SpaceX to fly private, paying citizens around the moon next year

Two private citizens have paid SpaceX to fly a mission around the moon in 2018, the company announced Monday.

The trip will mark a new milestone for paid space travel. Initial training, along with health and fitness tests, will occur later this year, SpaceX said.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk speaks at a news conference during the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Mexico on September 27.

While Musk wouldn't say how much the mission would cost, he estimated it'd be a little more expensive than a crewed flight to and from the International Space Station aboard a Dragon 2 spacecraft.

Does he finally have a launch date for the Falcon Heavy, the SpaceX rocket expected to be more powerful than any rocket that is lifting off today?

The Dragon 2 will be capable of operating autonomously throughout the whole flight, but the passengers will be trained in emergency procedures.

SpaceX's decision to announce a mission with a similar profile to NASA's moon orbit, but at much lower cost, may only be a coincidence, but Musk made clear he was ready and willing to take it on for the U.S. government. There will be another mission six months later with a NASA crew. SpaceX is now contracted to perform an average of four Dragon 2 missions to the ISS per year, three carrying cargo and one carrying crew. Other flight teams have already expressed interest in going on future trips.

The Dragon spacecraft, designed from the beginning to carry humans, will lift off from Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A - the launch pad used by the Apollo program for its lunar missions, Musk said. Speaking to an audience of 4,000 at the World Government Summit in Dubai Tesla and SpaceX's CEO, Elon Musk, who also happens to plan in sending humans to Mars, discussed the age-old question of whether intelligent aliens exist.

  • Carolyn Briggs