Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel around the moon?
Next year, two people will reportedly be taking this trip of a lifetime. What they will see and experience on the mythical celestial object that orbits our Earth is anyone's guess. Until now, only highly trained astronauts have done it.
This incredible excursion is the brainchild of Elon Musk. The world renowned engineer/inventor is one of the cofounders and current CEO of Tesla Inc. He's also helped start up several other businesses, including X.com -- which later merged with Confinity in 2000 and became PayPal.
Musk's company, SpaceX, has worked hand in hand with NASA's Commercial Crew Program to develop the Dragon 2 spacecraft that will take these two people around the moon. (NASA provided most of the funding for this part of the project.) The spacecraft will use the Falcon Heavy rocket, which has already been successfully tested on several occasions, including Feb. 19 at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.
According to SpaceX, next year's lift-off will occur at "Kennedy Space Center's historic Pad 39A near Cape Canaveral -- the same launch pad used by the Apollo program for its lunar missions." This trip, it says, "presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the Solar System than any before them."
SpaceX has been mum about the identities of the two space travelers-to-be.
All we currently know is that they paid "a significant deposit" for this impending flight on Dragon 2 and, according to Musk's recent conference call, the big spenders include "nobody from Hollywood."
This trip sounds (and will be) out of this world, but is the whole venture believable? Based on Musk's impressive track record, especially with Tesla's electric cars that run on lithium-ion batteries, it's pretty hard to bet against him.
And yes, because SpaceX is a private company, Musk must ultimately obtain a license from the Federal Aviation Administration before sending Dragon 2 into orbit. The FAA is within its rights to say no, but based on the excitement this unique project has generated, its answer will probably be a resounding yes.
If this excursion comes to fruition and is successful, it would radically transform the way space travel is conducted.
While the cost per individual would be astronomical at this point, as more people take this trip, it could gradually become economical. The rich would get to see what other humans can only imagine and have the greatest boast yet about what they did on their vacation.
Private space flight could also increase the possibility of setting up a moon colony, giving human beings a chance to live on this astronomical body for short or long periods of time and enhance scientific study and exploration of our solar system.
Finally, this promised flight could prove that a private company has the technology, creativity and ability to move us further ahead in the modern space race than we ever thought possible.
We await the Dragon 2 spacecraft's launch in 2018 with eager anticipation and wish Musk much success in his quest to enable private citizens to soar around the moon. That would be, to quote Neil Armstrong when he became the first person to walk on the moon in July 1969, one giant leap for mankind.