SpaceX is delaying its unmanned mission to Mars by two years so the company can instead focus on sending a pair of tourists to the moon.
SpaceX planned to send an unmanned capsule full of science experiments on Mars in 2018, but those plans will have to wait until 2020.
“We were focused on 2018, but we felt like we needed to put more resources and focus more heavily on our crew program and our Falcon Heavy program,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president, told Universe Today. “So we’re looking more in the 2020 time frame for that.”
The delay could potentially be longer as orbital mechanics prevent launch windows to Mars from being open constantly. If SpaceX’s Mars mission is successful, it would be the first commercial spacecraft ever to land on Mars. No organization besides NASA has ever successfully operated a probe on Mars for longer than 14.5 seconds.
SpaceX’s billionaire CEO Elon Musk announced Monday that two tourists will ride a SpaceX rocket into orbit around the moon sometime late next year. SpaceX declined to name the two tourists, but stated they approached the company and would pay for the flight.
“We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year,” states SpaceX’s official website. “They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission.”
SpaceX intends to launch the tourists around the moon on its Falcon Heavy rocket, which is due to have its first test flight this summer. If successful, the Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful vehicle to reach orbit after the Apollo program’s Saturn V moon rocket. A single launch of this rocket could cost up to $135 million.
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