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SpaceX plans to fly two private citizens around the moon by late next year

In this Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 file photo made available by SpaceX, the company’s Dragon capsule sits aboard a ship in the Pacific Ocean west of Mexico's Baja Peninsula after returning from the International Space Station, carrying about 3,700 lbs of cargo for NASA.
In this Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 file photo made available by SpaceX, the company’s Dragon capsule sits aboard a ship in the Pacific Ocean west of Mexico's Baja Peninsula after returning from the International Space Station, carrying about 3,700 lbs of cargo for NASA. AP

Elon Musk said Monday SpaceX plans to fly two private citizens on a tourist mission around the moon by late 2018. Musk would not name the two people, who he said approached the company and would pay for the flight.

The Verge reports that Musk declined to comment on the exact cost of the flight, calling it “comparable” to a NASA flight — likely someone in the tens of millions of dollars.

The flight would last about a week, circle the moon and head out deeper into space before returning to Earth. CNBC reported that a SpaceX statement said the amateur astronauts will go “faster and further” than any humans have previously gone in space.

“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,” the company said in the statement. “We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year.

“Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest, and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results.”

Musk said he would defer to NASA to take its own trained astronauts on the flight, according to CNBC.

“NASA always has first priority,” Musk said, “so if NASA decides to have the first mission of this nature be a NASA mission, then of course NASA would take priority.”

CNBC reported that the humans would be traveling in a Dragon 2 capsule, a variation on the cargo-carrying Dragon craft, that would operate autonomously — though the passengers would receive emergency training.

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