SpaceX has announced it will send two tourists around the moon late next year. The company’s CEO Elon Musk, stated in a telephone news conference that the tourists have already paid a significant deposit for the journey, without disclosing the exact amount or the identity of the tourists. SpaceX, for those who don’t know, is a US-based private rocket company that aims to revolutionize space technology.
The two passengers would spend about a week inside one of one of SpaceX’s Dragon 2 capsules, launched on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, which has a listed price of $90 million. The automated spacecraft is set for its first unmanned test flight later this year.
Mr Musk said that the journey could not have been planned without the assistance of NASA, America’s space agency. To be sure, the space flight does not come without potential risks, and SpaceX has committed to do all it can to ensure that the risk level in minimized. The two passengers will undergo health and fitness tests, and will also begin initial training later this year.
Elon Musk said the company would do “everything we can to minimise” risks (Credit: Reuters)
Exciting as this space trip sounds, the flight will not actually be landing on the moon; the space tourists would make a loop around the Moon, skimming the lunar surface, and then going well beyond it. Nevertheless, the two passengers “will travel faster and further into the solar system than any before them,” according to Mr Musk. While SpaceX definitely has the technical capabilities to make this journey a reality, industry experts are in doubt if the journey could actually take place as early as 2018.
Space tourism can, at best, be described in its infancy. Seven space tourists have paid tens of millions of dollars to fly on Russian Soyuz rockets to visit the International Space Station, which is about 200 miles above the Earth’s surface. However, the SpaceX flight would be a much more distant trip, taking the capsule 300,000 to 400,000 miles from Earth. In fact, no astronauts have ventured beyond low-Earth orbit since the last of NASA’s Apollo moon landings in 1972, so the SpaceX flight would obviously be nothing short of extraordinary.