Space from the perspective of Planet Earth seems almost like a fantasy, except that science and technology continue to make it more tangible. And ever since humans first walked on the moon back in 1969, many people have dreamt of stepping off our planet to explore the very mysterious universe in which we all live.
Now, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is making space more than just a place for astronauts to explore, announcing plans to send two tourists to the moon. The mission, which could happen as soon as 2018, reportedly cost a pretty penny from each participant. It has not been released who the two private citizens are, however, but sources say they must undergo fitness and health tests before they begin training this year.
“Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration,” SpaceX representatives said in the statement.
The two passengers will have the incredible luxury of being the only people on board during an anticipated weeklong trip around the moon.
“This would be a long loop around the moon … It would skim the surface of the moon, go quite a bit further out into deep space and then loop back to Earth,” Musk said. “So I’m guessing, distance-wise, maybe [300,000] or 400,000 miles [about 500,000 to 650,000 kilometers].”
The individual will be aboard a Crew Dragon, or Dragon Version 2, which has never travelled to space. Dragon capsules have been to the International Space Station (ISS), but the crew version of the vessel and its life-support equipment will blast off at the end of this year for the first time to the ISS. As of yet, the name of the mission is unknown.
Regarding the cost of the mission, Musk noted, “I … can’t say the exact cost, that’s confidential. It would be comparable to maybe a little more than what the cost of a crewed mission to the space station would be.”
Currently, NASA dishes out an estimated $80 million per seat on the three-person Russian Soyuz vehicle. For SpaceX’s introductory commercial crew contract with NASA, they paid $2.6 billion, and were required to ensure a minimum of two and up to six flights to the station on the Dragon capsule, capable of carrying seven passengers at a time. That means a cost of anywhere between $1.3 billion to $433 million per flight.
Musk explained that the historic trip to the moon hopefully brings the company closer to sending humans to Mars. “This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the Solar System than any before them.”
“The goal for SpaceX, from its founding in 2002, has been to accelerate … space exploration, ultimately with the idea of a self-sustaining civilization on Mars and making humanity multiplanetary,” Musk said. “So a critical step along the way is getting to know what it’s like to have people in deep space.”
NASA released a statement on the announcement of SpaceX’s groundbreaking mission to the moon, saying they applaud their “industry partners for reaching higher.” Musk and SpaceX attributed NASA for making the mission possible.
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