SpaceX has announced it will send a paying customer on a trip around the Moon on a new spacecraft and rocket it is developing.
In a very, very short statement yesterday, the company said they had “ signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle – an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space.”
They added that they would reveal who this passenger is on Monday, September 17 at 9pm EST. There will be a live stream of the announcement – but otherwise little is known.
As mentioned in the tweet above, SpaceX said this launch would take place aboard their Big Falcon Rocket (BFR). This is the new reusable rocket and spaceship they are developing that may one day take people to Mars, if CEO Elon Musk gets his way.
You might remember, though, that SpaceX originally said they would take two space tourists on a trip around the Moon in their Dragon vehicle, launching on a Falcon Heavy rocket in 2018. It’s unclear if this new mission is replacing that one.
The short update did give us a new glimpse of the BFR though. On Twitter Musk confirmed that this was a new version of the BFR spaceship, with a Tintin vibe that he said was intentional. We can also see the ship’s fins and, zooming in, the windows into the interior where the passengers – up to 100 on later missions, Musk says – will sit.
He also posted a cryptic emoji of a Japanese flag in response to rumors about who would be flying. This may suggest the passenger is going to be Japanese but again, that’s unknown at the moment. A female astronaut would be nice too, as only men have ever gone to the Moon.
SpaceX ultimately wants to use the BFR for most if not all of its space operations, replacing its existing Falcon fleet. The company has been busy developing the BFR in secret, with president Gwynne Shotwell saying recently they would begin “hop” tests next year.
One could question when this whole rocket will actually be ready to fly though, with Ars Technica saying the company is targeting a launch date of by 2024 at the latest. “One potential date to target publicly might be December, 2022,” they said. “This would be the 50th anniversary of the last human mission to the Moon, Apollo 17.”
And SpaceX themselves alluded to this in their announcement. “Only 24 humans have been to the Moon in history,” they said. “No one has visited since the last Apollo mission in 1972.”
Some rich billionaire somewhere is probably very excited at the prospect of that. And on Monday, we'll find out who they are.