On May 25, SpaceX announced that two US astronauts have completed dress rehearsal prior to their journey to the International Space Station (ISS). It will be the first private company to launch astronauts into orbit.
Simultaneously, the spaceflight company is teasing an even ambitious project on its website that invites visitors to sub questions about a mysterious “private passenger” program.
Earlier this year, SpaceX received a $135 million contract to further develop the Super Heavy rocket-powered Startship. The spacecraft, which is currently in development, could one day carry up to 100 passengers to Mars and the Moon.
“With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.
The Elon-Musk company has also partnered with a company called Space Adventures to provide the world’s first orbital space tourism experience.
Back in 2018, it struck deal with a Japanese billionaire to take a tour to the Moon on the Startship spacecraft.
SpaceX Mocks Private Passenger Spaceflights
It’s too early to determine whether the new line of private passenger spacecraft represent a new spacetech venture. It could simply be Musk’s way of flexing the spaceflight company’s rocket muscle.
SpaceX isn’t devoid of competition when it comes to venturing into the space. Jeff Bezos-led Blue Origin was also awared a $579 million contract in May of last year. The space company announced its Blue Moon lunar lander which will be used by NASA to descend down to the Moon’s surface.
NASA has also awared $235 million contract to private space company Dynetics to build a reusable lunar lander that could be launched atop a Vulcan rocket.
SpaceX’s first cargo mission to Mars is planned in 2022. This initial mission will establish the possibility of life on Mars, look for water sources, and establish a small infrastructure.
Another mission in 2024 is planned with cargo and crew both. They are hopeful of setting up a more secure base on Mars to facilitate future missions and the beginnings of colonization of Mars.
SpaceX has already announced its plans to carry fashion innovator and art curator Yusaku Maezawa to fly around the Moon in 2023. Only 24 other people have made it to the Moon to date, the last one being in 1972.
For now, SpaceX is focused on succeeding at the Crew Dragon missions.