In a few hours (9:00 pm eastern time), if you tune in to the SpaceX online video website, you will see the announcement of the name of the first civilian tourist scheduled to take a trip to the moon, and they will be going via SpaceX’s BFR. (That stands for “Big Falcon Rocket.” The “F” used to stand for something else, but Elon Musk eventually gives into propriety once in a while.) I should specify that “to the moon” does not mean landing on the moon. The journey will involve a trip around the moon, then returning back to Earth. Landings will have to wait for another day.
As usual, Elon Musk announced it in his typical, understated way.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 17, 2018
You can find all the details here.
It’s going to be a big night for space tourism. The private spaceflight company SpaceX will reveal its first passenger for a trip around the moon on the company’s massive BFR rocket and you can watch it all live online. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has even dropped tantalizing previews of the BFR’s new rocket design on Twitter.
SpaceX will unveil its BFR rocket passenger (the name stands for Big Falcon Rocket) in a webcast tonight (Sept. 17) at its Hawthorne, California headquarters. You can watch it live here, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 Sept. 18 GMT).
The highlight anticipated reveal comes on the heels of SpaceX’s surprise announcement late Thursday (Sept. 13) that it had signed its first passenger to fly around the moon on its BFR spaceship.
I can’t help but be excited, and yet I’m left with questions. Sending astronauts is one thing. They’re paid to push the boundaries and go into the job knowing that they may not make it back home. But are we ready for space tourists yet? Yes, I know that Russia has been offering that deal for some time now, but they’re using an old warhorse of a rocket with a pretty good record. That doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous, but the dangers are known quantities.
The BFR is something else. It’s very new and flashy and should be an amazing sight to behold. (Confession: I tune in and watch all the SpaceX launches which take place when I’m awake.) But let’s also keep in mind that when Elon launched the Falcon Heavy earlier this year – a spectacular accomplishment, by the way – even he was only giving himself a slightly better than 50/50 shot at making it into orbit. Are those the kind of odds you’d be willing to risk if it meant you could go orbit the moon?
Who am I kidding? If I had the money for the ticket I wouldn’t be writing this article right now. I’d be in California waiting for Musk to introduce me to all of you wearing my new space suit.