SpaceX will fly two people around the Moon next year

SpaceX will fly two people around the Moon next year

SpaceX plans to launch two private citizens on a flight around the moon next year, a bold mission that will be the first to carry humans beyond low-Earth orbit since the Apollo moon program, company founder Elon Musk said Monday. What we do know, however, is that the planned journey would not include an actual stop on the moon, reducing the amount of risk involved and the technical skill required by the crew and spacecraft.

The passengers will tour the moon in one long loop and pass near the lunar surface, but will not land.

"I think this should be a really exciting mission that hopefully gets the world really excited about sending people into deep space again", Musk said.

Musk said SpaceX is on track to launch astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA in mid-2018. "They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission".

The two unnamed people will fly aboard a spaceship which is set for its first unmanned test flight later this year. That will change in the second quarter of 2018, SpaceX said, when the company sends a crew to the ISS.

The moon mission vehicle is created to be automated, Musk told reporters, but the passengers will be trained in emergency procedures in case there is a problem.

"NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher", the statement reads.

A rendering of what the SpaceX Dragon space capsule will look like.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Musk said in the teleconference that his company's current contract with NASA would take precedent over the commercial flight should the administration choose to request the two seats on the Dragon capsule's flight around the moon.

SpaceX said other potential customers have also expressed interest and it expects to launch further missions. Last September, he unveiled plans to colonize Mars by sending at least 1 million humans there to establish a self-sustaining city.