Elon Musk's first name shows up in 1953 book about colonizing Mars

The freaky coincidence earned social buzz back in December, and now it's back in the news.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
2 min read

Elon Musk poses on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award on Dec. 1, 2020 in Berlin. 

Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images

Who doesn't love a weird, 60-plus-year-old coincidence? As if there aren't enough headlines about Elon Musk at the moment, a connection between his name and a decades-old book that seemed to eerily predict the billionaire's involvement in Mars exploration resurfaced this week.

In the 1950s, German-turned-American scientist Wernher von Braun (yes, the Nazis' leading rocket man), wrote a science fiction novel called The Mars Project. It takes place in then-distant 1980 and features human colonists on Mars whose leader uses the title "Elon." As in, oh, we don't know ... billionaire and SpaceX big shot, upcoming SNL host, and guy who wants us to get us to Mars?

The coincidence is hardly unknown. My CNET colleague Eric Mack wrote about it in 2018. It gained more notoriety when space reporter Toby Li tweeted about it in December 2020, writing, "Speaking about destiny, did you know that Von Braun's 1953 book "Mars Project," referenced a person named Elon that would bring humans to Mars? Pretty nuts."

Musk himself responded to the tweet suspiciously, tweeting back, "Are we sure this is real?"

And real it is, although as one Twitter user pointed out, "'Elon' referred by Von Braun in the book isn't the name of the person but rather the name of the position something like an elected meritocratic president."

Coincidences happen. "Elon" isn't the most common name these days, but baby-name site Nameberry says it's a Hebrew name meaning "oak tree."

It's also in the bible. "Before Musk arrived on the scene, Elon was the name of a Biblical judge," the Nameberry page for Elon notes. "Long obscure, naming your son Elon today would signal an admiration for Musk rather than the Good Book."

Speaking of names, Elon Musk and musician Grimes drew attention recently for naming their son X Æ A-12. That's pronounced "X Ash A Twelve," though his dad likes to call him "Baby X."