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Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies, aka SpaceX, said Monday it has been approached to send two private citizens on a trip around the moon in late 2018.
The company said on Monday the individuals have already paid a “significant deposit” to do a moon mission. The company said it will conduct health and fitness tests and begin initial training later this year. SpaceX said this would be the first time humans travelled to deep space in 45 years.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, is a key enabler for this mission — and in 2012, the Dragon spacecraft became the first private company aircraft to dock with the ISS. The mission is also expected to make use of the Falcon Heavy rocket, which the company said was developed with internal SpaceX funding. The company said in a statement:
The news comes days after the launch and successful soft landing of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The California-based company also continues to work with NASA to send a manned mission to the International Space Station in the second quarter of 2018.
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 is currently under contract to perform four Dragon 2 missions to the ISS each year — with three missions carrying cargo and one carrying crew.