SpaceX started talking about a crewed moon mission last year, and as usual, it claimed a very ambitious timeline. The original 2018 launch ended up delayed as it took longer than expected to get the Falcon Heavy ready for flight. Now, SpaceX says its first orbital moon mission is back on with a space tourist on board the upcoming SpaceX BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) vehicle. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, though.
First and foremost, we don’t know who the mysterious passenger is yet. A press event on Monday (September 17th) will allegedly reveal all. When asked if he was the passenger, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk simply replied with a Japanese flag emoji. That suggests the passenger is from Japan. [We’ve got awesome powers of deduction here at ExtremeTech. -Ed]
The more technical details of the launch are also unclear at this time. SpaceX originally promised this mission with the Falcon Heavy, but that rocket appears to be falling out of favor. Falcon Heavy is basically three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together, and its only flight thus far involved launching a car into space as a demo. SpaceX is pushing to get the next-generation BFR into service as a replacement for both the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. It makes sense this vehicle would go on a moon mission, but when will it be ready?
SpaceX has signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle—an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space. Find out who’s flying and why on Monday, September 17. pic.twitter.com/64z4rygYhk
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 14, 2018
Even if the BFR is further along in development than we think, launching a person surely won’t be the first thing on the agenda. We’re probably looking at years of testing and planning before the BFR is ready to carry a human passenger, and taking them to the moon and back is much different than ferrying someone to the ISS. This will only be an orbital mission, but the passenger will be farther from Earth than any other human being.
SpaceX hasn’t confirmed it will reveal the price of the trip, but it’s probably many millions of dollars. It’s possible this wealthy space tourist is funding all of the BFR mission, which isn’t part of any existing launch contract from the government or private industry. Maybe SpaceX will take a hit on the cost of sending someone to the moon just for the publicity. After all, no one has been to the moon since 1972, and only 24 humans have orbited or landed on the moon.
SpaceX has already posted a link to the webcast event, which will go live on September 17th and 6 PM PT.
Now read: Boeing and SpaceX Might Not Be Ready for Manned Flights in 2019, NASA Agrees to Allow Astronauts Aboard SpaceX Rocket During Fueling, and SpaceX Test Fires Falcon Heavy Rocket