Elon Musk’s SpaceX will launch a crewed mission beyond the moon for two private paying customers in 2018, it has been revealed.
It will be the first time in 45 years humans have been in deep space, said the company, promising its mission will go ‘faster and further’ than any humans before them.
The week-long mission will take place some time in late 2018 and will ‘skim the surface of the moon’ then venture into deep space before returning to Earth, Musk revealed.
The identity of the customers and how much they paid has been kept secret.
SpaceX expects the mission to take place some time in late 2018, after it sends a crewed NASA Dragon craft to the International Space Station.
‘We have been approached by private individuals,’ said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, after announcing the mission by tweeting ‘fly me to the moon… ok’.
‘This is a private mission with paying customers, who have placed significant deposits,’ Musk said, but added that they have so far not authorized the company to reveal their names.
Musk said the individuals know each other and are ‘very serious’ about the flight
‘This is a really exciting thing that’s happened,’ Musk told reporters.
The mission will use one of SpaceX’s Dragon capsules, which will be modified to allow communications in deep space.
Musk said it would be roughly the cost of a crewed mission to the International Space Station, and that other flight crews have already expressed interest in later flights.
‘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,’ SpaceX said.
The mission would ‘do a long loop around the moon’ and would take about a week.
‘It would skim the surface of the moon, go quite a bit further out into deep space’ and then return to Earth, Musk said.
‘There is some risk here,’ he said, adding the hopeful passengers are not ‘naive’ about the dangers.
SpaceX will begin holding health and fitness tests later this year, it 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 said.
‘Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results.’
To complete the mission, the company will have to invest in deep space communication technology, which will also be important for the company’s planned trips to Mars.
The Dragon will be capable of operating autonomously throughout the whole flight, but the passengers will be trained in emergency procedures.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, is a key enabler for this mission, SpaceX said.
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