Elon Musk has had a lot of plans for SpaceX over the years. Some, like landing a rocket vertically so it can be reused, have gone well. Others, like launching a Facebook satellite into orbit, have gone less well. Neither success nor failure has dissuaded Musk from making bold statements about his space company, who last year went as far as outlining a manned mission to Mars that would take place sometime in the next ten years.
Musk’s latest proclamation isn’t quite as ambitious as a trip to Mars, but it’s no walk in the park, either. In an announcement on their site, the company says it plans to send two tourists — unnamed as of yet, but it’s already been decided who the pair is — on a trip around the moon. They won’t get to land, but even a trip near the moon is significant — there’s been no manned mission past near-earth orbit since the Apollo 17 moon landing in 1972.
The announcement says the trip will happen before the end of next year, but that’s no sure thing. The Falcon Heavy rocket — the massive version of the Falcon 9 meant to power trips to the moon and Mars — was originally supposed to blast off in 2013, but has yet to see its inaugural flight. An unmanned test launch has been planned for this summer.
The two tourists, who have paid an undisclosed sum for the privilege, will be going through training and preparation for the voyage in the meantime. They’ll be onboard a Dragon 2 capsule launched by the Falcon Heavy — the same capsule that will eventually ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. The Dragon 2 will also get a test flight later this year, and is scheduled to take crew to the ISS in an early 2018 mission. Musk also plans to send an unmanned capsule to Mars in 2018, so SpaceX has its work cut out for it.
That’s all if everything stays on schedule. Unfortunately, Elon Musk has gotten quite the reputation for not staying on schedule. Granted, the business of rocket science is neither easy nor predictable, but a similar history of delays mars the history of Musk’s electric car company, Tesla, as well. Given that SpaceX is yet to put a person into space at all (let alone as far as the moon), it’s doubtful that this mission will always stay on schedule.
Then again, while Musk isn’t great at deadlines, he is great at delivering. Products and launches from SpaceX and Tesla alike almost always happen eventually — while 2018 might be a stretch, it’s hard to doubt that SpaceX will get those two tourists around the moon eventually.
Header image: SpaceX