To the moon! | Photo: Per, CC BY-SA 2.0
Because you can’t not post about people paying Elon Musk for a private flight around the Moon.
On Sunday, Elon Musk tweeted that there would be a SpaceX announcement. On Monday, we got it:
Fly me to the moon … Okhttps://t.co/6QT8m5SHwn
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 27, 2017
Next year, SpaceX is going to send two “private citizens” on a week-long cruise around the moon and back. Yeah, you read that right. Exactly fifty years after Apollo 8 first looped around the moon, two non-astronauts are going to do the same, this time in a private spaceship.
Apparently it’s going to cost roughly $30 million per person, which is (a) insane but also (b) remarkably reasonable, all things considered. Remember that by 2018, the US will be paying Russia over $80 million a seat to get to the International Space Station on the Soyuz (which is a large part of the reason the US is throwing money at SpaceX).
The mission — which will be entirely automated — will launch in late 2018, in a Crew Dragon (aka Dragon 2) atop a Falcon Heavy. It’ll be a “long loop” trip, flying out past the moon by quite a distance (400,000 miles total, unless Musk misspoke and meant kilometers) then returning and either propulsive landing or dropping into the ocean on parachutes for recovery. That last question probably depends on how much testing the Crew Dragon gets beforehand.
It also seems as though it’ll beat NASA to the punch. The current timetable for the SLS and Orion doesn’t have humans orbiting the moon until 2021, though there have been suggestions that the Trump administration has asked NASA to consider putting astronauts in the unmanned 2018 cislunar test. It’s still unclear whether NASA will agree, but it’s not the kind of thing that fits within their typical risk profile.
Plus, Musk’s timelines have typically been… let’s say optimistic. So there’s every chance it’ll be 2019 by the time this happens. But in the meantime the company reports that they “expect to conduct health and fitness tests [on the probable billionaires], as well as begin initial training later this year.”
As for the identities of the passengers? The only clue we have right now is the price and that they’re not from Hollywood. And I think that rules out James Cameron.
Speaking of Cameron, anybody want to lend these folks an IMAX camera for a week in 2018?
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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.