SpaceX plans to fly two non-astronauts beyond the moon and back again.
The company, headed by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk — the man behind Tesla, Inc. and the futuristic transportation tube Hyperloop — said Monday it had received a “significant deposit” from two people keen to do a moon mission.
Here’s more from the SpaceX statement:
“Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration.”
The two private citizens will have to pass health and fitness tests, of course, but the company said it plans to begin their training later this year.
All of this requires SpaceX hitting some key benchmarks in the near future.
First, the plan is to launch the capsule into space with a Falcon Heavy rocket, which the company said has yet to launch its first test flight. Once proven, the Falcon Heavy would be “the most powerful vehicle to reach orbit after the Saturn V moon rocket,” SpaceX said.
In addition, the private mission won’t take place until SpaceX has successfully transported astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA. The company said it is contracted to begin running three cargo missions and one human-crewed mission to the ISS each year.
The company’s Dragon capsule currently ferries supplies up to the space station, and SpaceX plans to provide transportation for NASA astronauts with its Dragon 2, or Crew Dragon. The U.S. no longer has the ability to take humans into space, after the retirement of its space shuttle program in 2011.
Before the two newcomers get their turn in space, however, the Dragon 2 capsule first has to clear some test runs to and from the ISS — without humans aboard. That’s not expected to happen until next year.
If all goes according to plan, the mission could mark a new milestone for human space travel.
“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,” SpaceX said in its statement.