SpaceX made a very important announcement this week highlighting the future of the commercial space company’s goals.
Nearing the end of 2018, SpaceX will attempt to send two private individuals to the Moon in the company’s Dragon Crew spacecraft. The two people have asked to remain anonymous at this point in time. They reportedly approached SpaceX with a large sum of money and the clear desire to visit the Moon and come back.
Image Credit: SpaceX
The amount of money involved in the deal hasn’t exactly been revealed to the public, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said it was just a bit more than the cost needed to send astronauts to the International Space Station.
The mission will launch from the same launch pad at Kennedy Space Center where the Apollo missions launched from and will take flight via a Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful rocket SpaceX has ever flown. This extra power certainly isn’t overkill, as the smaller Falcon 9 rockets are only designed for getting payloads to the International Space Station; the Moon is much more distant and requires more fuel to get to, hence the bigger rocket
The private space tourists won’t land on the Moon, which means they won't get the chance to grab some Moon rocks and bring them back home, but they will loop around Earth’s natural satellite and eventually return back to Earth afterwards. The whole process will be completely automated under SpaceX’s control.
Although this Dragon spacecraft hasn’t been widely tested in the real world yet, it will get its chance to prove itself later this year, when it sends its first US astronauts to the International Space Station. Unmanned dockings with Dragon have already taken place on the International Space Station, which does show they’re ready for space.
The launch is expected to be very similar to those that NASA astronauts experienced in the very first government-funded Apollo missions just decades ago. In fact, this will be the first time humans have ventured so far into space since those times, making this quite the milestone for not only SpaceX, but for mankind.
The private individuals are expected to begin health and fitness tests prior to starting their space training this year, which will prepare them for the launch and the feeling of weightlessness in the middle of a micro-gravitational environment, as well as educating them on what to do in emergencies, should they happen.
NASA is reportedly in full support of the new initiative set by SpaceX, “NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher,” the agency said in a statement. “We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station.
As it would seem, space tourism, which was once thought to be a kind of futuristic fantasy, is actually happening, and things are about to become very real for everyone.