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Elon Musk has been named Time's 2021 Person of the Year

The rise of Elon Musk's SpaceX
The rise of Elon Musk's SpaceX 05:09

Time magazine named Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk as its 2021 Person of the Year on Monday. Time's editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal explained the decision to pick the richest man on Earth, saying he was emblematic of 2021 and the year's most influential person. 

"Person of the Year is a marker of influence, and few individuals have had more influence than Musk on life on Earth, and potentially life off Earth too," Felsenthal wrote. "In 2021, Musk emerged not just as the world's richest person but also as perhaps the richest example of a massive shift in our society." 

He described the shift in how rich entrepreneurs and their priorities are shaping the lives of many, amid a deepening economic inequality crisis that was exacerbated during the pandemic. Yet he said Musk stands out from that group. 

"For creating solutions to an existential crisis, for embodying the possibilities and the perils of the age of tech titans, for driving society's most daring and disruptive transformations, Elon Musk is TIME's 2021 Person of the Year," Felsenthal added.

Elon Musk on the cover of Time magazine's 2021 "Person of the Year" edition
Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, on the cover of Time magazine's 2021 "Person of the Year" edition, released December 13, 2021. Mark Mahaney for TIME/ via REUTERS

This year, Musk became the first person ever to be worth more than $300 billion. The 50-year-old continued to endear fans (and investors) with his ambitions. He discussed plans for Tesla to build a humanoid robot and aims to have a prototype ready by next year. Meanwhile, Tesla turned into a trillion-dollar company over the last year, as the U.S. continues to see a push for more electric vehicles

SpaceX, Musk's other signature company, launched an all-civilian, non-astronaut crew to space in September, opening the doors for more "everyday people" to do the same. 

"We don't yet know how fully Tesla, SpaceX and the ventures Musk has yet to think up will change our lives," Felsenthal said. "At 50, he has plenty of time to write the future, his own and ours. Like it or not, we are now in Musk's world."

Musk also routinely caused tidal waves with tweets to his more than 66 million followers. He's been blamed for causing a crypto crash and sold $5 billion worth of Tesla stock after a Twitter poll. Musk also grabbed headlines by offering to donate to end world hunger — if the United Nations could show how they'd spend the money. On a personal note, Musk revealed he has Asperger's when he hosted "Saturday Night Live" in May. 

In its latest issue, Time also honored four scientists who developed mRNA vaccines as 2021's "Heroes of the Year" — praising them for a "breakthrough of singular importance" that's helping protect millions of people against COVID-19.

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