Want to take a vacation in space? That journey used to involve intense training, including building a tepee out of birch trees in a cold Russian forest. But now, SpaceX made a bold, historic announcement, revealing plans to fly two ‘average Joes’ around the moon in 2018.
Apparently The individuals have already been selected — they approached SpaceX with the idea — and paid a “significant deposit” for the trip. So, SpaceX will fly tourists to the moon – how?
Can it be pulled off?
Pulling off a trip around the moon would mark SpaceX’s first foray into space tourism, which Musk has warned will be both dangerous and expensive. Musk estimated in the Fall, that initial fares will start at about $200,000 a piece for 100 or more passengers to take a journey to Mars.
Space tourism is not an entirely new industry. The Russian government has sent at least seven paying travelers to the International Space Station since 2001. The trips reportedly cost as much as $20 million. The country, like Musk, plans to resume trips in 2018.
Musk did not disclose who the two individuals, as per their request, or how much they will be paying, but he did describe them as people he knows.
Space tourism: A thing of the future?
Space tourism has become a realistic and expensive ticket since the turn of the Millennium. Seven tourists have paid at least $20 million each to fly to the International Space Station on Russian Soyuz rockets since 2001. The 239,000-mile trip to the moon would be the first time any astronaut has ventured beyond low-Earth orbit since NASA’s final Apollo mission in 1972.
SpaceX’s goal is to get the cost of a trip to Mars down to $500,000/person by around 2030, and they will achieve that goal at the rate they are going. They are figuring out how to reuse the stage 1 rocket, which will cut the cost of a launch by 100 times once they perfect it.
Before they started to figure that out, they had already cut the cost of a standard NASA launch by 75%. And remember, that $500,000 is a 3-month journey, one-way ticket to Mars (with free return trip if desired). A trip to the moon would be much cheaper by that time.
Going to Space is expensive!
ULA charges the US government $380 million per launch. SpaceX charges $133 million. For private companies who don’t use all of NASA’s special requirements, they charge $60 million.
SpaceX cut the price by 65% when compared to competitors when they’re both dealing with NASA as a client, and by 85% when dealing with private entities. So my 75% figure was not far off.
And the reusability of the stage 1 rocket will reduce the cost by around 100 times; It’s the biggest most expensive part of the entire thing, and before they figured out how to land one back on Earth they would just land in the ocean as trash.
Once they can nail it consistently, it will disrupt the entire aerospace industry. They’ve already proven they can do it; now they just need to do it perfectly.