SpaceX tweeted Thursday that it would launch a passenger trip around the moon, promising to reveal the identity of the space-farer on September 17th at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The brief tweet was all the Elon Musk owned company gave away ahead of the 17th announcement with many expecting more details then. The company plans to use its Big Falcon Rocket(BFR) for the launch, envisioned by the billionaire as a vehicle that could potentially take people to mars.
The flamboyant entrepreneur has courted controversy in recent weeks, first shooting off a tweet that got his electric vehicle manufacturer investigated by the US Security Exchange Commission for possible market manipulation, then smoking marijuana on air during a live podcast. The latter sent Tesla’s shares tumbling as its market value shrank 6% and two executives resigned shortly afterwards. He gave something of a clue when prodded about the identity of the passenger by tweeting the emoticon of a Japanese flag.
The announcement is sure to bring memories of February last year when plans were made to fly to anonymous passengers around the moon on the undeveloped Dragon crew capsule using the then yet untested Falcon Heavy rocket. That trip was to take place on an unspecified date in 2018 and it remains unclear if it’s been integrated into the new project. The Falcon Heavy rocket was eventually debuted in February this year, but the intention to use the still in development BFR makes the statement even more reminiscent.
There are no current plans to tune the Falcon Heavy for human spaceflight with Musk stating the BFR was “the way to go” in a press conference earlier this year. Musk has said he is confident tests on the BFR could begin in early 2019 though he has been known to give overly-optimistic timelines. A more realistic schedule would be that mentioned by SpaceX COO, Gwynne Shotwell, back in a TedX seminar in April when she talked of a possible launch “within the decade”.
No other person has been on the moon since 1972, the year of the Apollo space mission, with only 24 people ever reaching the lunar landscape.