The private space company is planning to send humans to the moon next year.
SpaceX announced yesterday that two citizens have approached the company, expressing an interest in travelling to the moon. The two paid a significant deposit to SpaceX, who have agreed to the journey and are planning to conduct the mission late next year. Other groups have expressed similar interests, and SpaceX has said that there will likely be more missions to follow. Health and fitness tests, as well as initial training, is expected to begin later this year. More information on the identity of the flight teams will be released, pending their approval, once health and fitness tests have been completed.
The flight team will make the journey aboard a Dragon 2 capsule, developed in tandem (and with much funding by) NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The Dragon will sit atop the Falcon Heavy rocket, a currently in-development launch vehicle for SpaceX due to take off for its first test flight this summer. The Falcon Heavy will be the second most powerful rocket developed, producing 2/3 of the thrust of NASA’s Saturn V that was used in the original moon missions, but twice as powerful as anything in use by space agencies today.
In preparation for the mission, SpaceX plans to send its first crew-edition Dragon to the ISS later this year. That flight will be conducted with an empty capsule on autopilot, but a subsequent crewed mission will take place in the second quarter of 2018. SpaceX is currently under contract with NASA to fly four Dragon missions to the ISS per year, three with a cargo-fitted Dragon, and one transporting crew. NASA has encouraged private missions in addition to the contracted ones, saying that it will lower government costs and demonstrate reliability.
Once crewed missions are underway for the Dragon 2, which was designed specifically for that purpose, SpaceX will push ahead with their moon mission. The flight crew will not land, but are planning to journey to the moon, circumnavigate it, and then return safely to the Earth. The historic flight will lift off from Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A, the same launch pad that was used in the 60s to first send humans to the moon. It will mark humanity’s first deep-space venture in more than 45 years, and an opportunity to help push our reach further towards the stars.