Kyle Fosse-Staff Writer
In 2018, civilians, launched by a company called SpaceX, are set to travel into space for the first time. It has been nearly 45 years since any human being traveled outside the low-earth orbit. However, SpaceX, the private aerospace corporation headed by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, plans to break that exploratory silence next year.
The organization states that it has been “approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the Moon late next year.”
The two citizens offered to pay an undisclosed amount to fund SpaceX to fly the two of them around the moon, sending them further than any human has ventured before. The trip would involve flying 300 to 400 thousand miles, propelling the ship to the moon and allowing its gravitational pull to bring the ship back around to earth.
The company is planning to use the Dragon 2 spacecraft, a machine that is launched by a Falcon Heavy rocket. It has not been tested in space, but the Dragon craft is set to begin sending unmanned missions to the International Space Station to begin the process.
Skeptics predict that the deadline is too early for such an ambitious mission. The Government Accountability Office predicts that the vehicles may not even be certified until 2019.
“Dates are not SpaceX’s strong suit,” said Mary Dittmar, the executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration.
The Falcon Heavy, one of SpaceX’s newer crafts, was set to launch sometime from 2013 to 2014. However, due to technical complications, that deadline was pushed back to 2017
Despite adversity and skepticism, Musk remains confident in SpaceX’s deadline. Musk believes that the customers “are entering this with their eyes open, knowing there is some risk.”
In January, Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, passed away. His death represented, in part, the end of the vigorous space race that marked much of the 60s and 70s. However, a renewed passion to reach out into the final frontier has gripped many scientists and organizations in recent years.
In doing so, a sort of competition has developed between NASA and SpaceX.
Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances for Space Florida, compares the competition between SpaceX and NASA to that of the US and Soviet Union in 1969.
“I do think most of us didn’t see it coming, but maybe we should have,” said Kethcham.