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.
Musk declined to say who had booked the flight, how much they were paying or even specify their gender. And he made it clear that if NASA wanted to send astronauts on such a trip, the space agency would have priority over any private citizens.
But the high-tech entrepreneur said he fully intends to launch the mission, and probably more like it, as part of his company’s long-range goal to send humans to Mars at some point in the future.
“We’ve been approached to do a crewed mission beyond the moon from some private individuals,” Musk said. “And they’re very serious about it. We plan to do that, probably in the fourth quarter of next year. That would be on a Dragon 2 spacecraft and a Falcon Heavy rocket, which is due to do its maiden launch this…