Ger your space suits ready. SpaceX says it will run the world's first privately operated, manned space mission to orbit the Moon in 2018.
Fly me to the moon ... Okhttps://t.co/6QT8m5SHwn
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 27, 2017
In a post on the rocketry and space exploration company's website, announced to the world by Elon Musk, the mission was revealed a few minutes ago.
Next year, SpaceX will send its Crew Dragon passenger capsule, still in development, on an orbital mission around Earth's moon, using the Falcon Heavy rocket. The spacecraft will be crewed by two as-yet unnamed private citizens who are bankrolling the enterprise.
"We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. 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. We expect 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."
At the moment, the identity of the two -- likely incredibly wealthy -- future astronauts is unclear.
The Crew Dragon will make its first mission to the International Space Station in low Earth orbit later this year. It will initially be unmanned to demonstrate its capabilities, but SpaceX forecasts it will run up to four missions a year in subsequent years to deliver cargo and crew -- as well as private missions outside of its NASA contract.
After SpaceX's missions to the ISS are underway, the team will begin the preparations for this privately-funded mission. It will be the first human mission to deep space in nearly half a century, and while orbiting the moon the astronauts will journey further into the Solar System than any humans have before.
"Once operational Crew Dragon missions are underway for NASA, SpaceX will launch the private mission on a journey to circumnavigate the moon and return to Earth. Lift-off will be from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Pad 39A near Cape Canaveral – the same launch pad used by the Apollo program for its lunar missions. 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."