We all fantasize about taking our dream vacation. Whether it is Hawaii or Greece, our dream destinations usually are located on planet earth, but two private citizens will be taking a trip that is literally “out of this world”. SpaceX confirmed that it will be taking two private citizens on a trip around the moon by the fourth Quarter of 2018. This trip will last one week. but there is a twist! None of these passengers is a trained astronaut. They could be considered the first space tourist. SpaceX is the first space company to offer such an experience. This is a leap forward that it will lead us to new and exciting possibilities.
This news comes after around 45 years since NASA’s last lunar expression. The news was announced on February 27, 2017. if successful, this stellar tour is a great deal for humanity that will lead us to newer and greater prospects. As Space X’s representatives said , “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”. But given space’s harsh conditions and the fact that the riders will be mere civilians is quite a challenge. How will this trip exactly go?
The launch will consist of the Falcon Heavy rocket and The Dragon Crew Spacecraft Capsule on top of it, both of which have never been used. They are just prototypes based on previous builds. In fact, The Falcon Heavy is a new and improved version of their Falcon 9, which is the rocket that takes supplies back and forth between earth and the ISS (International Space Station), but it can’t reach farther than earth’s orbit. So, to get around this problem, they will be using the Falcon Heavy. The Falcon Heavy is fundamentally three Falcon 9 Rockets attached to each other, and if successfully made, will be the largest rocket ever made.
Likewise, The Dragon Crew Spacecraft Capsule is a new and improved version of the original Dragon Capsule. The original Dragon Capsule was primarily used to carry supplies to the ISS but isn’t qualified to take humans. On the contrary, The new Dragon will be redesigned from its predecessor to carry humans and greater amounts of supplies with minimum weight. Since the capsule will be orbiting the moon, it will be fully automated with safety features such as a targeted launch mechanism, which makes sure it detaches safely from the rockets. It will also have manual controls in case of any emergency. These two features will be climactic to a successful launch.More info about these parts can be found here.
The trip to the moon will take about three days . It will directly go to the moon, though there might be a few corrections along the way to fix the course. Because most of this will be automated, the two passengers will probably be enjoying the breath-taking scenery while on the way , but in case something goes wrong, they will have manual controls they can use to divert the course of the ship as previously mentioned. The ship will later “skim the surface of the moon” along the way. It won’t actually land on the surface, but in fact, it will only go close enough to orbit. It will orbit the moon a few times(though the number of orbits has not been specified yet) and get going back to its home.
After circling the moon, the Dragon capsule will ignite its engines and begin to make its way away from the moon and back towards Earth. We do not know whether or not anything new will occur in this phase. When returning to earth, it will also take about 2-3 days.
Re-entry, landing, and cost
Reentering the earth’s atmosphere will be the most challenging and dangerous part of the trip. the least mistake will lead to the mortality of those to passengers and the hopes and dreams of humanity for space tourism. it will be quite a tragedy. A heat shield will be there to protect the spacecraft from the dangers of reentry. Once it re-enters the atmosphere, it will have to land. The landing of the Dragon Crew Capsule can vary according to the specific situation. SpaceX has designed the crewed Dragon to touch-down on land using a combination of parachutes and retro propulsion, in which the spacecraft fires its engines to slow down. Yet it can also land on water. A “Splashdown” landing might be required as 71% of the earth’s surface is water. Like previous successful water landings, it will gently make it into the water and float until the rescue team comes. How much will all this cost?
The two unnamed tourist have made “large deposits” of money to make sure this project is possible. Though the identities of these people and the price of one ticket haven’t been mentioned , we can predict how much it will cost. The customers will have to pay for the rocket, supplies, and all added extra costs such as the crew on earth. The CEO of SpaceX has said that it will cost around the same range as a private trip to the ISS: 35 million dollars per person, though this price is predicted to be more.
If everything goes according to plan, people all over the world will rejoice after this historic mission. It will be the first time a private spaceflight company has ever sent people to space and the first time any person will have visited the moon since 1972. This will open the door to many new opportunities for the future of space exploration. If this works, the opportunity to go to mars, or even establish a space colony will no longer be just a dream.