“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,” explained SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
According to Musk, these two [unnamed] individuals have “already paid a significant deposit” to partake on the voyage. Initial training for the mission will begin later in 2017, during which the pair will be put through a battery of health and fitness tests to determine their space worthiness for what will be a week-long star trek.
The two-man crew won’t have much, if any, work to do aboard the Crew Dragon capsule (Dragon Version 2), as all of its primary controls will be handled by SpaceX on the ground. So, they can truly just sit back and enjoy the ride. The job of hurtling the Crew Dragon towards the moon will fall upon the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, which will provide 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, or roughly two-thirds the launch thrust of the famed Saturn V that sent NASA astronauts to the moon. Falcon Heavy isn’t scheduled to perform its first flight test until later this summer, so SpaceX will need a near-perfect execution of it agenda between now and late 2018 when it’s expected to put the two tourists on a free return trajectory course around the moon.
“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,” Musk continued. “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.”
So, what does NASA think of SpaceX’s theatrics when it comes to sending tourists to the moon? “NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher,” said the agency in a statement. “We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station
“For more than a decade, NASA has invested in private industry to develop capabilities for the American people and seed commercial innovation to advance humanity's future in space.”