SpaceX Wants to Fly Two Bourgies Around the Moon Next Year

Image: SpaceX
Image: SpaceX

Well, here’s a bit of space news we weren’t expecting: Today, future Martian overlord and SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced that in 2018, the company intends to fly two private citizens around the Moon in its Dragon 2 spacecraft, carried to orbit by its extremely powerful, not-yet-tested Falcon Heavy rocket. While the voyagers’ names have not been disclosed, according to SpaceX, a “significant deposit” has already been made.

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“This is a really exciting thing that’s happened,” Elon Musk told reporters at a press conference. “We’ve been approached to do a crewed mission beyond the Moon...[and these passengers] are very serious about it. We plan to do that probably [with the] Dragon 2 spacecraft with the Falcon Heavy rocket.”

According to Musk, the trip will last approximately one week. The passengers will travel beyond the Moon and loop back to Earth, covering a distance of 300,000 to 400,000 miles. While the passengers will undergo some sort of training beforehand, it’s unclear if the two have any experience with piloting, nevermind spaceflight.

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The mission, although unrelated to NASA’s plan to slingshot astronauts around the Moon in several years’ time using the SLS rocket and the Orion capsule, was made possible in part by funding SpaceX has received to develop its human spaceflight technology through NASA’s commercial crew program.

SpaceX is planning to fly an uncrewed Dragon 2 to the ISS by the end of the year. In 2018, the company intends to send its first crewed Dragon 2 the ISS, followed by this newly-announced trip around the moon. It’s worth noting, however, that SpaceX’s timeline for crewed missions has already slipped—initially, the company planned to begin sending astronauts to the ISS in 2017. Elon Musk is notorious for not quite meeting his ambitious, often self-imposed deadlines.

This won’t be the last time we see this sort of voyage from SpaceX, however—according to Musk, the company is “expected to do more than one mission of this nature,” and that it could be a “significant driver of revenue.”

Money can’t buy you happiness, but apparently, it can buy you one sweet vacation?

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Space Writer, Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

That timeline seems unlikely to me. Falcon Heavy has been pushed back since 2012, and he’d need to have it ready (along with the capsule) in less than two years.

And why make a big show of announcing it now, rather than when he’s actually about to do it? A cynical person would say that Musk is doing what he often does when some negative press is circulating about him or one of his businesses, namely “announce some cool new thing”.

While the passengers will undergo some sort of training beforehand, it’s unclear if the two have any experience with piloting, nevermind spaceflight.

This might be simpler than it looks. If they’re just sending it on a free return trajectory around the Moon, then they don’t need the people on board to do anything - it could be completely controlled by programming and mission control back home on Earth.