SpaceX changes moon plans

New strat­egy calls for big­ger rocket and only 1 per­son aboard

The Detroit News - - Business - BY MAR­CIA DUNN As­so­ci­ated Press

Cape Canaveral, Florida – SpaceX said it has signed the first pri­vate moon trav­eler, with some changes to its orig­i­nal game plan.

The big re­veal on who it is – and when the flight to the moon will be – will be an­nounced Mon­day at the com­pany’s head­quar­ters in Hawthorne, Cal­i­for­nia.

It’s not the same mis­sion SpaceX founder Elon Musk out­lined last year. The orig­i­nal plan called for two pay­ing pas­sen­gers to fly around the moon this year, us­ing a Fal­con Heavy rocket and a Dragon crew cap­sule.

At the time, Musk said the pair ap­proached SpaceX about send­ing them on a week­long flight and paid a “sig­nif­i­cant” de­posit for the trip.

The new strat­egy is to still fly around the moon, but us­ing an even big­ger SpaceX rocket still in de­vel­op­ment that has its own ded­i­cated pas­sen­ger ship. And now, it ap­pears there will be only one per­son aboard.

Given that this new BFR rocket, as it’s dubbed, has yet to be built, the flight pre­sum­ably is at least a few years off.

SpaceX put out the teaser via Twit­ter late Thurs­day, and Musk also tweeted out the news. Com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tives de­clined to of­fer ad­di­tional de­tails Fri­day.

Musk’s ul­ti­mate goal is to col­o­nize Mars. This lu­nar mis­sion – a flyby, not a land­ing – rep­re­sents “an im­por­tant step to­ward en­abling ac­cess for ev­ery­day peo­ple who dream of trav­el­ing to space,” SpaceX said in a tweet.

On its web­site, SpaceX is tout­ing the “first pas­sen­ger on lu­nar BFR mis­sion,” im­ply­ing there will be more.

This could be hu­man­ity’s first lu­nar visit since 1972, de­pend­ing on how NASA’s lat­est moon plans shape up. Twenty-four NASA as­tro­nauts flew to the moon from 1968 through 1972, and only 12 of them strolled its dusty sur­face. Next July will mark the 50th an­niver­sary of the first manned moon land­ing by Apollo 11’s Neil Arm­strong and Buzz Aldrin.

NASA is shoot­ing for its own flyby of the moon, with a crew, around 2023. The space agency aims to build a gate­way in the vicin­ity of the moon, com­plete with staff, dur­ing the 2020s. It’s en­vi­sioned as a base for ex­plo­ration of the moon, Mars and be­yond.

Peter Parks / AFP/Getty Im­ages

The goal of Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, is to col­o­nize Mars. The pro­posed lu­nar mis­sion – a flyby, not a land­ing – rep­re­sents “an im­por­tant step to­ward en­abling ac­cess for ev­ery­day peo­ple who dream of trav­el­ing to space,” SpaceX said in a tweet.

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