For most people, the explosion of a rocket at cape canaveral would be a life-defining episode. But for billionaire Elon Musk, yesterday's blast was merely another incident in a turbulent career and love life that reads like a rather improbable movie script.

Musk actually has a hollywood counterpart: he is one of the inspirations behind the character of tony stark, the playboy magnate and engineer played by Robert Downey jJ in the Iron Man films.

As a boy, he loved 007. As an adult, he bought the Lotus Esprit from the James Bond film the Spy Who Loved Me for around £600,000 (nz$1090,000), with a plan to fix it so it can transform into a submarine in real life.

The 45-year-old, whose personal wealth is estimated at around £9billion (nz$16 billion), portrays himself as a visionary on a mission to rescue humankind from global warming with solar technology and tesla electric cars.


Just in case he doesn't manage to save this planet, he wants to hedge his bets by setting up a human colony on Mars by 2040 - and toyed with the idea of landing a greenhouse to grow crops on the red planet.

South African by birth, Musk's spiritual home is california's Silicon Valley, where he has lived for the past two decades.

Armed with £18.6million (nz$33 million) in capital from his father, he set up a web software company that he later sold - netting him £14million.

His next venture was online payments firm Paypal, the sale of which to ebay propelled his net worth to well over £67million.

An intriguing mix of eccentric inventor and energetic lothario, he has been married three times.

Two of his nuptials have been to the same woman, Talulah Riley, a British actress known for films including St Trinian's and Pride and Prejudice.

His on-off relationship with Riley, 30, has been a dizzying affair that may not be over yet. The pair began dating in 2008 and first walked down the aisle in 2010. Two years later, musk called it off, tweeting: 'it was an amazing four years. I will love you forever.' but in July 2013, the pair remarried.

He filed for a second divorce in late 2014, only to think better of it. She then filed for divorce from him in march this year, but stoked speculation they might rekindle their romance, saying: 'he and I are very good at loving each other.'

The pair have no children together, but Musk had six sons with first wife justine.

Their first little boy, Nevada, died of sudden infant death syndrome at just ten weeks old and the couple went on to have five more sons by ivf: Twins Xavier and Griffin, and triplets Damian, Saxon and Kai.

But Justine claimed the marriage foundered because Musk was an icy and domineering figure who tried to force her into the mould of a blonde trophy wife.

Not everything has gone his way recently. As well as the rocket explosion, he is reportedly facing a cash squeeze at Tesla and his solarcity power business. This is not likely to deter him. He may sound more like a sci-fi fantasist than a serious businessman - but unlike most dreamers, he has turned at least some of his notions into hard cash.