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Moon Earth NASA Space Transportation Technology

SpaceX Plans To Send Two People Around the Moon In 2018 (gizmodo.com) 195

Today, SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced that in 2018, the company will fly two private citizens around the Moon in its Dragon 2 spacecraft, carried by its Falcon Heavy rocket. "While the voyagers' names have not been disclosed, according to SpaceX, a 'significant deposit' has already been made," Gizmodo reports. From the report: According to Musk, the mission will last approximately one week. The passengers will travel beyond the moon and loop back to Earth, spanning roughly 300,000 to 400,000 miles. While the passengers will undergo some sort of training beforehand, it's unclear if the two have any experience with piloting, nevermind spaceflight. The mission, although unrelated to NASA's plan to slingshot astronauts around the Moon in several years' time using the SLS rocket and the Orion capsule, was made possible in part by funding SpaceX has received to develop its human spaceflight technology through the commercial crew program. "This is a really thing that's happened," Elon Musk told reporters at a press conference. "We've been approached to do a crewed mission beyond the Moon ... [and these passengers] are very serious about it. We plan to do that probably Dragon 2 spacecraft with the Falcon Heavy rocket." He went on to say the company is "expected to do more than one mission of this nature."
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SpaceX Plans To Send Two People Around the Moon In 2018

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  • by jediborg ( 4808835 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @06:09PM (#53942097)
    If (and that's a big if) private space companies can actually make money doing this, the profits could go towards funding more ambitious private projects, such as hotels on the moon, and astroid mining. Just need to start making money off of space tourism so space exploration and space science can be funded in the future without having to rely on government spending, which can be extremely fickle depending on politics and often comes with strings attached.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 27, 2017 @07:22PM (#53942601)

      Actually, this is Elon gaming the President. If he pulls this off he may get a significant portion of the NASA budget

      • 2018?

        How long does it take to build a man rated capsule? Even one that's been designed, tested, approved, trained workers, supply chain in place, work instructions, quality instructions, etc?

        It took them about a year to rebuild Space Ship One and they had already done it once.

        I'm just not seeing it.

    • the profits could go towards funding more ambitious private projects, such as hotels on the moon, and astroid mining.

      LOL [osha.gov]

  • by GatorSnake ( 1978412 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @06:11PM (#53942113)

    Makes sense to only allow ordinary citizens to make the trip the first few times to get the kinks out. Say the first 12 or so. Then Trump can give it a go for the 13th run!

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @06:12PM (#53942115) Journal

    "The passengers will travel beyond the moon and loop back to Earth, spanning roughly 300,000 to 400,000 miles. "

    The distance to the moon is 238,900 miles.
    I'm going to go way out on a limb here and postulate that a trip AROUND the moon is going to be something more than 477,000 miles.

    • by Octorian ( 14086 )

      Another detail that's unclear from the announcement is whether they plan to actually go into lunar orbit, or just put the craft on a free return trajectory.

      • Free return, the Dragon 2 doesn't have the capability to do any significant maneuvering on its own.

    • by burhop ( 2883223 )

      I'm going to go way out on a limb here and postulate that a trip AROUND the moon is going to be something more than 477,000 miles.

      I think you identified the wrong problem. "Around the moon" is fine with 300,000 to 400,000. It is the "loop back" part that is the issue.

      (Maybe they just stop when they get around the moon and wait for the Earth to swing by and pick them up?)

    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      Simple. They'll send them at .866 lightspeed. That will give a Lorentz factor of 2.

    • In http://www.cbc.ca/news/technol... [www.cbc.ca] the CBC article notes that the distance from Earth the spacecraft will go one way is 300k to 400k miles, not as TFA implies that's the total trip distance.

    • by Strider- ( 39683 )

      "The passengers will travel beyond the moon and loop back to Earth, spanning roughly 300,000 to 400,000 miles. "

      I think the idea is that they'll swing by the moon, out into deeper space, and return to earth.

    • I guess that "roughly 300,000 to 400,000 miles" is the farthest distance they would be from Earth.

