Trailblazer or also ran
Elon Musk's achievements are in the area of perseverance, inspiration and management, not technology. Modern rocket science began with Robert Hutchings Goddard in the Western U.S. deserts. The U.S. military was not interested. Somehow he got funding. The Third Reich routinely got copies of all his discoveries and inventions through the U.S. Patent office. The experiments of Werner von Braun and others during the NAZI reign further aided rocketry. President Eisenhower did not want to use military rocketry, which Braun was working on as part of a NAZI amnesty program at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, and attempted to use "civilian" assets for space exploration. Space planes, X-1, etc., were being developed way back then. When the Soviets launched Sputnik the rules changed in a hurry. NASA was formed but used a lot of military technology. Personnel was drawn from the military. The whole space cadre did pioneer work in full view of the public. With lives on the line, I never recall NASA or their contractors ever sugar coated anything. Having graduated from the University once nicknamed the "college of quarterbacks and astronauts" during that time period, we were kept apprised of developments in the space race. The intonations that Elon Musk and Space X is somehow superior to those individuals could not be more "bass ackwards". Congress cut funding for the programs private contractors are now working on 30 years ago. Gus Grissom almost drowned when his capsule, not nearly as tall, was inverted. So, why anyone thought a rocket would stand on it's tail in an ocean is beyond me. Should have been expected, not a failure. The real trailblazers were in NASA and should be credited, not denigrated.