WASHINGTON — SpaceX announced Monday that it plans to send two private citizens on a trip around the moon in 2018.
The passengers, whose names haven’t been released, have already paid a “significant deposit” for the trip, the California-based company said in a statement.
“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. “We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year.”
The mission will utilize a Crew Dragon spacecraft and a Falcon Heavy rocket, both of which are still in development. The space tourists are expected to lift off from the same Kennedy Space Center launch pad used by NASA for its Apollo 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,” SpaceX said. “Designed from the beginning to carry humans, the Dragon spacecraft already has a long flight heritage. These missions will build upon that heritage, extending it to deep space mission operations, an important milestone as we work towards our ultimate goal of transporting humans to Mars.”
The trip is will last approximately one week and cost the space tourists “at least tens of millions of dollars,” Mashable reports.
Other private citizens have already expressed interest in this type of trip, and SpaceX says it expects additional lunar missions to follow.
Monday’s announcement comes roughly a week after SpaceX’s successful launch and landing of a Falcon 9 rocket Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A. That mission, its first from the historic pad, carried a Dragon ship full of cargo and supplies to the International Space Station.
Astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent just shy of a year aboard the International Space Station, was among those who took to Twitter on Monday to volunteer himself for a future moon orbit.
In September, SpaceX founder Elon Musk revealed his plans for building a self-sustaining Martian colony of 1 million people. To get there, SpaceX plans to build a massive “Interplanetary Transport System,” capable of carrying about 100 people ― and perhaps many more in the future ― plus luggage and other cargo.
In December 2015, the company made history with an epic vertical landing of a Falcon 9 rocket on land, just six miles from where it took off at Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was a moment Musk called “revolutionary” and a “critical step along the way to being able to establish a city on Mars.” In March, the company completed the incredibly challenging task of landing its 14-story rocket booster on a drone ship at sea. Four previous at-sea landings had ended in flames.
The company’s most recent and dramatic failure occurred Sept. 1, when a Falcon 9 burst into flames on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. Musk called it “the most difficult and complex failure” the company has had in its 14-year history.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said the planned SpaceX lunar mission will launch from Cape Canaveral. It will lift off from the nearby Kennedy Space Center.