SpaceX has announced it will be sending two people around the moon on a private voyage. The launch date is due in 2018. The flight will use the, currently untested, Falcon Heavy rocket. If SpaceX achieves this feat they will be the first agency- national or otherwise- in decades to run a manned lunar mission.
In their statement SpaceX confirmed the passengers- who know each other- have made a “significant” deposit. Musk has put the cost in the same bracket as Roscosmos’ shuttle survice to the International Space Station, a cool $70m per person. This is really great value though, the ISS orbits 400km above Earth, while the moon is 384,400km away.
The two unknown passengers will have to pass a battery of health and fitness tests as lunar flight is no joke for our bodies. Some psychological preparation might be necessary if they end up stuck on the other side too. Musk said the spacecraft in question had a “quite high” success rate and that the passenger had “their eyes open” about the risks. If the missions is a success billionaires could be queuing up to board. Providing large amounts of capital for a technology that is a fraction of what we need for interstellar travel. Government funding for projects is up in the air.
SpaceX needed NASA
Rumblings of shifting NASA away from climate science and towards deep space may be a politically motivated move, however what is certain is the future of privatised space travel now the ball has started rolling. The Dragon spacecraft is the vehicle for the journey. NASA played a very important role in the development of the craft. The Commercial Crew Program provided most of the funding for the reuseable spacecraft; future iterations of which Musk hopes will ferry humans to Mars.
Encouraging privately chartered missions the frequency and effectiveness of spaceflight can be harnessed like never before. Elon Musk’s companies have a habit of utilising government funding and grants, to the ire of some. The disruptive tactics used in Musk’s businesses try to find ways to improve humanity, not just the bottom line.