SpaceX says it will fly private passenger 'around the Moon'

At the unveiling, Musk said Maezawa will fly to the moon aboard a new rocket called the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), which is still in development.

Elon Musk plans to launch Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa on a rocket around the moon, the embattled SpaceX CEO announced on Monday. Musk would not say what the trip would cost, but did say that the design of the almost 400-foot tall rocket had evolved recently, with the first flights to orbit coming in two to three years.

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That now stands to change with BFR and signals a synergy between SpaceX and Maezawa in terms of using the BFR architecture to make space accessible to everyone. The outpost would serve as a stepping-off point for the lunar surface, Mars and points beyond.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa speaks at the September 17 SpaceX event about his plans to fly artists around the moon on a BFR mission.

Elon Musk will announce the name of the passenger and describe the lunar mission. Going forward, Musk and Maezawa will figure out details like training, but "nothing's written in stone". 'We are honored that he chose us'.

Neither Maezawa nor Musk would disclose the price of the flight, but Musk said that Maezawa - who had been one of the two customers for SpaceX's earlier plans for a circumlunar flight on a Dragon announced almost 18 months ago, but since shelved - had already made a down payment. "You have to set some kind of date that's the things-go-right date". If those tests go well, the first flight to Earth orbit could occur two to three years from now, Musk said.

While Musk has insisted that the spacecraft is safe, he warned Monday that there "are some chances things could go wrong".

Musk showed off designs of the 129 yard-long BFR, which will consist of a first stage with engines and fuel systems, and a second stage with the spacecraft where the passengers will ride. That design is likely to continue undergoing major shifts well beyond the commencement of integrated Grasshopper-style hop tests of BFR's spaceship upper stage (known as BFS), as flight-testing the rocket's major components will nearly invariably result in design changes, be it major or minor.

Virgin's trip will cost about $250,000.

Russian and Chinese companies are also working on space tourism plans.

That original mission would have used a Falcon Heavy rocket - the most powerful rocket flying today - and a Dragon crew capsule similar to the one NASA astronauts will use to fly to the International Space Station as early as next year.

  • Valerie Cook