Tech billionaire Elon Musk, founder of the pioneering space transport company SpaceX, has announced a mission to fly two people to the moon next year in what would be a landmark moment for space travel.
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Many details about the mission, announced Monday, have yet to be revealed, including who the two "private citizens" will be, but here's what we know so far:
It's a long trip
The moon is about 240,000 miles from Earth, and the travelers will do a flyby of the lunar surface before returning to Earth. For some context, the distance from New York to Tokyo is a little less than 7,000 miles.
The mission is expected to use an upgraded version of SpaceX's Dragon capsule and its Falcon Heavy rocket in development.
"At 5 million pounds of liftoff thrust, Falcon Heavy is two-thirds the thrust of Saturn V and more than double the thrust of the next largest launch vehicle currently flying," SpaceX said in a statement Monday.
It would be the first manned mission into deep space since the end of the Apollo program in the early 1970s.
The passengers have money to burn
Musk did not reveal the identities of the two wealthy passengers, but he said they know one another and are serious about the mission.
He wouldn't reveal how much of a deposit they put down, but called it "significant."
The company itself is valued in the billions, and the rockets themselves are multi-million dollar instruments, but the overall cost of this kind of personalized space mission remains unknown at this time.
The private mission will break new ground
"This should be a really exciting mission that hopefully gets the world really excited about sending people into deep space again," Musk said about the journey, which will mark a first for the nascent industry of space tourism.
NASA, which has flew 24 astronauts to the moon from 1969 to 1972, complimented SpaceX for the company's ambition.
"NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher," the government space agency said in a statement on Monday.
SpaceX was the first private company to launch a spacecraft into orbit and safely return it to Earth in 2010, and the first commercial enterprise to fly to the space station in 2012 on a supply mission.
The 2018 moonshot, if successful, will mark another first for Musk's ambitious company, which has its sights on an eventual mission to Mars.
Space travel is dangerous
This mission does not involve a lunar landing, but it still has significant risks attached to it.
The passengers will undergo training, according to Musk, but without knowing who they are, it’s unclear if these two people have any experience with spaceflight.
"I think they are entering this with their eyes open, knowing that there is some risk here," Musk told reporters about the passengers.
An explosion occurred during a SpaceX fueling operation at its launch site in Florida in September, destroying a satellite that Facebook intended to use to provide internet connectivity to rural Africa.
SpaceX was conducting a fueling test on Launch Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral when the incident took place, an engineer at the Kennedy Space Center told ABC News at the time.
The explosion was felt around the facility, and a mushroom cloud could be seen over the launch site, the engineer said.
"They're certainly not naive, and we'll do everything we can to minimize that risk," Musk said of his customers.