People like Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Nikola Tesla and even Elon Musk today, that make us look up, innovate and think way out there, bring us together and remind us we are all on this planet together and can do amazing things if we choose to put our energy towards it.
Tesla, Hawking, and Sagan are lumped together because they were brilliant scientists who's work furthered humanity. Those are attributes that we wish for others to emulate, so we put them on a pedestal.
Over the last few decades our society (usa) has been shifting slowly slightly further towards an everyone-for-themselves (and unequal) type of culture. So Elon's story, as described above, is another example of intelligence used in pursuit of human furtherment, that many would want similarly put on a pedestal for emulation.
He may not be a scientist, engineer or inventor but he inspires and empowers scientists and inventors so that counts for something.
Even if his ego should potentially have cosmic objects orbiting it.
The booster rockets returning to Earth in unison and on the barge originally, both were amazing moments that were almost as impactful as the space race accomplishments during the Apollo program. Definitely exciting that it is a reality that is happening not just hope, Musk has amazing teams and funding but he is using all that to accomplish these things instead of just getting richer, risking his personal wealth many times over for these goals.
Sagan would probably be thrilled with SpaceX.
Then you have Tesla electric cards rocking the electric car / battery industry and making it business ready today.
Nikola Tesla would be thrilled with Tesla and battery power to lessen reliance on the electric grid.
Then you got solar homes and batteries along with the SpaceX accomplishments in rocketry, that you can start to put together and see the uses for interstellar travel and harsh planet settlement.
Hawking would be thrilled at the interstellar travel part as he has been warning humans to look for other places for years and thinks we must be interstellar within hundreds of years to survive.
Musk is more of a business focused guy but he is making people look up and is accomplishing these tasks by challenging big competitors and ultimately his products will be good for Earth. That is amazing in my book.
Feynman liked making everyone interested in science and talked to people with the aims of understanding not just being smart, he'd be thrilled that Musk is bringing amazing scientific achievement to regular people's lives.
IMO, the google founders have had a far larger impact on the world than Elon, however, they don’t promote themselves endlessly.
Musk is definitely one of those, just in a different way.
One of these is certainly not like the others.
May he rest in peace.