Elon Musk is one of the most ambitious entrepreneurs on the planet. Most CEO’s or business owners struggle to juggle one company, and Musk has his hand in multiple companies and ambitious projects. SpaceX started as one of those ambitious ideas. When Musk announced that he was going to colonize Mars someday, most people were very skeptical. Musk at the time was known for helped to create PayPal and his involvement in Tesla. So when he started his company, SpaceX, industry experts were quick to point out that Musk doesn’t know the first things about space travel. SpaceX was created to build cheaper, reusable rockets designed for interplanetary space travel in order to help realize his dream to colonize Mars.
SpaceX has grown into a company that is changing the way that the world approaches space travel. SpaceX has already successfully engineered and launched their own spaceship and now they announced that they are going to send two astronauts to the moon. If successful, this space mission will be the first time that the people have gone as far as the moon since the famed Apollo missions.
SpaceX announced that two unnamed individuals have paid in advance to take this historical trip to the moon in the second half of 2018. In a company statement, “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,” This feat has not been attempted in 45 years so this trip to the moon hopefully will mean the revitalization of the space program.
Although their names have not been released, Musk has stated that both individuals have paid a significant deposit in advance for the trip and that they are very serious about the trip. The only thing that Musk will say is that, “It’s nobody from Hollywood.” The mystery has led to a lot of speculation. The two individuals will be taking the Dragon spacecraft. There have been many names that have been thrown around but no definite identification has been made yet. SpaceX and Elon Musk have been keeping the names tightly under wraps. He says that he does not have permission to release those names.
The proposed plan is to travel to the moon in the SpaceX designed and produced Dragon 2 capsule and to also bring supplies to the International Space Station. The Falcon Heavy rocket will be used for the mission. The mission should take about a week and there will be no landing on the moon. Lift-off is slated to take place at the Kennedy Space Center’s historic Pad 39A near Cape Canaveral. This is the same pad that was used for the Apollo program for its lunar missions. According to Musk, the would-be astronauts will travel to Moon and back around the Earth covering about 300,000 to 400,000 miles.
Even though SpaceX has made several successful trips to the International Space Station, the space community has raised some obvious concerns about sending two individuals into space who are potentially untrained. Even though the passengers will have to have some type of training , it is doubtful that in the short time frame that Musk announced, that the potential astronauts will receive the full training that traditional astronauts receive. The mission is scheduled to take place in early 2018 and that is only a year and a half away. To put it into perspective, the NASA Astronaut Candidate program has some very rigid and intense physical and educational requirements. Educational requirements include a bachelor’s degree in “engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics, and that degree must by followed by 3 years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience or at least 1,000 pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Also, the astronauts should have 20/20 vision in each eye.
Even though the names of the future space travelers have not been released, it is highly unlikely that either person has the same qualifications that NASA requires for their candidates. NASA also requires a two-year training program once the candidates are selected and Musk’s time frame does not allow for a two-year program. Former Chief Scientist for the NASA Human Research Program, Mark Shelhamer, expressed his doubts about the announcement. He told the popular online publication Gizmodo that, “I applaud Musk’s efforts and his enthusiasm and what he’s accomplished,” Shelhamer told Gizmodo. “But sending two amateurs to the moon in a new spacecraft on a new rocket, in less than two years? It won’t happen.”
Musk did address some of the concerns that experts have voiced about this future moon mission. In interviews he gave post announcement, he does not seem worried about the concerns brought up by industry experts. He acknowledges that the mission is risky but is very confident about the mission and SpaceX’s rockets. He also stated that the two potential space travelers understand the risk that they will be taking if they go through with this moon mission. During a phone conference with reporters he said, “They’re certainly not naive, and we’ll do everything we can to minimize that risk, but it’s not zero. But they’re coming into this with their eyes open,” said Musk, adding that the pair will receive “extensive” training before the flight.
Musk also would not say what he meant by “extensive” training nor would he say how it would compare to that training that NASA puts their astronauts through. However, Musk told did tell Gizmodo that, “If health checks are good (no heart conditions particularly) and they have good bone density, as there will be some bone density loss in zero g, which is regained on the ground, most of the risk is probably reentry or having to deal with a system malfunction in deep space when passing through the deep shadow of the moon, where we may lose comms briefly,”
Musk, as always, is confident in SpaceX’s latest monumental announcement. He is hoping that this mission will renew America’s interest and excitement in interplanetary space travel. NASA has publicly commended SpaceX on the latest announcement and Musk has said that NASA is more than welcome to join a SpaceX mission if they so choose. This mission is the next big step for SpaceX and one step closer to making Musk’s dream of making interplanetary space travel a reality for everyone.