Bang! Zoom! Straight to the Moon!
These “two private citizens” (currently unnamed) approached SpaceX about putting them on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit for a moon mission. Health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training, are set to begin later this year.
“NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, is a key enabler for this mission,” according to the statement provided by SpaceX. “In addition, this will make use of the Falcon Heavy rocket, which was developed with internal SpaceX funding. Falcon Heavy is due to launch its first test flight this summer and, once successful, will be the most powerful vehicle to reach orbit after the Saturn V moon rocket. At 5 million pounds of liftoff thrust, Falcon Heavy is two-thirds the thrust of Saturn V and more than double the thrust of the next largest launch vehicle currently flying.”
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon (Dragon 2) spacecraft is currently set to launch later this year as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The first demonstration with be controlled remotely without any passengers. The next mission following that (pending the first’s success) is set to launch with a crew in the second quarter of 2018.
SpaceX is currently contracted to perform an average of four Dragon 2 missions to the ISS per year, three carrying cargo and one carrying crew. By also flying privately crewed missions, which NASA has encouraged, long-term costs to the government decline and more flight reliability history is gained, benefiting both government and private missions.
With SpaceX and NASA teaming up presents a significant opportunity to allow humans to travel farther and deeper into space for the first time in 45 years. The launch of these two private citizens is said to be the next important milestone to putting humans on Mars.