SpaceX plans pri­vate flight to the moon

2 pas­sen­gers to be launched in late 2018

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Dave Ber­man @by­dav­e­ber­man Florida To­day

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said he plans to do a pri­vate space mis­sion, us­ing a SpaceX rocket to trans­port two pas­sen­gers around the moon.

“I think this will be a very ex­cit­ing mis­sion,” Musk said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence this af­ter­noon.

Musk said SpaceX was ap­proached by “two pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als” who know one an­other, but whom he did not iden­tify.

They would be launched late next year on SpaceX’s Dragon 2 ve­hi­cle on a Fal­con Heavy rocket.

Musk said the flight would be on an au­ton­o­mous space­craft that needs no spe­cially trained as­tro­nauts on­board.

“Dragon is de­signed to be an au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle,” Musk said, not­ing that it does cargo mis­sions to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion with no one aboard.

He would not dis­cuss what the pas­sen­gers would be pay­ing for the flight, only say­ing that this mis­sion would cost more than a SpaceX re­sup­ply mis­sion to the space sta­tion.

Musk said the week­long mis­sion would in­volve a trip of 300,000 to 400,000 miles.

He de­scribed the flight path as tak­ing “a long loop around the moon,” and get­ting close to the lu­nar sur­face, but not land­ing, be­fore re­turn­ing to Earth.

“It would skim the sur­face of the moon,” is how he de­scribed it.

SpaceX pro­vided ad­di­tional de­tails on its web­site.

“We are ex­cited to an­nounce that SpaceX has been ap­proached to fly two pri­vate cit­i­zens on a trip around the moon late next year,” the an­nounce­ment said. “They have al­ready paid a sig­nif­i­cant de­posit to do a moon mis­sion.

“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.”

SpaceX said it plans “to con­duct health and fit­ness tests, as well as be­gin ini­tial train­ing later this year. Other flight teams have also ex­pressed strong in­ter­est, and we ex­pect more to fol­low. Ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion will be re­leased about the flight teams, con­tin­gent upon their ap­proval and con­fir­ma­tion of the health and fit­ness test re­sults.”

Musk would not re­lease more in­for­ma­tion on the prospec­tive space trav­el­ers, in­clud­ing their gen­ders. All he would say is that “it’s no­body from Hol­ly­wood.”

JAE C. HONG/AP FILE

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX.

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