      If you jump 50cm high, you don't say you jumped 1m, do you?

    • by slazzy ( 864185 )
      Come on now, it's not like it's rocket science right?
    • "The passengers will travel beyond the moon and loop back to Earth, spanning roughly 300,000 to 400,000 miles. "

      The distance to the moon is 238,900 miles.
      I'm going to go way out on a limb here and postulate that a trip AROUND the moon is going to be something more than 477,000 miles.

      It depends on your frame of reference, the Moon orbits the Earth, so you have to travel to where the Moon will be when you get there, rather than where it is when you left. Then on the return you have to travel to where the Eart will be when you get there as well. Add in the Earth is orbiting the Sun and it becomes a 3 body problem and can only be approximated.

  • by karlandtanya ( 601084 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @06:12PM (#53942117)

    Every time I read about stuff like this it just makes my day.

    The meek will inherit the earth. The rest of us are going to the stars.

    • Yeah, Elon is double-D but who are the mysterious customers? Since a Falcon Heavy launch is going to cost them about $100 million ($50 million each for 2 passengers) it has got to be a fairly short list of people who can afford it. I couldn't see a rich guy spending more than 5% of his fortune on a week long ride so we're talking billionaire or better.

      • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @07:05PM (#53942511) Homepage
        James Cameron is a good bet as a one of the two. He's already been to the Mariana Trench, so why not go as far as possible in the other direction? He could film a 4K HDR of the trip, and it would probably even end up making a net profit in box office sales. If he can get a telescopic view of the Apollo 11 landing site, that would be pure gold.
      • I guess you are severlay mistaken.
        If I had 50,100,000 dollar and the flight really 'only' costs 50,000,000, I would take the flight.
        Considering that I'm 50 now, don't know if I could die of cance and have no heirs ....

      • Basically, billionaires that feel old enough that they're willing to risk dying on an insufficiently tested space vehicle. (If I were old, and a billionaire, I'd seriously consider it, if I could negotiate certain preconditions.) Makes me wonder how many billionaires are willing to spend a fraction of that money to subsidize someone willing to risk Elon Musk's 2017 time schedule.

        • Basically, billionaires that feel old enough that they're willing to risk dying on an insufficiently tested space vehicle.

          But also young enough that they can stand the rigors of launch and spaceflight. Seems like a fairly narrow window. Of course, all this presupposes that the Falcon Heavy will actually fly on schedule and that they fly all the missions on the books before this one. Hmmm, Elon is right in that window, I think this is going to be exactly like D.D. Harriman, right before the flight Elon will say "One of the mysterious passengers is me!" and his board of directors at Telsa will sue to stop him from going.

      • Richard Branson and Obama.

        They seem to be having fun together (http://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/07/politics/barack-obama-kitesurfing-richard-branson/), and Branson has enough money for both.

        • Hillary and Obama, if they name the ship Alice, I'd consider donating to a GoFundMe page and we could all chant "To the Moon Alice" at lijt off.

      • If you have more than $50 million and spend them on coke and hookers, you're just one rich guy amid 60000 others (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra_high-net-worth_individual).

        If you spend those millions on a moon trip, you'll be in history books for a long time.

    • I'd revise that to read .., "The wealthy are going to the stars." Not everyone can afford millions for a space trip.
    • I like the Earth. Physics is the same around the other stars. There will be only variants of the earth. Everywhere will have gravity. rocks, possibly liquid, but nothing better than the Earth. May or may not have an atmosphere, but can't get any better than the Earth. The most you'll find is better weather and it will be lie Malibu every day without the earthquakes or earth slides, but it's not really a big deal.
  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @06:14PM (#53942133) Journal

    Yesterday Bruce wrote:

    > But good luck getting Elon Musk to focus on the practical and eminently desirable target of the Moon. He isn't interested. It's only Mars for Elon.

    https://science.slashdot.org/c... [slashdot.org]

    Eighteen hours later, we have this announcement. ;)

    Bruce, kindly please post your estimate of the likelihood that Sofia Vergara will show up in my bedroom. I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow if you do!

