While the local region still maintains the moniker of “Aerospace Valley,” Hawthorne-based SpaceX announced ithis week it plans to send two “private citizens” on a trip around the moon late next year aboard its Crew Dragon spacecraft.
The passengers were not identified, but they have “already paid a significant deposit” and will begin undergoing health and fitness tests later this year, according to the company.
“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,” according to SpaceX, which said the company was approached by the pair about taking the trip.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk broke the news with a simple Twitter post that read: “Fly me to the moon … Ok.”
In a statement, the company noted that it plans to launch its Crew Dragon—a larger, people-
carrying version of its cargo-carrying Dragon ships—spacecraft to the International Space Station later this year. The mission will be unmanned, serving as a demonstration flight. A second launch, which will carry a crew, is expected to fly in the second quarter of 2018.
“SpaceX is currently contracted to perform an average of four Dragon 2 missions to the ISS per year, three carrying cargo and one carrying crew,” according to the company. “By also flying privately crewed missions, which NASA has encouraged, long-term costs to the government decline and more flight reliability history is gained, benefiting both government and private missions.”
SpaceX officials said the company has been approached by other people interested in taking private space flights, “and we expect more to follow.”
Next year’s planned mission around the moon and back will launch from Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A, the same one used by the Apollo missions, with the spacecraft propelled by a Falcon Heavy rocket, the first test flight of which is set for this summer.
“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,” according to SpaceX. “Designed from the beginning to carry humans, the Dragon spacecraft already has a long flight heritage. These missions will build upon that heritage, extending it to deep space mission operations, an important milestone as we work towards our ultimate goal of transporting humans to Mars.”