SpaceX announced Monday that two private citizens have booked a trip around the moon for late 2018.
It is currently unknown who has purchased this launch contract, but SpaceX’s press release stated these individuals paid a “significant deposit” to be the first people to visit the moon in more than 45 years. The passengers will circumnavigate the moon and return to Earth. No landing is planned.
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket and Dragon V2 capsule will be employed for the journey to the moon. Both pieces of equipment are set to undergo major testing this year. Two launches are scheduled for the Falcon Heavy this summer and autumn. If successful, the Falcon Heavy will become the second most powerful rocket ever made after NASA’s Saturn V, which ferried the last voyagers to the lunar surface. Meanwhile, the Dragon V2 is set to fly an unmanned demonstration to the International Space Station this autumn.
“Designed from the beginning to carry humans, the Dragon spacecraft already has a long flight heritage.” SpaceX stated. “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.”
Last week, following a Trump administration request, NASA announced a plan to study the feasibility of putting astronauts on the first deployment of the new Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket in November 2018. The maneuver would send humans around the moon before the end of Trump’s first term.