SpaceX founder Elon Musk said he’s planning a private space mission, using a SpaceX rocket to transport two paying passengers around the moon.
“I think this will be a very exciting mission,” Musk said Monday, during a teleconference with journalists.
Musk said SpaceX was approached by “two private individuals” who know one another, but whom he did not identify.
They would be launched from the historic Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center late next year on SpaceX’s Dragon 2 vehicle on a Falcon Heavy rocket. That’s the same launch pad used by NASA for Apollo missions to the moon, as well as many space shuttle missions, including the last one. SpaceX flew its Falcon 9 from the KSC pad for the first time earlier this month.
“They are entering this with their eyes open, knowing there is some risk,” Musk said.
Musk said the flight would be on an autonomous spacecraft that needs no specially trained astronauts onboard, although the two paying travelers would undergo “extensive training before going on the mission.”
“Dragon is designed to be an autonomous vehicle,” Musk said, noting that other versions of Dragon currently do cargo missions to the International Space Station with no one aboard.
Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances for Space Florida, said Musk’s announcement was somewhat of a surprise in the space community.
“I do think most of us didn’t see it coming, but maybe we should have,” Ketcham said, referring to Musk’s reputation for out-of-the-box thinking and actions.
Ketcham called Musk’s announcement “very exciting,” and said it will help drive competition among NASA and commercial space companies that could lead to an accelerated timeline for space exploration.
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SOURCE: USA Today; Florida Today, Dave Berman