SpaceX to Send Privately Crewed Dragon Spacecraft Beyond the Moon Next Year

Tech billionaire Elon Musk — SpaceX founder and chief executive officer — announced that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year, , a feat not attempted since NASA’s Apollo heyday close to half a century ago.

Two people who know one another approached the company about sending them on a weeklong flight just beyond the moon. Musk won’t identify the pair or the price tag. He says they’ve already paid a “significant” deposit.

Musk says SpaceX is on track to launch astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA in mid-2018. This moon mission would follow about six months later, using a Dragon crew capsule and a Falcon heavy rocket.

Musk says the moon mission is designed to be autonomous — unless something goes wrong. SpaceX says the passengers would fly to the moon, but won’t land on it.

The company doesn’t expect this to be a one-time mission. SpaceX said that other people have expressed strong interest in making the trip. The names of the first two travelers have not been released. They are likely paying millions for the adventure.

For comparison, space tourists have previously paid the Russia government upwards of $20 million for a trip to the International Space Station. NASA has paid the Russians $80 million a seat to send astronauts to the space station. SpaceX has not revealed the price of the roughly week-long trip.

SpaceX is putting forward an aggressive timeline for the mission, which will rely on a rocket and spacecraft that have not flown yet. The Falcon Heavy rocket is expected to make a test flight this summer. And the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will hold the two tourists, will complete a demo mission later this year.