SpaceX Announces Plan for Circumlunar Human Mission

SpaceX, the company of visionary Elon Musk, has announced that it will send to the moon the first two space tourists by the end of 2018. The two lucky will not land on the Earth’s satellite (this is still a distant goal for Musk) but it will orbit the moon and then to return to our planet. This new announcement coming from Musk after the vicissitudes of the company due to some failed mission. The last commitments for future missions was less than a year ago, when the SpaceX foresaw the landing of his capsule on Mars by the end of 2018. Then, after a series of successes and failures, a week ago the successful launch (from NASA’s base) of a rocket intended to dock with the ISS space station.

This success has given confidence to Musk after the explosion during the launch of the Falcon rocket, an episode that has effectively reduced – or at least slowed down – the SpaceX programs. Two tourists, whose names were not disclosed, “have already paid a significant down payment on the final cost of the ticket for the Moon”, says Musk, explaining that the medical tests and training will start already this year. The spacecraft used will be based on ‘Crew Dragon’ capsule that will carry out the first trip without crew at the end of this year. ‘Crew Dragon’ is based on the model currently used to send supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit at 400 km altitude. This capsule will be launched from the rocket Falcon Heavy, whose first test will be carried out in the summer and will have a capacity of 66% of the famous and huge Saturn V that brought the Apollo 11 on the moon in 1969.

This mission opens a new frontier in space tourism and rekindled the attention on Nasa. Some critic point out the risks of this acceleration for Musk. However other experts believe this announcement is well-timed. Among the latter there is Phil Larson, a former adviser to the space policies of Barack Obama. Now with Trump that must decide what to do with NASA and its program, “the announcement of Musk shows that the US commercial space industry is ready to go beyond low Earth’s orbit is not in ten years but now” says Larson.

The SpaceX mission in 2018 could come sooner that NASA has a new chance to go to the moon. NASA is considering the possibility of speeding up the development of the Space Launch System and of Orion, considering the introduction of astronauts in the first launch. With Donald Trump at the White House the American space agency could move faster than in the past: the president has expressed his support for a more ambitious space program, saying he was ready to ”be ready to reveal the mysteries of space ”. Between SpaceX and NASA, who have a contract that binds them, there is no competition, as Musk has highlighted: ”We are for everything that conducive space exploration. It is important to make progress in the space exploration and overcome what it has been achieved since the Apollo program in 1969, and have a future in space that will inspire”

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