In the long term, Mars is the goal, but by 2023 up to twelve astronauts with SpaceX, the space company of Tesla boss Elon Musk, are to set off for the moon and orbit it. Most of the passengers for the almost one-week mission are still being sought. Only one person has been known for a long time: Yusaku Maezawa, billionaire and art collector from Japan who finances the mission. The first plans were made in 2017 before his name became known in 2018. Originally he wanted to carry out the mission with selected artists. In 2020 he was looking for a female companion, but he gave up this plan – despite countless applications.
Eight private individuals should fly for free
At the beginning of March, Maezawa announced that a total of 10 to 12 people, probably including SpaceX astronauts to ensure safety, should fly to the moon for his “dearMoon” project. The special feature: Eight people can apply until March 14th. There are no rigid criteria. Maezawa wants people with different personalities and life stories who are helpful and want to be pioneers. The final candidates should be selected by May.
Originally, the SpaceX moon mission was supposed to start on the Falcon Heavy rocket. However, it was quickly decided not to certify them for manned flights. The smaller Falcon rocket already has such a certificate, with which SpaceX has now completed many successful unmanned and manned missions, including with NASA astronauts to the ISS. But the “dearMoon” mission is to start on the new Starship rocket, with which Elon Musk would later set out for Mars and also carry out hypersonic flights on Earth. Since the end of 2020, it has completed three test flights at an altitude of over ten kilometers. The latest, on March 3, ended with a successful landing for the first time, but the missile exploded minutes later due to a methane leak, the exact causes of which are still being investigated.
SpaceX could reach the moon before NASA
The astronauts on “dearMoon” could be the first people to set off for the moon since the Apollo-17 mission in 1972. It is true that astronauts are supposed to orbit the moon with the Orion capsule as part of the official new NASA lunar program Artemis in 2023. However, the previous flight with an unmanned Orion will not start until the end of 2021 at the earliest, and after repeated problems with the new heavy-lift rocket SLS, a postponement to 2022 seems likely. In this case, the manned Artemis flight could also slide, possibly until 2024. However, it is also unclear whether the SpaceX Starship will be reliable enough for a manned flight by 2023. Because there are still many more flight tests pending. And the first-stage expansion necessary for real space flights, the “Super Heavy Booster”, with which Starship will be twice as high as it is on its own, has its very first test ahead of it.
There will be a commercial SpaceX mission in Earth orbit earlier. “Inspiration4”, financed by Jared Isaacman, wants to announce after a recently concluded donation and entrepreneur campaign in the coming weeks what the four-person crew will look like, which is expected to fly around the earth in a Dragon capsule at the end of the year.