SpaceX, US private space agency entrusted with cargo supply to International Space Station, will fly two private citizens on a trip around the Moon late next year, 2018.
Without revealing their names, SpaceX said they have already paid a huge deposit for the Moon mission. SpaceX is currently undertaking an average of four Dragon 2 missions to the ISS per year, three carrying cargo and one carrying crew.
Like the Apollo astronauts in the past, these two individuals will travel into space reflecting the human spirit of exploration. SpaceX is planning to conduct health and body fitness tests on them for the space travel in December this year and the training program will start sometime next year. “We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year,” said SpaceX in a statement. Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest in such a mission, said the US private space agency.
“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,” said SpaceX.
Instead of Falcon 9, SpaceX will use the Falcon Heavy rocket, which was developed with internal SpaceX funding. The first test flight of Falcon Heavy will be conducted this summer. With 5 million pounds of liftoff thrust. SpaceX said the private mission will circumnavigate the Moon and return to Earth and it was not meant to land on the surface of the Moon as NASA Apollo missions were in the 1970s.
Lift-off will be from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Pad 39A near Cape Canaveral – the same launch pad used by the Apollo program for its lunar missions. This makes the mission unique as humans will be returning to deep space after 45 years. However, SpaceX is keeping the identities of the two individuals utmost secret as of now.
Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world with the ability to lift into orbit over 54 metric tons (119,000 lb) — a mass equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel. Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third of the cost.
Falcon Heavy first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit. Falcon Heavy was designed to carry humans into space and make it feasible to fly humans to the Moon or Mars, said SpaceX.