PHOTO: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. (photo via Flickr/OnInnovation)
On Monday, SpaceX announced plans to send two passengers on a tourist trip around the moon next year on a spaceship under development for NASA astronauts.
According to Reuters.com, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told reporters that the launch of the “first privately funded tourist flight” scheduled to travel past the International Space Station is tentatively scheduled for late 2018.
While Musk would not reveal who the prospective passengers would be, he said that they are not from Hollywood, they know each other and that they would have to go through extensive training before making the journey.
Musk’s hope is that a successful flight in 2018 could lead to between one and two tourist trips around the moon per year. The inaugural tourist flight would be between 300,000 to 400,000 miles from Earth, before the spacecraft would pass the moon and be sucked back into the orbit of the Earth, similar to the orbit of NASA's 1968 Apollo 8 mission.
While the overarching goal of SpaceX is to transport tourists into space, Musk acknowledged that if NASA wants its astronauts to participate in the lunar flyby mission, the space agency would take priority.
READ MORE: Russia Looks to Take Space Tourists Around the Moon by 2021
As for propulsion, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket is expected to make a debut test flight later this year. Musk revealed that the company’s long-term goal is to not only send tourists into space, but also eventually fly humans to Mars.
Before the SpaceX launch can take place, though, the company needs to gain approval and licensing from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Musk and the SpaceX brand are not the first to consider commercial passenger spaceflight services, with Virgin Galactic attempting to fly a six-passenger, two-pilot spaceship about 62 miles above Earth.
In addition, Russian aerospace company Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia is also looking to become the first to offer potential space tourists an opportunity to orbit Earth's Moon by 2021.