SpaceX to fly passengers round the Moon

Two private passengers are due to take the trip of a lifetime on a mission around the Moon in late 2018, SpaceX has announced.

The Falcon Heavy rocket sits on Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, in this artist's impression. The newly-announced lunar mission is expected to launch from the pad late in 2018
Credit: SpaceX

The US spacecraft manufacturer SpaceX has announced it will carry two private citizens on a trip around the Moon late in 2018.

The private company, which was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, said it had been “approached” to take on the mission. The trip will see its Falcon Heavy rocket lift off from Earth and carry two space tourists on a journey circumventing the Moon, before landing back on Earth. The spacecraft will get close to the lunar surface, but not actually land, and the journey is expected to take about a week.

Training, health and fitness tests are expected to begin later this year, although the two passengers have not yet been named. SpaceX has said, however, that the passengers “have already paid a significant deposit” for the mission.

The Falcon Heavy rocket is being developed by SpaceX and is due to make its inaugural test flight in the summer of 2017. It will be the most powerful rocket to reach orbit after NASA’s Saturn V rocket, which was used to take Apollo astronauts to the Moon.

Later in 2017, SpaceX is due to launch its Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station in a crewless mission. A crewed mission to the ISS will then follow in the second quarter of 2018, in preparation for regular missions to the space station.

Once these regular Crew Dragon missions are in place for NASA, SpaceX will then launch its round-the-Moon journey. The Falcon Heavy will launch from Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A near Cape Canaveral, which is the same pad that was used by the Apollo missions.

“This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the Solar System than any before them,” a statement from SpaceX said. “Most importantly, we would like to thank NASA, without whom this would not be possible.”

Carousel image - An artist’s impression of the Falcon Heavy rocket lifting off from Kennedy Space Center
Credit: SpaceX
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