SpaceX, fly me to the moon… OK?

Digital Originals

Concept art of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule in orbit (CREDIT: SpaceX)

SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced his company will transport the first two private citizens on a trip to the moon – and back – sometime in 2018. If successful, it will be the first manned mission to Earth’s moon since 1972.

SpaceX to fly first tourists to the moon

SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced his company will be the first to fly (paying) tourists on a trip around the moon in 2018. It will be the first manned moon mission since NASA’s Apollo missions ended in 1972. More:

The private company plans to use their newly developed Falcon Heavy rockets and Dragon 2 capsule to lift its two paying customers into space. The Dragon was the first private spacecraft to reach the International Space Station (ISS).

Falcon Heavy

An illustration of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. (Credit: SpaceX)

According to SpaceX, the two passengers approached the company and have “already paid a significant deposit” for the mission costs, which amount total into the billions of dollars. Their names and other information will be withheld until they pass health and fitness tests for the mission.

Musk refused to disclose the moon mission’s cost, but said it, “may be a little more than the cost of a crewed mission to the space station.” At present, one seat on the Russian Soyuz rocket going to the ISS costs NASA around $80 million.

On its website, SpaceX lists its “competitive pricing” for the Falcon rocket series launch services.

SpaceX pricing chart

Musk stated a permit from the United Nations will not be necessary, but the trip, like all SpaceX launches, will need to be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

APOLLO in flight

There has not been a manned mission to the moon since NASA’s Apollo program ended in 1972.

In a statement, Musk said the moon mission is historic in its own rights, but also represents “an important milestone as we work towards our ultimate goal of transporting humans to Mars.”

Before the moon mission, SpaceX intends to make an unmanned mission of the Crew Dragon (Dragon Version 2) spacecraft to the ISS. A demonstration mission in automatic mode (without people on board) will commence later in 2017. The first mission with crew is expected in the second quarter of 2018.

SpaceX is contracted by NASA to perform an average of four Dragon 2 missions to the ISS per year, three carrying cargo and one carrying crew. Their contract with the agency is for $2.6 billion and SpaceX is required to provide at least two and up to six flights to the station on the Dragon capsule, which can carry seven passengers at a time.

Once their crewed missions for NASA have commenced, SpaceX will launch its first private missions to the moon.

Officials from NASA congratulated SpaceX in a statement:

SpaceX’s mission will launch from Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A near Cape Canaveral – the same site of the NASA’s historic Apollo missions. 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of NASA’s first manned mission to the moon.