SpaceX delays plans to send tourists around Moon
Elon Musk’s company is unlikely to launch until 2019 at the earliest, rather than this year
SpaceX will not send tourists around the Moon this year as announced, and will delay the project until the middle of next year, US media reported on Monday.
“A new timetable for the flight – now postponed until at least mid-2019, and likely longer – hasn’t been released” by the California-based company, said the report in The Wall Street Journal.
The reason for the delay is unclear but it is a “sign that technical and production challenges are disrupting founder Elon Musk’s plans for human exploration of the solar system”, said the report.
“SpaceX also is confronting industry doubts about market demand for its Falcon Heavy rocket,” it said.
The tourists would ride aboard a Dragon capsule, hurtled into space on SpaceX’s most powerful rocket to date, the Falcon Heavy, which made its first test flight only four months ago.
SpaceX spokesman James Gleeson told AFP that the company “is still planning to fly private individuals around the moon and there is growing interest from many customers”.
SpaceX has not publicly released a new timeline for the mission, first announced in February last year.
At the time, Mr Musk said on Twitter the moon tourist mission was scheduled for “late next year” referring to 2018.
Two private citizens, who have not been named, “have already paid a significant deposit”, Mr Musk said.
The US has not sent astronauts to the Moon since Nasa’s Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s.
SpaceX is also planning to send astronauts to the International Space Station this year, marking the first time since the US space shuttle programme ended in 2011 that people have been launched into space from US soil.
SpaceX has told Nasa it is targeting the first astronaut test flight no earlier than December this year. Some observers, however, say the schedule could slip to 2019.
“Once operational, Crew Dragon missions are under way for Nasa, SpaceX will launch the private mission on a journey to circumnavigate the Moon and return to Earth,” SpaceX said in a statement.
Updated: June 5, 2018 11:55 AM