SpaceX lunar flyby
SpaceX and other private space companies are counting on successful manned flights to the moon to propel the whole industry. SpaceX CEO Musk first announced that the company would be sending tourists to the moon in February 2017, projecting a 2018 launch date. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa contracted in 2017 with SpaceX for a lunar flyby in a Dragon 2 spacecraft launched by a Falcon Heavy launch vehicle which would have carried only two passengers.
SpaceX announced 27 February 2017 that it had been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the Moon in late 2018. They already paid a significant deposit to do a Moon mission. "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. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year. Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results".
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, was a key enabler for this mission. In addition, this will make use of the Falcon Heavy rocket, which was developed with internal SpaceX funding. Falcon Heavy was due to launch its first test flight this summer and, once successful, will be the most powerful vehicle to reach orbit after the Saturn V Moon rocket. 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.
At that time, the Crew Dragon (Dragon Version 2) spacecraft with crew was expected to fly in the second quarter of 2018. SpaceX was currently contracted to perform an average of four Dragon 2 missions to the ISS per year, three carrying cargo and one carrying crew. 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.
Once operational Crew Dragon missions are underway for NASA, SpaceX will launch the private mission on a journey to circumnavigate the Moon and return to Earth. Lift-off will be from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Pad 39A near Cape Canaveral – the same launch pad used by the Apollo program for its lunar missions. This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the Solar System than any before them. Designed from the beginning to carry humans, the Dragon spacecraft already has a long flight heritage. These missions will build upon that heritage, extending it to deep space mission operations, an important milestone as we work towards our ultimate goal of transporting humans to Mars.
That mission, which would have used the company's Falcon Heavy rocket and Dragon capsule, never happened. According to a SpaceX announcement in early 2018, the Falcon Heavy plan was shelved in light of the development of BFR/Starship.
Yusaku Maezawa, founder of clothing company ZoZo, will be the first space tourist to travel around the moon, private spaceflight company SpaceX announced 17 September 2018. "Finally, I can tell you that, 'I choose to go to the moon,'" Maezawa said to cheers in the audience during the press briefing. Maezawa, a former drummer in a punk band and now the chief executive of online fashion retailer Zozo, is slated to fly in 2023 on board SpaceX’s upcoming Big Falcon Rocket spaceship. He will become the first person to travel to the moon since the United States wrapped up its Apollo missions in 1972. Maezawa will be the first private passenger Elon Musk’s SpaceX space transportation company will take on a trip around the moon, moving the race to commercialize space travel to new heights.
Maezawa stated, "Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon; just staring at the moon filled my imagination; it is always there and has continued to inspire humanity. This is why I cannot pass up this opportunity." Maezawa’s identity was revealed at an event at the company’s headquarters and rocket factory in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne. “He’s a very brave person to do this,” Elon Musk said as he presented his first commercial astronaut duringthe event at the company’s headquarters and rocket factory in Los Angeles. And he doesn't want to go alone either. Maezawa said he plans to "go to the moon with artists." He will bring six to eight artists with him, he said.
If the trip goes as planned (and SpaceX has stepped back promises of tourist trips to the moon before), Maezawa will zoom toward the moon in 2023 in the newly designed Big Falcon Rocket.
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