García, a Spaniard, approached British and American intelligence to offer them his spy services, but both countries rebuffed him. Finally, he faked his death and created his own counter-intelligence operation for the Allies.
During the Spanish Civil War, Juan Pujol Garcia, a Spaniard, developed hatred towards the fascist regimes. He wanted to help the Allies. Juan contacted both British and American intelligence agencies in 1939, but both rejected his offer.
Determined to help, he faked his death and created a false identity. Juan met German officials and pretended to be a pro-Nazi Spanish government official. He convinced them and became a successful German agent. He was instructed to travel to Britain and recruit additional agents; instead, he moved to Lisbon and created bogus reports about Britain from a variety of public sources.
He invented fictitious sub-agents who could be blamed for false information and mistakes. Eventually, he made the German fund a network of 27 agents, all fictitious. His reports were intercepted by the British Ultra communications interceptions program and seemed so credible that the British counter-intelligence service, MI5, launched a full-scale spy hunt. The Allies realized their mistake and accepted Juan’s spy services in 1942. (1, 2)