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Pishevar mined his prodigious contacts list and began assembling a board of luminaries, including Pay Pal alumnus David Sacks, former Obama spokesman Jim Messina, and X Prize creator Peter Diamandis.

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Shervin, the youngest of three, would read for hours in the bathroom, a quiet oasis in his home.Which made it all the more unusual that Musk also announced, in his paper, that he was open-sourcing the idea.What with Space X and Tesla, plus five children, he had his hands full, and he offered his brainchild for adoption by the world’s dreamers, no strings attached, to do with it what they would.But the difference between an intrepid moon shot and a misguided fantasy project often hinges entirely on the daredevil behind it. He is arguably a genius on his way to becoming a world-­historical figure.At Tesla and Space X, he has, through maniacal willpower, work ethic, focus, vision, and risk tolerance, repeatedly proved naysayers wrong by surmounting the seemingly insurmountable.“I sometimes get emotional about what he could have been if he’d been born here,” Pishevar said of his father.

“He put all his hopes and dreams into his children.” Pishevar became driven to vindicate his parents’ sacrifice while they could still experience it: “It scared the shit out of me — if they die and I haven’t actually succeeded, I can never forgive myself.” This urgency evolved into a honed efficiency after Pishevar’s marriage to his UC–Berkeley sweetheart ended and, in his mid-20s, he became a single father with sole custody of two young children.* As the internet took off and Pishevar started a couple of software companies back home in Maryland, he situated his office directly across from their apartment to eliminate a commute; the kids came to the office after day care, and Pishevar would hold board meetings at the apartment, where the kids would crawl between members’ legs.

And after years of sitting through thousands of investment pitches, he had come to believe that the scale of the idea worked in its favor.

This was a time of unparalleled access to capital and engineering talent, an optimal environment for launching moon shots.

journey into a 35-minute jaunt, it promised to be clean (100 percent self-sufficient, using solar-panel arrays on the tube), cheap (6 percent as expensive as California High Speed Rail), and glamorously futuristic (floating on what Musk called “air bearings”).

And in fact, though in the paper Musk worked through the engineering and economic problems in impressive detail, it received large quantities of professional skepticism: While physicists pointed out that the technology mostly already exists, various experts in transportation infrastructure and urban planning — people who dedicate entire careers to inching public-works projects along — found Musk laughably naïve about the difficulty of building such a thing.

Musk said he was too busy to take it on himself and had planned to open-source it anyway. Though Musk’s focus had been passengers, Pishevar was most interested in cargo.