SpaceX Plans to Send Two Tourists to the Moon Next Year
An illustration of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket that may be used to send two people to the moon.
Image from SpaceX
Well, never let it be said that SpaceX does things in a small way. The company has decided to take a moonshot, and not only is it going to be sending the first humans into deep space in more than 40 years, it's going to send up the first space tourists.
What could possibly go wrong?
Elon Musk, the founder and head of the commercial space company, announced on Monday that SpaceX is slated to take its first moonshot next year when it will tote two regular, very wealthy people to the moon and back again.
The idea came about after two people approached the company and asked if SpaceX would be willing to take them on a weeklong jaunt around the moon. The spacecraft would fly around the moon but never actually land on it. Then gravity would turn the spacecraft around and point it back toward Earth, similarly to how NASA's space missions worked.
To pull off this lunar cruise, the two people signed up for the trip will spend about a week inside a SpaceX Dragon2 capsule, launched on the back of a Falcon Heavy rocket. The tourists won't be getting full-on astronaut training, but they'll be taught how to run a few things on the automated spaceship just in case they need to.
It's unclear how much it will actually cost to pull off this trip. Musk refused to get into specifics, only stating the endeavor will cost a little bit more than a crewed trip to the International Space Station. Keep in mind that when Russia was flying NASA astronauts to the ISS, the United States paid about $70 million per seat, so the one thing we know is that this trip will not be cheap in any way, shape or form.
The trip is thought to be in SpaceX's wheelhouse, but some are already skeptical as to whether Musk and company can get this flight up off the ground in such a short span of time.
"Dates are not SpaceX’s strong suit,” Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, a space advocacy group consisting of aerospace companies, told The New York Times.
She has a point.
Besides, space isn't called the "final frontier" for nothing. Space travel is tricky and time-consuming and even with everything perfectly lined up, problems arise. Just last week SpaceX's unmanned Dragon capsule tried to dock with the ISS and encountered glitchy failures before finally getting it right the next day.
SpaceX has done pretty decently in the past year or so, but the company has also seen its rockets blow up often enough that you'd think it would want to take its time and not rush into anything. After all, nothing puts a damper on a burgeoning new tourist destination for the very rich like being blasted apart only seconds off of the launch pad.
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