It’s like Willy Wonka handing out golden tickets for a tour of the Chocolate Factory. Now Elon Musk, CEO and Lead Designer of SpaceX, grants two lucky (and wealthy) individuals a tour of the moon.
It has been 45 years since anyone has traveled to the moon.
If the little kid inside of you still gets excited about space exploration, it’s time to start paying attention. The future of moon tourism has swiftly become a primary topic of discussion.
SpaceX has announced an unmanned tourist launch to take place by late 2018… with an estimated 70 million-dollar price tag per seat.
The privately-funded SpaceX company has been generating great attention (and funds) through this announcement. Rocket science isn’t cheap. Just ask NASA.
The good news? The progress marked by this particular expedition has the potential to usher in an era of cheaper space travel. That price tag will likely drop significantly in the next decade as Space Tourism develops.
The Heavy Falcon mission will mark a fundamental breakthrough in our knowledge of space technology. They’ll be using a reusable rocket with a turnover rate of a couple of days.
When its finished, the Falcon Heavy will be the world’s most powerful operational rocket and mark a huge step in the development of reusable rockets.
The Universal Spirit of Exploration
Two unspecified individuals approached SpaceX with a lot of money and asked to see the moon. With a famously-keen eye for markets, Musk decided to accept the challenge and to endeavor into the realm of Space Tourism.
The Falcon Heavy is all set to make its virgin voyage this summer. The demonstration will be in automatic mode, without anyone on board. That will allow them to work out the tech kinks before the big day.
The spacecraft has five million pounds of liftoff thrust. That’s two-thirds the thrust of Saturn V (the largest rocket every built at 6.5 million pounds) and over double the next largest launch vehicle flying now. Remember, we’re talking about the world’s most powerful rocket.
Later this fall the future space tourists will go through some intense space training to prepare them for the adventure. They’ll also be required to pass some health and fitness tests to prove their competency. Then next year the Falcon Heavy rocket will launch them on a trip around the moon.
The Falcon Heavy mission will travel deeper into space than any other humans who have ventured out there before. Their lunar journey will last about a week.
The two travelers will bring up the grand total of lunar travelers to 26 humans. To present this grand adventure, SpaceX released a news piece full of all the grandeur and sentimentality that such a mission is entitles.
“Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration.”
In addition to putting a great deal of pressure on the traveler’s shoulders, the news article also spoke with promise of the flights to come.
Musk will be the first person to carry through with the creation of a reusable rocket. With reusable rockets, the company could potentially launch rockets as often as every two to three weeks. Their current manifest has over 70 missions in the launch cadence.
The Heavy Falcon mission has accelerated the development of reusable rockets exponentially. According to SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, this could lower the rocket launch cost by about 30% overhead.
Consider the reusability of planes that conduct numerous flights and transport people all over the world. With reusable rockets, we can more rapidly transport people all over the galaxy.
There are still some tweaks to be made. Analysts have to inspect it, to improve the refurbishment process and to increase the speed in order prove that it’s cost-effective. But that’s all small stuff in relation to the grander perspective.
There is a lunar tide rising. The moon will be a really important first step for further and deeper space exploration.
The Collaboration of NASA and SpaceX
It’s been a long time since trips to the moon have been broadcasted all over the news. Now the story of the upcoming launch is everywhere. The announcement has generated a great deal of excitement and renewed interest in discovering life outside our planet.
In 2002, Musk founded SpaceX with the purpose of designing, manufacturing and launching advanced rockets and spacecraft. The game plan is to revolutionize space technology and move towards the ultimate goal of colonizing other planets, primarily Mars.
Leading a host of entrepreneurial commercial space ventures, SpaceX has helped to loosen the government’s long-standing monopoly on space. More recently, the political government is beginning to catch on to the logic of it and joins NASA in support of the upcoming mission.
SpaceX has been collaborating with NASA for a while now. NASA has supported them with millions of dollars in funding and priceless aeronautical advice. Now SpaceX has become the world’s fastest-growing provider of launch services. They have three primary vehicles –Flacon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon— and employ 5,000 people.
Despite having two rockets blow up in the last two years, SpaceX has had a whole string of successes in the rocket launching department. These successes have go beyond was has been considered possible in the traditional space exploration industry.
In their 15 years of existence, SpaceX has hit several historic milestones.
In December of 2010, SpaceX became the first private company to complete and return a spacecraft from a low-Earth orbit. Two years later, the Dragon spacecraft accomplished what only the government had been able to do. It flew to the International Space Station (ISS), exchanged cargo payloads for NASA and returned safely to Earth.
Since then, the Dragon craft has completed this challenging feat many times. Under a $16 billion contract with NASA, the Dragon has completed 20 Commercial Resupply Service flights.
It’s likely that SpaceX’s 2018 mission will circle the moon before NASA gets back out there.
NASA is looking to another mission for 2019, using their Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule. They also plan to circle the moon.
NASA’s last moon mission occurred on Dec. 7, 1972. That was the Apollo 17 with crew members Eugene A. Cernan, Harrison H. Scmitt, and Ronald E. Evans.
With shared inspiration for an expanded world, NASA has provided great support for the upcoming Falcon Heavy mission. They have openly commended their industry partner to reach higher.
With more privately-crewed missions occurring, government costs will go down and researchers will have more flight reliability data to analyze. All of this adds up to a more accessible galaxy.
The Dream of Space Tourism
As we look more into the realm of space exploration, it’s fun to start surmising upcoming potential. What if we started taking vacations on the moon? What if purchasing a ticket to the moon was like buying a plane ticket to the Bahamas?
While SpaceX stands out as the leader of the pack, there are several other busy space organizations with an interest in exploration and tourism.
Some primary competitors include Boeing, Orbital Sciences, United Launch Alliance (ULA), Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Paul Allen’s Vulcan Aerospace and Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin.
CEO of Amazon Bezos privately funded his space travel company. Right now they’re looking for aspiring astronauts to go beyond the edge of space. Additionally, Bezos has announced Amazon’s desire to deliver packages to the moon in anticipation of established human settlement.
With all this talk of exploration and adventure, it’s unclear whether or not a private company has any right to claim land on the moon. It’s a fresh question for universal law-makers to ponder.
It’s tricky when it comes to high-value sections of the moon like Shackleton Crater (the pricey range of the moon). The site is located almost directly on the moon’s south pole and represents primary potential for water supply. The rich ice to-be-made-water makes Shackleton Crater a prime target for human exploration.
Despite ambitious competitors for the space spotlight, SpaceX has becoming what some are calling “the Apple of the rocket business.” They’re staying ahead with drive and innovative technology developments like the reusable rocket.
Now they’re planning a long-term mission to colonize Mars for a future multi-planetary existence. Musk hopes to eventually send people to Mars for as little as $500,000 a seat. He famously said, “I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”
Without going to the moon ourselves, we can still appreciate and seek to understand the implications of these grand happenings. We get to play a small part in the unfolding of some of the galaxy’s greatest mysteries.
Following the moon mission, SpaceX plans an unmanned Red Dragon mission to Mars.