After almost 50 years after NASA claimed to have landed its astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon on July 20, 1969, the US private space company SpaceX is planning to send two private citizens next year, not to land but orbit around.
In a statement, SpaceX said, "We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission."
As the mission is not to land on the moon but circle around it like Michael Collins maneovring Saturn V in 1969, while Armstrong and Aldrin reportedly set their foot on the moon surface, the feasibility of the mission is certain. Moreover, designed from the beginning to carry humans, its Dragon spacecraft is already hauling cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) and obviously the technology to undertake an orbit mission with humans is possible and safe too.
Not revealing the names of these individuals, who it said had already paid their fees, SpaceX said they will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. "We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year," it added.
SpaceX also said other flight teams have expressed interest and that it may undertake more such mission later. SpaceX is planning a test flight in 2017 summer and upon its success, take up its next round of Falcon Dragon rocket to reach orbit after the Saturn V moon rocket on July 20, 1969.
At 5 million pounds of lift-off thrust, Falcon Heavy has two-thirds the thrust of Saturn V rocket and more than double the thrust of the next largest launch vehicle currently flying, said SpaceX on its website.
However, SpaceX is not alone in planning moon missions. China is planning to land a rover and collect samples in the Chang’e 4 mission and return lunar soil samples by 2018 in the Chang’e 5 mission.
Indian Space Research Organisation (SRO) is planning Chandrayaan 2 to orbit the Moon while landing two rovers – one Indian and another foreign one. Bangalore-based Team Indus is likely to provide the vehicle or rover for the mission.
Russia’s Luna-Glob 1 is also planning to send cosmonauts to the Moon by 2025 and establish a permanent unmanned base to function with robots from 2027 to 2032. It plans to send a man to land on the Moon in 2030.
NASA is already sending its precursor orbiting missions to the Moon, with SpaceX expected to take up the Moon Landing at a later date. However, the Google Lunar X Prize competition that offers a $20 million award for the first privately funded team to land a robotic probe on the Moon remains the trigger for many moon landings next year.