SpaceX this week unveiled a bold plan to send two private citizens around the moon by the end of next year.
CEO Elon Musk told reporters Monday that the paying customers would “do a long loop around the moon” aboard one of SpaceX’s Dragon 2 capsules. The company plans to use its Falcon Heavy rocket, scheduled to make its maiden flight this summer, to launch the Dragon 2 into space.
Musk was vague on how much the two potential private space travelers would pay for their trip, but one would think the cost of such an endeavor would narrow it down to a relatively short list of the world’s ultra rich — the Falcon Heavy rocket alone costs $90 million, according to SpaceX. Musk did say the moon mission would cost a little more than a manned trip to the International Space Station. The pair’s names haven’t been revealed, but SpaceX said they have paid a “significant deposit.”
SpaceX said the flight would be automated, but the two space travelers will be trained to respond to emergencies.
The short timeline sets an ambitious goal for a company that has struggled to make deadlines in the past. The Falcon Heavy rocket, for example, was scheduled to fly in 2013, and both the Falcon Heavy and Dragon 2 that SpaceX said will carry its tourists to the moon are still under development.
The company has yet to make a manned spaceflight but has a contract with NASA to take astronauts to ISS, a mission scheduled for next spring. A recent Government Accountability Office report, however, stated that might not happen until 2019.
If and when SpaceX pulls off its space tourism flight, it will be the first trip of of that distance in more than 45 years. The most recent manned spacecraft to travel to the moon was Apollo 17, which landed on the lunar surface in 1972.