Like Hughes, Musk made his first foray as a businessman into the new media of the age—the early web, creating one of the first services to bring newspapers and local information online. And like Hughes, he would go on to develop major industrial businesses, cranking out rockets and electric cars instead of aircraft and mysterious submarines.

Thus far, Musk has commanded public attention through his controversial Twitter feed and the often live-streamed media events put on by his company. His legions of fans hang on his every word. But the billionaire hasn’t achieved his larger aims of popularizing space technology or making a “multi-planetary society” a key goal for global problem-solvers. SpaceX’s most popular YouTube videos have millions of views; a Tom Cruise blockbuster could be seen by tens of millions of people.

There are still plenty of details to emerge about this project, particularly around how much the space agency will subsidize it. But a major Hollywood production connected to the ISS would be a step forward—a giant leap, if you will—toward the future sought by NASA, where the US space agency is just one of many customers for the vehicles and habitats plying the space lanes closest to Earth.

Meanwhile, there is one trait that Musk, who has courted controversy in recent weeks by criticizing public health officials and scientists who are fighting the coronavirus pandemic, doesn’t share with Hughes: A fear of disease.

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