SpaceX: 2 private citizens will fly moon mission in 2018

Dragon 2 will carry two humans to lunar orbit

The Dragon 2 spacecraft (left) and SpaceX Falcon Heavy.
The Dragon 2 spacecraft (left) and SpaceX Falcon Heavy. (SpaceX)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Two private citizens have paid SpaceX to fly a mission around the moon in 2018, the company announced Monday.

SpaceX will launch the private Dragon spacecraft mission with two private astronauts using the still-untested Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center's historic Launch Pad 39A.

In a call with reporters, CEO Elon Musk said the two passengers know each other but would not disclose any more information about the individuals.

The two people will undergo health screenings and begin training for the mission later this year, according to SpaceX.

Musk said the Dragon 2 capsule is going through human-rating by NASA to carry astronauts to the International Space Station. This will be the first crewed spaceflight for the Dragon.

The Dragon spacecraft would not have to be modified other than the communications systems to allow deep-space communications versus low-Earth orbit, Musk said.

The Dragon 2 capsule is designed to fly up to seven crew, but Musk said the two private astronauts will be the only ones on board for the lunar orbit.

The crew will be on board the Falcon Heavy during the fueling process, but Musk said he does not think this should be a concern. The company experienced a total loss in September during the fueling of a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral.

Musk also said that if NASA wanted to do the first lunar orbit mission, SpaceX would give them priority.

"This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years," a news release from SpaceX read.

Falcon Heavy is set for its first flight test later this year.

Musk said this is a big year for the company with the Falcon Heavy launch and the first Dragon 2 launch.

"Next year is going to be the big year for carrying people to the space station and beyond," Musk said.

Musk encouraged competition during the announcement.

"We think there should be other companies and organizations doing this other than SpaceX," Musk said. "The more the better."

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