By: Zack Duvall
Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of SpaceX and the Tesla car company, told reporters during a conference call Monday that his company SpaceX was working on a craft to be ready for launch by 2018 that would send potential “space tourists” on a flight around the moon.
The craft that is set to be used in the tentatively scheduled launch is being developed by NASA for use by astronauts and is also using a never before flown heavy-lift rocket. Musk declined to comment on the identity of the pair that is slated to make the historic journey, nor did he disclose how much the flight is costing the aspiring space tourists. Only stating that “it is nobody from Hollywood” and that they “put down a substantial deposit”.
Musk also said that the pair will undergo “extensive training” before they make the 2018 journey, that will take them on the same trajectory as the 1968 Apollo 8 mission. This flight will take the prospective tourists roughly 400,000 miles past the moon to a point where Earth’s gravity will pull the craft back down to earth for a parachute landing.
“I think there is a market for one or two of these a year.” Musk said of the prospective market for such journeys. He even estimated to reporters during the call, that he believes such trips could grow to become 20% of the company’s revenue.
Besides the potential entirely new form of tourism those who can afford it could enjoy, the journey will also serve as practice for the company’s ultimate goal of a manned flight to Mars.
The technology is available for such flights with NASA’s ‘Dragon’ craft only needing communications upgrades before it is considered perfectly suitable for lunar flybys by many experts in the field.
With the ever advancing technology in the field of space exploration and flight, the list of companies and entities pursuing the idea of space travel and flight continues to grow. The list includes major companies such as Virgin Galactic, which is developing its own craft for the space tourism industry capable of taking 6 passengers and 2 pilots 62 miles into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Galactic trip would allow passengers to experience micro-gravity and see the Earth’s curvature set against the incredible black backdrop of space for the price of $250,000 a ticket.
With the technology continuing to be developed for space flight and exploration paired with billion dollar investors such as Google Inc., Fidelity Investments, and even world governments the possibilities for humans in their quest for space flight are truly appearing to be endless.