Weekend Post (South Africa)

SpaceX all set to send two tourists around moon in 2018

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SPACEX said this week two private citizens have paid money to be sent around the moon next year in what would mark the furthest humans have ever travelled to deep space.

The US has not sent astronauts to the moon since Nasa’s Apollo missions of the ’60s and ’70s.

“We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year,” chief executive Elon Musk said. “This presents an opportunit­y for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the solar system than any before them.” The tourists, who were not named, “have already paid a significan­t deposit,” Musk said.

Health tests and training are to begin this year.

The tourists will ride aboard the California-based company’s Crew Dragon capsule, which is scheduled for its first unmanned test flight later this year.

It is based on the design currently used to send cargo to the Internatio­nal Space Station, with upgrades to allow for human trans- port. The capsule will launch atop SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, which is scheduled for its first test flight this summer.

The rocket “will be the most powerful vehicle to reach orbit after the Saturn V moon rocket”, Musk said. The 45-year-old native of South Africa is a long-time space enthusiast. Last September, Musk unveiled plans to establish a colony on Mars by sending 100 humans at a time -- starting in 2024. – AFP

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