SpaceX plans first flight of private, paying astronauts around the moon

In a first, SpaceX officials said Monday that the company plans to fly private, paying citizens around the moon next year. It would mark the return of astronauts to deep space after 45 years.The Hawthorne-based space company said in a statement that the two...

SpaceX plans first flight of private, paying astronauts around the moon

In a first, SpaceX officials said Monday that the company plans to fly private, paying citizens around the moon next year. It would mark the return of astronauts to deep space after 45 years.

The Hawthorne-based space company said in a statement that the two individuals have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission in its Dragon 2 spacecraft. Initial training, along with health and fitness tests, will occur later this year, SpaceX said.

“This will be a private mission to a paying customer,” said Chief Executive Elon Musk. He wouldn’t say who will make the flight, scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2018, or how much they’re paying. He would say only that the astronauts are “nobody from Hollywood.”

During a conference call with reporters, Musk said the aspiring astronauts know the risks they’re taking on in such a mission.

“I think they’re entering this with their eyes open,” he said. “We’ll do everything we can to minimize that risk, but it’s not zero.”

The weeklong mission would make a close fly-by of the moon’s surface, “go quite a bit further out into deep space” and then loop back to Earth, Musk said. The spacecraft will not try to land on the surface of the moon.

He said there could be a market for one or two of these missions a year.

The capsule is to launch from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, which is more powerful than the rockets the company has used to launch satellites. Falcon Heavy is set to have its first flight this summer.

Pad 39A was the launch pad for Apollo and space shuttle missions. The last moon landing was Apollo 17 in 1972.

Musk said he would be willing to give NASA the first chance to combine with SpaceX on a lunar orbit mission, if the space agency is interested.

“NASA would have priority in any lunar mission,” he said. “In the absence of that, it would just be two private individuals on board.”

 

Oct. 30, 1984: President Ronald Reagan signs the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984, which encourages the development of private spaceflight and empowers the Transportation Department to license all commercial space launchings.

April 5, 1990: Orbital Sciences Corp., a small Fairfax, Va. company, launches a pair of military satellites into space using an innovative unmanned rocket that was launched after being dropped from a B-52. It was the first time that a payload had been launched into space orbit from a plane.

April 28, 2001: The world’s first space tourist, Dennis A. Tito, is launched into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. Tito, a California multimillionaire who founded Wilshire Associates Inc., an investment firm in Santa Monica, paid $20 million for the trip. Tito spent eight days in the International Space Station with two cosmonauts.

Oct. 4, 2004: SpaceShipOne, a privately funded manned rocket, soared into space and back for the second time, claiming the $10-million Ansari X Prize and raising prospects for low-cost, reliable personal spaceflights.

May 22, 2012:  Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, becomes the first private company to launch a spacecraft to the International Space Station.  The company’s Falcon 9 rocket sent a unmanned capsule carrying cargo to the space station.

Oct. 31, 2015: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, intended to ferry paying customers into space, disintegrates on a test flight, killing one of two pilots.

Dec. 21, 2015: Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully launches 11 satellites into orbit and returns the towering first-stage booster safely back to Earth, with a historic landing at Florida's Cape Canaveral.  The milestone opens the door for reducing the cost of delivering cargo to space by reusing rockets.

Source: Times research by Scott Wilson

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"Moonlight" won the best picture Oscar after a botched announcement threw the ceremony into chaos.

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Car bomb

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Key play in Chino Hills-Mater Dei

It's legal for an ICE agent to pretend to be an officer in an immigration raid. Officer Keith Boyer spent 27 years patrolling the streets of Whittier. Magic Johnson is now in charge of the Lakers. President Trump has withdrawn protections for transgender students. Lawmakers are getting grilled at raucous town-hall meetings.Did you know the red carpet at the Academy Awards isn't truly red? Scientists have found a seven-planet solar system 39 light-years away.

It's legal for an ICE agent to pretend to be an officer in an immigration raid. Officer Keith Boyer spent 27 years patrolling the streets of Whittier. Magic Johnson is now in charge of the Lakers. President Trump has withdrawn protections for transgender students. Lawmakers are getting grilled at raucous town-hall meetings.Did you know the red carpet at the Academy Awards isn't truly red? Scientists have found a seven-planet solar system 39 light-years away.

samantha.masunaga@latimes.com

Twitter: @smasunaga

UPDATES:

3:20 p.m.: This article was updated to include more information about the moon mission.

This article was originally published at 1:25 p.m.

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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