SpaceX will fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon in 2018, the company’s founder Elon Musk announced Monday (Feb. 27).
The private spaceflight company will use its Falcon Heavy rocket to send the two paying passengers into space aboard one of the company’s Dragon spacecraft. The two private citizens, who have not yet been named, approached SpaceX about taking a trip around the moon, and have “already paid a significant deposit” for the cost of the mission, according to a statement from the company. The names of the two individuals will be announced later, pending the result of initial health tests to ensure their fitness for the mission, the statement said.
“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 be the only people on board what is expected to be about a weeklong trip around the moon, according to Musk, who spoke with reporters during a phone conference today.
“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 during the teleconference. “So I’m guessing, distance-wise, maybe [300,000] or 400,000 miles [about 500,000 to 650,000 kilometers].”
The moon flight is scheduled to launch afterSpaceX flies NASA astronauts to the International Space Station as a part of the Commercial Crew Program. Right now, SpaceX is planning to make an uncrewed flight of its crew-carrying Dragon spacecraft to the space station this year, and its first crewed flights are expected to happen in mid-2018, according to Musk. (However, a recent reportsuggests that those dates maybe pushed back.) That means the Falcon 9 and Dragon crew capsule will be approved for human spaceflight by NASA before the moon mission takes place.