Elon Musk’s private spaceflight company, SpaceX, has revealed that it received a request to send two people on a trip around the moon in 2018. The passengers, whose identity will remain anonymous for the time being, were prepared to put down a hefty deposit to secure the flight, according to company representatives.
SpaceX plans to use the Falcon Heavy rocket to launch the passengers up into space on their Dragon spacecraft. The identity of the citizens will eventually be released following the outcome of preliminary health tests to ensure that they are fit enough to withstand the mission.
“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,” according to spokespersons for SpaceX in a statement issued.
The journey is expected to take around a week, following a loop around the moon and back to Earth which would measure a distance of about 600,000 km. It is scheduled to take off after the SpaceX carries out a crewed mission of NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. Therefore, the spacecraft will be deemed safe to carry humans onboard by the time the private flight comes around.
Musk insisted that NASA would always take priority over private clients. The Dragon spacecraft is designed to operate automatically, for the most part, so the passengers, who will be the only two people onboard, will have to have some emergency procedure training but would not need to operate the spacecraft. Additionally, the crew capsule would be upgraded to a more advanced communications system for longer distances.
Musk refused to reveal the actual cost of the mission however, he hinted that it would amount to slightly more than a crewed mission to International Space Station, which could be “anywhere from $1.3 billion to $433 million per flight.”
He elaborated that this trip would push the boundaries for further deep space exploration and assist SpaceX’s ambitions of ultimately achieving “a self-sustaining civilization on Mars and making humanity multiplanetary.”