When it comes to SpaceX sending people into space within the near future, we generally think of the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft taking astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). In an announcement made this Monday, however, it was revealed that SpaceX plans to fly a couple of paying customers around the moon late next year.
According to the company, the two private individuals have already paid a "significant deposit" for the mission. Before they're allowed to go up, however, they'll have to pass health and fitness tests, plus they will have to complete a period of training which will begin later this year.
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The mission is being made possible by NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which provided development funding for the Crew Dragon. That spacecraft will be launched into orbit via SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket, which will lift off from Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A near Cape Canaveral.
Prior to the around-the-moon mission, the Crew Dragon is slated to begin fulfilling its main purpose of ferrying astronauts to and from the ISS. A demo flight will take place first, later this year, in automatic mode with no passengers on board. A second flight, this time with people on board, should subsequently take place in the second quarter of next year. Ultimately, SpaceX is contracted to perform three unmanned cargo missions and one crewed mission to the space station on an annual basis.
"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," the company stated.
Additionally, other private teams have reportedly expressed an interest in missions of their own, with more expected to follow.