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SpaceX to announce passenger for private moon flight

SpaceX to announce passenger for private moon flight
Twenty-four NASA astronauts flew to the moon in 1968 through 1972, and only 12 of them strolled its dusty surface. SpaceX plans to take a passenger on a flyby. (Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP/Getty Images)

SpaceX will announce the identity Monday of a person who will pay the company for a trip around the moon on a yet-to-be-developed rocket, the Elon Musk-led company said.

SpaceX said in a tweet Thursday that the passenger’s name and reason for flying around the moon would be unveiled at an event at company headquarters in Hawthorne. It declined to provide any further details.

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Last year, the company said two private individuals had put down deposits to fly around the moon in a Crew Dragon capsule that would be launched atop a Falcon Heavy rocket. (SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket flew for the first time in February. Crew Dragon is scheduled to be launched for the first time in November, with no people inside; its first crewed launch is set for April.)

At the time, Musk said the pair approached SpaceX about sending them on a weeklong flight and paid a “significant” deposit for the trip. Those would-be passengers’ identities were not revealed, and it is unclear whether either of them is the person being announced Monday.

This February, Musk told reporters that the massive Falcon Heavy rocket probably would not be needed for the moon tourism mission since development of BFR, the successor to the company’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket and the Falcon Heavy, was moving fast enough.

“What we decided internally is to focus our future developments on BFR,” he said then. “If that ends up taking longer than expected, then we’ll return to the idea of sending a Crew Dragon around the moon.”

The BFR system comprises a rocket and spaceship. When the ship is stacked on top of the rocket, BFR will measure 347 feet tall. The rocket and spaceship are key to Musk’s plans to colonize Mars and are being developed at a facility at the Port of Los Angeles.

Given that this new BFR rocket has yet to be built, the lunar mission presumably is at least a few years off.

The mission — a lunar flyby, not a landing — represents “an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space,” SpaceX said Thursday in a tweet.

On its website, SpaceX is touting the “first passenger on lunar BFR mission,” implying there will be more.

It would be humanity's first lunar visit since 1972. Twenty-four NASA astronauts flew to the moon in 1968 through 1972, and only 12 of them strolled its dusty surface. Next July will mark the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing by Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.

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