For the first time in the history of space travel, private citizens will be flying to the moon. This one is no rumor as the news was shared with the world in a tweet by Elon Musk himself.
Two civilians have approached SpaceX and paid a significant amount for a moon trip by the end of 2018 on the SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. It has hardly been over a week since SpaceX launched its Dragon spacecraft into the orbit successfully. However this time, the same craft will have a crew. SpaceX will conduct health and fitness tests for the two unnamed citizens. The initial training for these two persons will also begin this year.
The mission will be the circumnavigation of the moon after which the craft will return to Earth. Just like the launch of Falcon 9 earlier this month, the lift-off plans to be from the historic Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A near Cape Canaveral. This launch pad is the same as the previous one used for the successful Apollo mission.
The press release by SpaceX talks about the Dragon spacecraft which was originally designed to carry humans. The craft will carry out several unmanned missions before the crewed missions in late 2018. SpaceX has a contract with NASA to perform four missions to the international space station every year.
“Later this year, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, we will launch our Crew Dragon (Dragon Version 2) spacecraft to the International Space Station. This first demonstration mission will be in automatic mode, without people on board. A subsequent mission with crew is expected to fly in the second quarter of 2018.”
The announcement was much-anticipated, and people were expecting it to be a mission to Mars. But, the press release does not close the possibilities of it:
“These missions will build upon that heritage, extending it to deep space mission operations, an important milestone as we work towards our ultimate goal of transporting humans to Mars.”
We await the next missions to the moon to see what the future of space exploration looks like.