  • There's a proposal for the first SLS mission to be an around the moon shot http://jalopnik.com/nasa-may-send-astronauts-around-the-moon-on-the-first-t-1792586594 [jalopnik.com]. There are a lot of problems with this; Amy Shira Teitel discussed it in detail https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdrEzIlecIk&t=3s [youtube.com]. This would make it even more of a bad idea. Right now the SLS mission proposal is just highly unsafe, redundant, and not part of a coherent program. This would make it super-super redundant.
    • by werepants ( 1912634 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @07:33PM (#53942675)

      Elon's not saying it, but that's got to be part of the calculus here. Outwardly SpaceX is very supportive of NASA and SLS, but this moonshot is estimated to cost around $200M, SLS is getting basically the same thing done and has a program cost of around $20B. There's no way anybody can rationally continue to support SLS when you realize that you could literally do the same thing 100 times with SpaceX for the money that has been spent to do this once the old way.

      The COTS program isn't perfect, but it is making it more and more plain that we need to get congress and their porkbarrel BS out of space policy. NASA needs to be allowed to set their program directives based on technical merit, not political expedience.

  • Lottery? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @06:23PM (#53942199)

    Is there a legal reason SpaceX can't have a lottery for tickets? Seems like a good way to fund these types of things.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      How would they vet people before allowing them to buy a ticket?

      • You win the lottery, you have the right to dispose of one moon trip. If you are physically unable to go, you can sell it or give it away. In fact, the Dragon can hold more than two people (up to 7), the private customers should spec the mission for 3 people and sell raffle tickets for the third seat to defray expenses.

    • Run one yourself. From the sounds of it SpaceX has sold these seats to private individuals - there's nothing preventing you or anybody from creating a company and associated lottery where people can buy $100 tickets... if you get a million people to participate then it pays for a seat. That's the beauty of private space access. ;)

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Is there a legal reason SpaceX can't have a lottery for tickets? Seems like a good way to fund these types of things.

      Well what do you do if you don't sell all the lottery tickets, is the lottery stuck? Normally the prize pool is relative to the total paid in, but either you get a seat or you don't. Also you might end up with people that for medical or mental reasons shouldn't be trapped in a tiny little space capsule for a week with no chance of assistance, sure you can disqualify them in the terms and conditions but the whole "my number came up, but I was refused" bit would be negative PR. And it's just one lucky winner,

      • Being the first space tourists does not require a lottery, but an auction with prerequisites.

      • Make the tickets transferrable and include the right to refuse anyone who can't meet the fitness requirements (requirements which a clearly published so people can decide ahead of time)

        Have another clause allowing for a pair of alternates to be selected in case of a last-minute issue with insufficient time to vet/train anyone you might sell your tickets to.

        Have secondary prizes of sending a quarter kilo of inert material for the trip, or a place at the launch pad.

        A lottery system might actually work really

  • Who's going with Alice?
  • Von Braun didn't want to send a pilot into space. He wanted to use acrobats. Eisenhower insisted on using a pilot because the Soviets had sent air force pilot Yuri Gagarin into space.

  • All I can say is: Better double-check the heater and fan wiring inside the oxygen tanks before setting out on this journey.

  • Here's their chance to become (the only) members of the 240,000-mile-high club.

  • "One of these days Alice, pow! Straight to the Moon!"

  • No, no they're not. Simple as that. The delay announcements should start around September.

  • Shooting two people around the moon is hard. The trick is getting them back. Are they planning on coming back?

  • One step forward, one huge step backwards in space travel.

  • SpaceX hasn't even demonstrated the Dragon 2 capsule that can take humans to the ISS, a trip which takes less than half a day.

    Apollo 8 took about 6 days round trip to go to the moon and back. The difference in terms of life support (oxygen, water, heat, sleep, toilet), communications, telemetry, etc. are so significant that I wonder how they expect to pull this off in less than 2 years. Maybe they intend to rig the Dragon 2 to only hold a couple of crew and hope the lifesupport is sufficient for the trip

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