On Monday afternoon, SpaceX announced that it planned to send “two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year.”
Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, had teased the news Sunday, and a Monday afternoon press release offered relatively few specifics about the planned voyage. It indicated, however, that the two would-be astronauts “have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission,” suggesting that the trip may be space tourism. Nevertheless, the press release’s rhetoric remains triumphant, holding, “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.”
Though the trip itself is private, Space X singles out NASA for praise, partly because the trip will take place in the crewed Dragon Version 2 spacecraft, which the company developed through funding from NASA. As the Verge notes, “The Crew Dragon is an automated vehicle; the system will operate autonomously for most of the flight.” Though the crew would be able to step in if there were an emergency, Musk reportedly claimed that such a circumstance would be unlikely.
There’s plenty of information missing here, not least of which is how much the astronauts paid, though the figure is presumably substantial. The Verge says: "Musk believes these private missions could be a 'significant driver of revenue' for the company and expects to have at least one or two a year, possibly making up 10 to 20 percent of SpaceX revenue.”
The identities of these well-off adventurers are also unknown, at least for now. SpaceX claims, “Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results.” At this point, we know only that those tests—and the training that the astronauts will undergo—will begin training sometime in the next year.