Elon Musk: SpaceX Tourist Flight Around the Moon Could Happen in Five Years

Elon Musk, the director of SpaceX, has announced that the plan to fly tourists around the moon with the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) could take place in 2023 at the earliest. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is the first paying tourist.

The Japanese, who founded the Japanese fashion brand Zozo, had to pay an undisclosed amount to join. Musk estimates it will cost about $5 billion to get the BFR ready. Together with Maezawa go there eight other passengers; according to Musk, they are artists and people from the cultural sector. The spaceship of the rocket has a capacity to carry one hundred passengers.

Under the original plan, two high-paying space tourists should have gone into space sometime this year on a Falcon Heavy rocket, after which they would fly close to the moon in the Crew Dragon capsule. In February, however, the company announced that it would not be conducting manned missions with the Falcon Heavy after all. The Big Falcon Rocket, which is still under development, will be used for the moon journey.

The Big Falcon Rocket, which is to be completely reusable, is significantly larger than the Falcon 9 or the Falcon Heavy. At about 118 meters in length, the rocket is almost as long as the famous Saturn V rocket. Some changes have been made, such as two fins placed at the nose of the spaceship. The spaceship has seven Raptor engines and three instead of two fins on the bottom. Those three fins are necessary, because the three landing legs are attached to the fins.

According to Musk, the rocket can take a payload of 100 tons to Mars, provided the rocket can be refueled in space. The rocket is powered by 31 Raptor engines that deliver 5,400 tons of thrust. The intention is that two ships will go to Mars in 2022 and that astronauts will also fly to the red planet in 2024.

SpaceX has not yet launched astronauts into space. That should change next year: a first unmanned test flight with the Dragon capsule will follow in November, and then the first manned test flight will take place from April 2019.