The signs were looming for quite some time now. People were talking about it. The mere talk about its possibility could be history soon. Private travel to the outer space is about to become reality…by SpaceX.
“Fly me to the moon…”
Elon Musk, the founder of the private aerospace company SpaceX, announced the long-awaited news in a telephone news conference on Monday, February 27th.
“Fly me to the moon … Ok”, he tweeted, giving the first serious start sign for the new era of space tourism.
But, don’t try to search for the tickets just yet, because the seats are occupied already. News has it two customers have already paid some money for the trip to the orbit of the moon. If everything goes well, they will be the first commercial moon travelers. What sounded like a fictitious scenario a few years ago is scheduled to take place already next year!
What is the plan?
SpaceX possesses the necessary money and technology to make space travels possible. The overly rich and ambitious founder Elon Musk is urging to begin the first private trip to the moon.
The company wants to make use of their own Falcon Heavy rockets to launch the passengers into space and then to the moon. SpaceX promotes their new-type rockets as the most powerful examples ever, twice as efficient than before. The first test flight will take place later this year.
For the transport of the passengers, SpaceX will use their home-made Dragon 2 capsules. The spacecraft works automatically and doesn’t require specific navigation skills from the passengers.
But, the passengers must undergo basic emergency training first. Moreover, the two lucky ones, whose names have not been revealed yet, should go through medical and fitness tests.
Even so, Musk announced that the two (most probably rich) individuals have already paid a “significant deposit to do a moon mission.” They are serious about the travel, he added.
The trip to the moon and back to the Earth should take around one week. The last manned flight to the moon included a landing and was accomplished in 1972 by the Apollo 17 mission.
However, we will not witness any Moonwalkers this time. The SpaceX craft does not plan to land on the moon but will orbit it once from the distance. “This would be a long loop around the moon“, Musk informed in a phone conference on Monday.
Although there will be no moonwalking, the estimated 400,000 miles distance from the earth would mark the farthest point humans have ever been in space…
“These individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration”, the statement on the SpaceX website reads.
Wait for another legendary sentence such as Neil Armstrong’s in 1969…
What are the costs? Is it feasible until 2018?
Elon Musk did not reveal too much about how much the trip would cost. “A little bit more than the cost of a crewed mission to the space station would be,” he said.
You should note that the estimated cost of such missions is above 500 million $. Of course, you ask yourself if these sums make space traveling profitable… I don’t have that money, for sure…
Cost reduction constitutes one of the major challenges. But not only that. The announced timetable gives rise to questions, too. “It strikes me as risky”, said Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, in a report of the NY Times. “Dates are not SpaceX’s strong suit,” she added, pointing towards the early optimism to start space travels already in 2018. Yet, another report earlier this month suggested that “astronaut taxis” by SpaceX might not be feasible until after 2019.
The initial dream of Elon Musk and the project SpaceX was to colonize Mars and to ensure mankind to live on other planets. Another milestone towards this futuristic plan could be reached very soon with the moon traveling project. We will keep you updated.
What is your opinion about the news? Do you think moon travels or even colonizing Mars will be a reality in a few years? Tell us in the comments section below.