Breaking down Elon Musk's surprise, sold-out talk at SXSW

If any SXSW guest could pack the Moody Theater overnight, it's this guy.

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Jessica Conditt
Jessica Conditt|@JessConditt|March 12, 2018 8:29 AM

An email sent in the dead of night on Saturday revealed that Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, would appear at SXSW for a surprise Q&A session. By 8:30 the following morning, the Moody Theater was sold out; by noon, when Musk was scheduled to take the stage, the arena was packed.

Musk, prodded along by Westworld co-creator Jonathan Nolan, started by talking about his goals for SpaceX and the future of interstellar travel. Audience members submitted questions on a private network, and the first asked how everyday people could help get humans to Mars. Musk's answer essentially boiled down to "I appreciate your support, but I got this."

Though Musk has his hand in myriad industries -- transportation, energy, artificial intelligence and space, to name a few -- interplanetary travel was the star of the conversation. Early on, the lights dimmed as Nolan introduced the Falcon Heavy & Starman video that hit YouTube over the weekend, highlighting the recent, successful Falcon Heavy launch that put a Tesla in space.

Musk and Nolan's onstage talk was casual and meandering, littered with tidbits about Musk's work habits, his plans for the future and the more terrifying realities of artificial intelligence.

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Breaking down Elon Musk's surprise, sold-out talk at SXSW