SpaceX is set to launch what's probably the longest charter flight in history as soon as late 2018. CEO Elon Musk said Monday that his private rocket company will send two paying customers on a flight around the moon.
"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 company said in a statement. "We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year."
No personal information about the private citizens paying for the trip was disclosed. The company did say they have already put down a "significant deposit" and other flight teams have expressed interest in booking a similar trip. The tourists will fly aboard a Dragon Crew spacecraft launched from Earth by a Falcon Heavy rocket.
In a conference call with reporters, Musk implied that NASA could jump to the front of the line if it wanted to fly a similar mission with SpaceX.
Musk also said the cost would be similar to flying a private citizen to the International Space Station. A decade ago, a similar trip cost about $25 million. It's tough to say how much inflation has affected the cost of space tourism since then, or what kind of a premium one might expect to pay to fly in a new Dragon capsule from Florida rather than a Soyuz rocket launched from Kazakhstan.
The private mission around the moon sounds as though it will essentially retrace the path of Apollo 8, which famously spent Christmas Eve orbiting the moon in 1968. The company says the spacecraft will lift off from Kennedy Space Center's historic Pad 39A, where the Apollo missions were also launched. SpaceX recently conducted its first mission since taking over the launch pad earlier this month.
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