By BRENDA WINN
This week, SpaceX announced their plans to launch the first-ever private moon mission in 2018. This would be the first time people will have traveled to the moon in 45 years, according to NPR. The last time a mission to the moon was attempted was NASA’s Apollo mission, according to The Washington Post.
According to the SpaceX website, they “design, manufacture and launch advanced rockets and spacecraft.” They explain that the company is under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA and is flying a number of cargo resupply missions to the Internationals Space Station. Tech billionaire Elon Musch is the founder of SpaceX. It was barely a week ago that SpaceX launched their first rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Washington Post reports that two people approached the company about going on a weeklong flight around the moon. When he announced the trip, Musk did not identify the individuals but acknowledged that they have paid a “significant” deposit and are “very serious” about completing the trip. NPR reports that the price has not been disclosed, but it is likely in the millions.
Musk said that SpaceX is planning to launch astronauts to the International Space Station on a mission for NASA in mid-2018, with the private moon mission following about six months later, both launched from the Kennedy Space Center. The Washington Post predicts that if this time schedule is followed, the private mission may happen close to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission. The three astronauts on board, Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders, became the first men to travel beyond the lower Earth orbit during this mission, according to NASA. This was the first time an image of Earth as a whole planet was taken, and the first time the far side of the moon was seen. This was also the first manned launch from Kennedy Space Station, the same location where the private mission is set to leave from.
Neil Greenfieldboyce, NPR Science Correspondent, explains that there will be no moon landing, simply an automated mission around the moon. There will be no need to pilot the rocket, and the idea is that the capsule will loop around the moon, before returning to Earth.There are natural risks involved with going to the moon, and the customers are aware of these concerns. “They’re certainly not naive, and we’ll do everything we can to minimize that risk, but it’s not zero. But they’re coming into this with their eyes open,” said Musk. He also said that the pair would get “extensive” training before the flight, according to The Washington Post.
SpaceX is the first private company with a spacecraft dock at the International Space Station. NASA is in the process of building its own big rocket and capsule called the Space Launch system, according to Greenfieldboyce. On the surface, it seems that NASA is very supportive of SpaceX’s effort, and they put out a statement this week saying that they “commend their industry partners for reaching higher.” Greenfieldboyce also said that Musk has said that SpaceX will give NASA priority to do another moon mission if they want to before. Greenfieldboyce explained that this is somewhat like another space race, but instead of it being between the Americans and Soviets, it between NASA and private companies.
While there is no scientific significance in sending humans back into space, it is a noble goal. While it is uncertain if this goal will actually be accomplished in the coming years. “This should be a really exciting mission that hopefully gets the world really excited about sending people into deep space again,” Musk said.